Fighting out of Team RYANO HQ under head coach and committee member of IMMAA Andy Ryan our featured fighter of the week this week goes to 21 year old mixed martial artist Adam “The Plank” Darby. According to tapology MMA rankings Adam Darby is currently ranked as the #2 welterweight MMA fighter in the UK & Ireland and has represented his country at both the 2018 IMMAF – International Mixed Martial Arts Federation European Championship in Romania and 2019 World Championship in Rome where he secured a bronze medal for team Ireland.
Adam was first introduced to martial arts at 14 years old when his brother joined the local kickboxing club in Clongriffen and convinced Adam to come along to try out a class. Adam instantly fell in love with the sport but soon learned that natural ability and athleticism could only take him so far and so he had to work hard to achieve the discipline and focus required in order to excel in the world of martial arts. This would prove to be a valuable asset to him throughout his teenage years which helped him to remain focused on his training and not be tempted to veer down the wrong paths in life. In 2016 Adams passion for kickboxing had begun to dwindle and he found himself looking for something that would challenge him further when he noticed a social media post that caught his attention. The post was made by the Team Ryano instagram page and was advertising a beginners introduction to MMA course. Adam was hesitant to try out a sport that he knew very little about but decided he had nothing to lose by giving it a shot, not knowing at the time that walking through those doors of Team Ryano HQ that day would alter the direction of his life from that moment on. “I didn’t know what to expect walking into the gym for the first time” Adam recalls “I had this paranoid idea in my head that the fighters would all be looking to batter the new guys joining but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone there was so welcoming and made me feel like a part of the team from day one, there were no Ego’s or intimidating characters, simply athletes who were only too happy to pass on their knowledge to newcomers”.
Coming from a kickboxing background Adam was capable of holding his own when fighting on his feet but quickly learned that he was going to need to invest a lot of time into improving his grappling if he was going to succeed in MMA. After only 6 months of MMA training Adam had his first amateur MMA fight in the 3 Arena on Cage Warriors in March 2017 which he won via unanimous decision. Nerves are a normal aspect of fighting for any first time fighter and Adam states “I was so nervous in the build up to that fight, but the buzz I got when my hand was raised for the first time was worth every minute of lost sleep, that was the moment I knew that I was going to dedicate my life to chasing that feeling, I was well and truly hooked!”. Adam went on to win his next three fights via TKO, rear naked choke and guillotine respectively. “I loved the feeling of winning fights because it reflected well on Andy and the rest of the team, it was my way of repaying them for all of the time and effort they had put into my training. Being undefeated in the amateur league I started to believe I was invincible and when the opportunity came to compete at the IMMAF European MMA championships in Romania in 2018 there was no doubt in my mind that I would be returning to Ireland with a gold medal”. Unfortunately his prediction did not become a reality as Adam lost his opening fight via unanimous decision to German fighter Eduard Kexel who went on to win Gold. This setback caused Adam to lose faith in himself as a fighter and he decided to take a break from fighting, unsure of whether he would ever step into the cage again. As a coach Andy respected Adams decision to take a step back from competing but never gave up on his student and after cornering for his Team Ryano teammates alongside Andy at Bellator MMA Adam’s passion for MMA was reignited and he decided it was time to get back in the game, he went on to win his next four consecutive fights before deciding to return to the IMMAF European Championships in 2019 in Rome. “I knew returning to the Europeans would be a challenge as I had learned the hard way the previous year that these are the top athletes that Europe has to offer, but this time I wasn’t going in with unrealistic expectations, I had learned from my experience and I knew what level of fighting to expect”. Adam won two out of three of his fights in Rome, narrowly missing out on qualifying for the finals by a decision loss and winning a bronze medal for his team and country, but this time Adam was not going to allow a loss to hinder his determination, he chose to learn from it instead and focus his energy on improving his skills at every opportunity. When asked about where he finds his motivation in the sport Adam had no hesitation in stating that teammates Keith McCabe Mma and Paul Redser Redmond‘s determination and work ethic in the gym inspire him to push himself past his limits and to become the best he can be.
On top of his MMA training Adam is a strong advocate for giving back to your community and currently works in The Annalivia Hotel in Dublin which provides accommodation to homeless Families. Adam is looking forward to making his professional MMA debut on March 7th 2020 on Probellum MMA in Liverpool and hopes to someday secure a contract with the UFC. With such big plans for his MMA career in the future many may make the mistake of becoming overly confident but Adam stays grounded by admitting “I couldn’t possibly be in the position I am in today without the help and support of the people around me. My parents have been incredible even though they were understandably worried about me fighting at first they have always given me their unwavering support and encouragement. Andy and the rest of the team at Team Ryano have stood by me through thick and thin and believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself and for that I will be eternally grateful.”
Photo credit to KO Media

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