Ciarán Clarke: His Road to Bellator Champions Series: Belfast

Ciarán Clarke: His Road to Bellator Champions Series: Belfast

Ciarán Clarke is one of Ireland’s hottest MMA prospects. A submission specialist, he has a professional record of 8-0-0. Aged 28, the Drogheda fighter is still improving. He is definitely one to watch at Bellator Champions Series: Belfast on Friday 22 March 2024.

Read on if you want to find out more about Ciarán Clarke.

Early Beginnings

As a teenager in Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ciarán was a persistent rule-breaker and frequently got into trouble.

He was first introduced to combat sports when he joined a local boxing club at the age of 12. Although he enjoyed the training, a hand injury and a lack of self-discipline resulted in irregular attendance until he stopped going altogether.

Introduction to MMA

Ciarán heard from friends at school about local MMA training at the No Fear MMA gym. The head coach was Conor Dillon, who had fought professionally and was one of Conor McGregor’s early opponents in 2010.

Initially, Ciarán held back from attending as he was worried about being defeated by the more experienced members of the gym. When he finally plucked up the courage to go, he found that he had a talent for the sport and was able to submit guys who had been training for several months.

Turning Point

Due to an inability to concentrate, a dislike of structured routine and constantly causing disruption and getting into trouble, Ciarán was expelled from school. As no other school in the area would take him on, he attended Youthreach. This is a much smaller facility designed for young people aged 16 to 20 who were unable to complete mainstream education. Youthreach is less structured and more informal than regular secondary schools.

Ciarán flourished in this environment. He felt as though he was treated with dignity and respect, and he responded accordingly. The experience transformed him into a mature young man, who was now able to apply self-discipline and concentration to both his MMA training and his life.

First Amateur MMA Fight

Ciarán took his first MMA fight at a local show at the age of 16. Although he was knocked out after 36 seconds, he loved the experience of fighting and couldn’t wait to do it again. He has pinpointed this moment as the point at which he realised that he would do whatever it took to become the best fighter he could be. He did not see the loss as a failure. Instead, he used the experience to spur him on to train even harder to improve.

To take his MMA skills to the next level, Ciarán took the decision to switch to Straight Blast Gym (SBG) in Dublin, headed by John Kavanagh. This meant travelling every day by public transport, but it was a sacrifice he was willing to make.

Representing Ireland

As an amateur, Ciarán Clarke represented Ireland on five separate occasions in IMMAF MMA Championships (both World and European) in Las Vegas, Bulgaria, Romania and twice in Bahrain.

He has said that competing in these Championships improved him as a fighter and helped to prepare him for his professional career. As a patriotic Irishman, the experience was also one that he looks back on with great pride.

Turning Professional

Ciarán turned professional in 2019 and signed for Bellator.

Although he won his first pro fight against George Courtney on Bellator 227 at 3Arena, Dublin, the experience was far from ideal.

His fight had no scheduled start time and throughout the card, he didn’t know whether he would be called up next or not. His fight ended up being the last one on the card after the main event. It didn’t start until after midnight.

He had been in the arena for eight hours and his nerves were gone. He was also starving, as he hadn’t eaten all evening. The arena was also nearly empty as most of the fans left after the main event. The cleaners were also clearing the rubbish away from the stands while he was fighting. To cap it all, he also missed the bus home afterwards.

Nevertheless, he won by submission from a rear naked choke in the third round. He was now up and running as a professional MMA fighter with Bellator.

This experience, though, did help Ciarán mentally with his subsequent fights. He remembers the nerves he felt on his debut fight and if he even knows what time he is fighting, he is happy.

Current Position

Ciarán Clarke has continued to fight with Bellator. He has a professional record of 8-0-0. Of his eight wins, four were by submission (three by rear naked choke and one by arm triangle choke), three by unanimous decision and one by TKO (retirement at the end of Round 1 due to a dislocated shoulder).

Even though he is a grappling specialist, Ciarán’s fights are exciting to watch and are often back-and-forth. This goes some way to explaining his popularity among Irish MMA fans.

He currently splits his training between SBG Dublin under John Kavanagh and his local gym, SBG Drogheda. Kavanagh speaks very highly of him and continues to be impressed by his hard work and dedication.

He is very well supported locally and a large number of fans from Drogheda follow him to all his fights.

What Does the Future Hold for Ciarán Clarke?

Ciarán will fight Darius Mafi at Bellator Champions Series: Belfast on Friday.

Another impressive win will push him another step closer to a title fight. It will further establish his credentials as a rising star of Irish MMA.

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