Richie Smullen: “Whoever wins this fight will be the best in Ireland”
In recent years, Ireland’s witnessed an explosion of talent breaking through the professional ranks of MMA, both north and south of the border.
Amongst the top prospects tipped for success is SBG’s Richie Smullen (3-0).
Since making the decision to turn pro, one year ago, the 25-year-old from Arklow has finished all three of his fights inside the distance.
At BAMMA 26, he produced a slick first-round heel hook submission of Team Ryano’s Andrew Murphy (1-1) and added a first-round TKO to his record in February, as he defeated Jonny Saville (1-1) at Shinobi 10.
With a reputation for finishing fights, Smullen’s stock continues to grow with each result, but now he must overcome his biggest challenge.
Next Friday night, he competes against another rising star, Rhys McKee (5-1), and believes that the winner of their fight will be regarded as the best in Ireland at lightweight.
“He’s a very good fighter and it’s a great fight for me. I want to be fighting the best guys, and in Ireland at the minute he is one of the top lightweights. I would say that whoever wins this fight will be the best fighter in Ireland at that weight,” he said.
With the winner of their fight set to face BAMMA Lonsdale lightweight champion Tim Barnett (5-0) next, it adds an extra incentive to come out on top.
In an interview with Fightstore Media, McKee expressed his displeasure at BAMMA’s decision not to give him an immediate rematch with Barnett, following his title loss at BAMMA 28 in February, and claimed that BAMMA wanted Smullen to fight Barnett next.
Smullen confirmed that he had indeed expected to be next in line to fight for the belt following Barnett’s successful title defence against Mario Saeed at BAMMA 29, but, when it didn’t materialise, he accepted to fight McKee.
“That’s his opinion at the end of the day,” said Smullen in response to McKee’s comments.
“I’m just here to fight, rack up the wins and hopefully get that title shot. If Rhys feels that way then that’s between him and BAMMA, not with me,” he continued.
“I’m going to show up with my best game plan and he’s going to show up with his. When that cage door closes it’s just me and him so we will see then who’s victorious and who will go on to fight Tim for the title.
“To be honest, I think that Rhys is the harder fight personally. If I beat Rhys then that belt is mine,” he said.
The pair already met as amateurs a few years ago.
Back in 2014, McKee emerged victorious via first-round rear-naked choke at Chaos Fighting Championships 13. Smullen will look to even their score in the 3 Arena.
“That was a long time ago so I wouldn’t take anything from it, I’m a completely different fighter now and I’m sure he is too. BAMMA 30 – July 7th is when we’ll find out who the better fighter is.”
Nobody is predicting this fight to go the distance. With McKee regarded as one of the most fearsome strikers in the BAMMA lightweight division and Smullen, a BJJ specialist, with the ability to submit opponents from any angle; it makes for an intriguing match-up.
McKee already stated that he is eager to get back in the ‘win column’ but Smullen is also confident that he can add another early finish to his record.
“I’m always looking for an early finish, I’m not paid for overtime,” he laughed.