The Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association featured fighter of the week is three time representative of Team Ireland at the IMMAF MMA Championships and Head Coach of IMMAA gym SBG Clonmel, Colin Meagher.
Colin was first introduced to martial arts at his local Karate club Cloneen in Clonmel at age 5 and transitioned to training in kickboxing in the following years. As a keen and dedicated athlete Colin has competed across many different sports including Karate, Kickboxing, Rugby, Motocross and in later years Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA. He inherited a keen interest in Motocross racing from his father Frank Meagher, a record breaking champion rally driver who tragically passed away when Colin was only 8 years old.
At age 14, Colin attended his first class at Top Pro Gym Kilkenny under Paul Cummins and Mick Bland, and alongside fellow members and IMMAA featured fighters Mick Brennan and Myles Price. While he initially believed he would be learning a Kung Fu style of combat training, he was introduced to the sports of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts which he claims he latched onto right away.
His first introduction to the SBG brand came in 2011 when he attended the Celtic Gladiator fight promotion in Portlaoise to corner and support his teammate Mick Brennan who was fighting on the night. IMMAA gym SBG Tullamore, which was then called Evolution MMA head coach Kieran Davern was also fighting on the card and SBGI’s Conor McGregor was headlining the event. Colin introduced himself and struck up a friendship with Davern. During his 4 years studying in Athlone Colin trained regularly at both Evolution MMA and SBGI HQ under Head Coach and IMMAA president John Kavanagh, whom Davern had introduced him to. In Colins third year of college he spent 6 months on work placement in Cork, where he struck up a close friendship with SBG Cork City owners Liam-Og and Marlene Griffin. Colin trained and coached classes at SBG Cork for the duration of his work placement.
Growing up in the countryside of Clonmel in Tipperary there were no martial arts gyms nearby so Colin took it upon himself to create his own training space where he could drill techniques with his younger brother Frank. Converting his father’s car garage into a home gym Colin and Frank pooled together their combined savings and any money they received from birthday or Christmas presents throughout the years to buy equipment for the gym such as mats, pads and punching bags. They began to invite friends over to have more bodies to drill with and in time had built a group of regular participants who were eager to learn the technical aspects of MMA. Colins new routine as a coach involved being at college in Athlone from Sunday to Wednesday and returning to Clonmel to teach classes at the gym from Thursday to Saturday. Colin stated “MMA pretty much didn’t exist when I was growing up, so I was so lucky to come across it when I did. Over time the amount of people showing up to the gym kept growing and growing and I was really surprised to realise just how much I actually loved coaching.” He initially named his gym ‘The Pit’ and rebranded it to SBG Clonmel in 2017 as an affiliate of SBGI.
Colin received his degree in Health Science and Nutrition from AIT in 2016 and chose this particular course in order to compliment his lifestyle as a coach and fighter claiming “MMA provides you with so much more than just techniques, it encourages a healthy, active lifestyle and I wanted to pursue this degree to gain a better understanding of how to optimise my body’s performance and recovery in line with my goals. I also want to use it to be able to advise my members correctly when they come to me with health related issues. In time I plan on developing a health and wellness branch of the gym.”
At only 26 years old Colin has had over 20 years of competing in martial arts including 9 MMA fights between 2013-19, he has accumulated an impressive amount of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu matches and has represented Team Ireland at the 2016 IMMAF European MMA Championships in Prague and the 2017 World Championships in Bahrain. Colin stated “Some of my biggest achievements in martial arts have come through jiu jitsu with at least 100 competitions under me. I got the chance to fight and beat former UFC Middleweight contender Tom Kong Watson at ADCC Ireland back in 2018 and heel hooked him after a minute and a half.”
He was also selected to be a part of the squad chosen to participate in the first ever official Reign MMA fighting championships in which 8 SBGI fighters faced 8 MMA fighters from Poland which took place on a rooftop in Bahrain in September of 2019 with special celebrity guests such as Jason Derulo and Gregor Clegane (The Mountain from Game of Thrones) in attendance. Colin won his fight via 3rd round standing guillotine choke, contributing to the astounding success of the team as a whole, as each SBGI fighter was victorious against Team Poland at the event. As a reward for their phenomenal performances the entire team were invited to spend the day at the home of the Royal Family the next day which they spent being driven around the gardens in golf carts by orangutans and petting the families pet lions and tigers in what Colin describes as a surreal experience. Although the fights were not professional and therefore no monetary incentive was involved, as the team coach John Kavanagh was awarded a sum of money as a reward for the resounding success of the team, which he chose to divide amongst the fighters. Colin stated “John had no obligation whatsoever to hand that prize money over to us, but he did it anyway. He’s a really generous man and I’m very grateful for all of the help, support and guidance he has given me over the years.”
SBG Clonmel currently has over 200 members and provides classes including MMA, boxing, kickboxing/Muay Thai, Gi and NoGi BJJ, wrestling and strength and conditioning for adults along with classes for children. In 2019 three SBG Clonmel students travelled to represent Team Ireland at the IMMAF MMA championships with Colins brother Frank Meagher and Aaron McCormack attending the World championships in Bahrain and Dean Lowe competing at the first ever cadet MMA World Championships in Rome. In 2017 Colin started coaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes at SBG HQ on Sunday mornings, and has continued to do so right up until the Covid-19 pandemic caused gyms to cease operation.
Speaking of his plans for the future and his intentions of progressing to the professional ranks Colin declared “Ideally I want to be in a position where I can train for fights full time while coaching. I’ll be hoping to make my pro debut soon and I’m looking forward to showcasing a lifetime worth of hard work and commitment. Sometimes people can be unaware of the hidden costs associated with fighting and they can add up quickly so it will be nice to finally get something back from all my years of hard work – I’ve fought enough times for free!”
Colin has also participated in a number of IMMAA and IMMAF certified courses including the cornercare cutman course and the refereeing course, he claims “Being a member of IMMAA has opened so many doors for me within my profession, the courses they offer are creating the next wave of professionals within our sport. It has created clear pathways for education and job opportunities, and allowed me to gain qualifications which enable me to understand the sport from new perspectives and therefore become a better fighter and coach.”
When questioned what advice he would give to young members about to begin their journey into MMA Colin stated “Have fun and enjoy the process, not everyone is going to become a world champion someday so don’t take the fun out of it by putting pressure on yourself to achieve unrealistic expectations. Don’t be too hard on yourself or beat yourself up over losses, it’s not the outcome of the fight itself that matters, but how you react to it that defines you as a fighter. You’ve just gotta put the work in, enjoy the journey and be at peace with the process. Anything can happen on the day of the fight, the outcome often comes down to the wire but regardless of the result, make sure you put on a performance you can be proud of.”
Speaking of the ways in which MMA has benefitted his life Colin stated “For me MMA is about proving my skills and abilities to myself – competing is just an added bonus. I couldn’t imagine where I would be in life right now if I had not found MMA, it’s my passion and I honestly believe I will continue to train until the day I die.. As a young man my training kept me on the straight and narrow, it gave me a sense of purpose and kept me out of trouble. Especially with the increase in anti-social behaviour we have seen across the country from young people recently I believe it is now more important than ever to enroll children and teens in martial arts, not only to enable them to defend themselves, but to provide them with discipline, structure and a healthy lifestyle. Martial Arts has allowed me to see so much of the world I would never have gotten to see had it not been for this amazing sport. I have had fights in the UK, Dubai, Prague, Bahrain, Thailand and also had the pleasure of spending a month in Mexico with Cathal Pendred and team as he prepared for UFC in Mexico City and travelled to Iceland with John and the team to prepare for my fight in Dubai as well as travelling to Italy with my student Dean Lowe for the Cadet World MMA Championships.”
Colin is an avid supporter of the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association and the ways in which it is providing standards and supports for fighters, clubs and promotions. He claims “IMMAA provides Irish MMA with guidelines and regulations to ensure the safety of everyone within our sport. As a coach it gives me great peace of mind to know that my fighters are in safe hands and being looked after by the best people for the job. The difference in the health and safety procedures for MMA fighters between now and when I started fighting are night and day. Looking back it seems ridiculous how poor the medical protocols used to be, whereas now as both a fighter and a coach I can be reassured in the knowledge that myself, my students and our opponents have all received the appropriate medical checks to be cleared to showcase our skills safely. MMA shows in Ireland are the pinnacle of safety standards worldwide and I have full faith that IMMAA will one day be successful in achieving formal recognition for MMA as a sport within Ireland.
The Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association would like to express our sincerest gratitude to Colin and his members at SBG Clonmel for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the Irish MMA community and wish them the very best of luck and skill in their future endeavors within the sport.