Paul McLaughlin: Inside the mind of a promoter and coach – Part one

Combat Vision MMA spoke to Clan Wars Promoter and IFS MMA Belfast head coach Paul McLaughlin.

 Thank you for taking the time to speak to Combat Vision MMA, Paul. Could you tell our readers how you became the promoter of Clan Wars and head coach of IFS MMA Belfast.

 “Hi, James. No problem. Combat Vision MMA seem to have their finger on the pulse with Irish and Uk MMA so it’s a pleasure to answer your questions”

“Clan Wars and the IFS MMA team came about I suppose due to natural progression. Before we started MMA, we trained for fitness and self-defense in Urban Krav Maga. We had a lot of doormen and private security members back and forward from Iraq at the time. So, one of the big plus points for us over other systems was the self-defense aspect coupled with BJJ techniques brought in by one of the senior instructors Leo Negao (multiple world BJJ champion). With Leo’s influence and background, the krav maga syllabus involved a lot of what he had been taught with BJJ, MMA and Vale Tudo”

For those that don’t know. Leo trained under Carlson Gracie and was training partner to Vitor Belfort and Anderson Silva, as well as being a 3 time BJJ.

“With a more practical revamped self-defense system with the Vale Tudo aspect added from Leo, the urban krav maga syllabus also had a lot of free sparring, which was pretty much MMA when you took out the self-defense street aspects. Because of this and I suppose a competitive hunger building in my students at the time we decided to test them in a competitive environment. They wanted to test what they had been learning under pressure and in a real environment, from this, we decided to hold a small in house MMA competition inviting other Martial Arts clubs to sign up. We got a great response with a mix of newly formed MMA, BJJ, and Jiu Jitsu 

“We had a 16ft cage in the back room of our gym, a dusty, old and cold warehouse. The event had about 30 or 40 people made up of friends and family of the fighters. The entry fee was a donation for club equipment, most threw in a fiver and that also got them a complimentary Carlsberg at the break. We still have one of the Carlsbergs at our gym today as a memento. We didn’t know it yet, but that was the first unofficial Clan 

“After this particular event, we got loads of texts, emails and Bebo messages”

“From there, I arranged a proper MMA event and I had literally hundreds of fighters looking to be matched. The Clan Wars show was born and grew from there”

“With all the buzz and transitioning between self-defense and MMA, Chris Tweed remained teaching Urban Krav Maga and I started focusing on the MMA side of the gym”

(Fast forward nearly a decade and here we are)

 Clan Wars is considered a staple for showcasing emerging talent across the whole of Ireland. How would you sum up the experience of being the promoter and watching the promotion grow over the 

“I have seen the progression. I have seen the boom. I have seen the down turn. I have seen solid promotions closing doors over the years. It has been a long and hard journey. It’s highly stressful, unforgiving and a lot of the times you wonder why you do it”

“Each time you run a show you are taking a gamble, one badly attended event and a show takes a hit for thousands of pounds, putting shows under. There is not the money people think there is for shows, there’s no sponsorship funding and every domestic show is funded by ticket sales from the fighters. If that is not there then there is no show”

“Unfortunately that’s the stone cold facts. So yeah, there is a lot of pressure in running shows. But, there is a lot of rewards too, being able to put it all together after months of planning, giving fighters a safe platform to perform on so they can develop their careers onto the bigger shows; Cage Warriors, BAMMA, ACB, KSW, Bellator and the UFC for example. We are proud to be able to provide this for the teams and fighters as they need these domestic shows to showcase their skills”

 Clan Wars 29 was a fantastic promotional success. In your opinion, how excited are you to see a new breed of Irish talent coming through the ranks and how much has MMA in Ireland, in particular, the amateur scene grown over the 

Every show I see Irish MMA fighters developing, from the first Clan Wars to the standard of fighters on Clan Wars now is like day and night – that is a testimony to the development of the sport and the hard work the clubs and fighters are putting in. Clan Wars is where the fighters put in the graft, this is where they hone their skills and learn. After about 10 or 12 amateur fights these guys turn pro and you then see them on BAMMA and Cage Warriors for 

Clan Wars 30 takes place on the 19th November. Can you tell our readers if anything that is in the pipeline for this 

“Clan Wars 30 is a special one for us celebrating our 30th show. This is a massive achievement for us and something we are very proud of and want to share with everyone who has been involved over the years. We have another cracking show planned and are working full steam ahead on it now. The show is on the 19th of November at the Crowne Plaza as the festive atmosphere there is fantastic. It’s just a nice way to finish off an exciting year with a feel good factor and Christmas 

IFS MMA Belfast had a fantastic weekend in terms of winning fights and belts in both MMA and K1. In your opinion, what has been the key to the team having such success over the years and what type of framework do you have in place to keep the development moving forward in the future.

 This is going to be a cliché answer. But, hard work, drilling, focus, consistency, listening and not getting above your station”

 “I have been coaching over 10 years now and I have a good aptitude of who’s going to do well or at least has the potential to do well and those who think they want it but have more excuses than hot dinners, the latter never last”

 “Those who are ready and committed to bedding down for the long haul do well – those that want everything yesterday or think they know best usually end up not achieving anything”

 “As touched on before we have a great structure and support network at the club with talented experienced coaches; Andy and Jonny Burrows, Luke Roche along with myself. We also have a lot of good guys helping at the club like Ali Maclean, Oktawian Olejniczak, Phil Campbell, Geoff Hall and Kevin Kennedy to name a few”

 “We also recently introduced a new beginners program. This basically gets new members into the club training fundamentals, building their cardio & conditioning and giving them a chance to try out MMA and see if it’s for them. From there after 6 months if they want to join the seniors they can or if they want they can continue with the beginner program if they wish. This year alone from the program we have developed 6 or 7 fighters to the fight team in a year from zero experience to amateur fight level. It’s a fantastic system and is working well for us”

 “The fight team now is probably sitting at the 25 /30 mark  – 12 of them fought at the weekend so it’s a very busy time and all to play for” 

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