This week’s featured IMMAA fighter of the week is two time representative of Team Ireland and silver medalist at the IMMAF MMA championships 19 year old Megan Hamill of IMMAA gym SBGI under Head Coach and IMMAA President John Kavanagh.
Megan’s journey into martial arts began at age 4 when she started training in Wado-ryu style karate along with her brother, which she continued for the following ten years. Having earned her blackbelt at only 13 years old Megan soon found the training had started to become rather repetitive and she began searching for a new sport to immerse herself in. Speaking of her introduction to MMA she recalls “My cousins had begun training in MMA at SBG and kept telling my brother and I how great it was and how much we’d love it so we went along for the open day to see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t know anything about the sport at the time so I had no idea what to expect but the first class I did was a jiu jitsu class and I fell in love with the sport immediately. I loved the methodical element to it and there was a very chilled and mellow vibe to the class which I really enjoyed.”
Megan began training in daily teen classes focusing mainly on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and grappling fundamentals before adding regular striking classes to her training regime. Having regularly competed at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions nationwide she decided to put her skills to the test when she chose to attend the 2019 Irish international team squad sessions and although it was a tough and vigorous display of fitness and technical ability Megan thoroughly enjoyed the experience and particularly enjoyed meeting other women training in MMA. After being selected for the Irish international MMA team for 2020 Megan made her MMA debut at the IMMAF European MMA Championships in Rome in June but unfortunately was beaten via unanimous decision from the judges in her preliminary bout. Speaking of the ways in which she mentally prepared herself before her debut Megan claimed “I was really nervous beforehand but I just needed to channel those nerves into focus and remind myself that whatever happens, happens and as long as I go out there and give it my all I can hold my head up high and know that I’ve done my best.”
In November of 2019 Megan represented Ireland again at the IMMAF world MMA championships held in Bahrain. After winning her first two fights of the tournament via first round armbar and unanimous decision respectively she was defeated in the final round via unanimous decision, earning a silver medal for Team Ireland. Discussing her experiences competing at the IMMAF tournaments Megan stated “The atmosphere there was incredible. I loved being able to watch the fights and see all the different styles each nation had to offer and the high level of talent and skills there is unreal. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to be able to travel to different countries for fights and to represent my country at such a world class tournament meant the absolute world to me.”
When questioned about which particular moment she considers to be the highlight of her MMA career to date Megan answered “Funnily enough the highlight of my career is actually also my lowlight. It was when I travelled to England for my second MMA fight and got knocked out in less than one minute into the first round. As heartbreaking as that was to come to terms with it was also the moment that made me realise that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. My perspective was that the worst had already happened so now I had nowhere to go but up and it really made me push myself to work harder and improve my skills.” Megan went on to discuss a common obstacle which can often prove difficult for females in combat sports – a lack of female training partners. Megan claimed “I’m very lucky to come from a gym where there are good numbers of women training but most of us are in different weight classes and have limited options in terms of sparring partners. I often find that I keep coming up against the same people almost every time at competitions. I’m glad to see a recent influx in the amount of women taking up MMA so I would really love to see those numbers continue to grow.”
When asked who inspires her within the sport Megan explained that she doesn’t need to search far for motivation identifying fellow SBGI teammate and former IMMAF gold medalist turned professional MMA fighter Sinead Kavanagh as one of her role models in the sport, claiming “Sinead is an absolute beast when she fights, she really goes in for the kill and that’s something i definitely admire about her. I really enjoy watching UFC fighter JoJo Calderwood too because she comes across as quite a reserved person but changes to a killer when she steps into the cage.”
Megan was sure to mention the people who have helped her to develop and improve her skill set throughout her MMA journey stating “I’ve been so, so lucky to have the most incredible coaches I could ever hope for. When I first started training Owen Roddy was one of the first coaches to introduce me to MMA and even though I was usually the only girl in those classes at the time he never made me feel like I was in any way different to any of the lads in the class. Dave Jones put a lot of work into helping me with my striking in preparation for the IMMAF’s and of course my head coach John is an absolutely amazing coach. He always seems to have an endless amount of knowledge of anything fighting related but takes a very calculated and methodical approach to everything and really thinks through every scenario and possibility. My parents have also been hugely supportive of my fighting from the start and they always go above and beyond to support and encourage me in any way they can.”
Speaking of her plans for the future Megan declared that she intends to return to the IMMAF MMA championships again and although she hopes to one day achieve a gold medal for Team Ireland, her priorities are set firmly upon improving and progressing, claiming “It would be nice to win gold for my team but my main focus is to prove that each time I step into the cage I’m a better fighter than I was before. I plan to gain as much experience as I can on the amateur scene before hopefully eventually turning pro but for now I’m not thinking too far ahead and just choosing to focus on each fight at hand.”
Explaining why she feels so passionately about MMA Megan revealed “MMA is probably one of the most diverse sports there is. There’s an endless amount of possibilities so it never gets too repetitive and no two fights are ever the same. It’s such a release for me. Like an escape from everything and anything else going on in the world. No matter what’s going on in your personal life it all vanishes when you step onto the mats and all you can do is focus on what’s directly in front of you. It’s been a huge confidence booster for me too, I’m quite a reserved and shy person generally but after a training session or a fight I walk a little bit taller and hold my head up a little bit higher. I love every aspect of the sport.” When asked what advice she would give to young girls who are interested in embarking on their own journey into MMA Megan answered “Try not to be too hard on yourself. It can all seem a bit chaotic at the beginning but once you learn to relax and enjoy it things will eventually start to make sense in time so as long as you put the time in on the mats and stay consistent you’ll get to where you want to be.”
The Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association and the Irish Women’s MMA Commission are extremely proud of Megan’s achievements within the sport. We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to her for all of her contributions to Team Ireland. We look forward to working with her in the future and witnessing her MMA career continue to grow, prosper and inspire young women nationwide.