Richie Smullen is approaching Bellator 217 “100% fit” and at the “lightest weight,” he has been in his career to date. So, it is no surprise that when I spoke to him he sounded relaxed and composed. The SBG athlete holds a professional record of 5-1-1. He is on a four-fight contract with Bellator and is looking forward to getting the first of them under his belt in February.
The Dublin man began training about 9 years ago, and although he loved it, he never allowed himself to dream he would one day end up where he is now.
“I really enjoyed it when I started but I never thought I’d be fighting professional in the UFC and Bellator… I always liked the training and the competitive edge, but did I ever think I’d fight? In my head I thought I wanted to, but I never knew I would.”
Before going pro, Richie had 10-12 fights at the amateur level. Coming off a 4-fight winning streak, he approached coach John Kavanagh about turning professional.
“I had a lot of amateur fights and I asked John about going pro and he said ‘I was waiting for you to ask me,’ he puts no pressure on you…Here we are now, still doing it and still enjoying it even more.”
I was interested to hear how Richie had handled the transition from amateur to professional. It seems to have happened fairly seamlessly for him and he attributes this to having a good support network of coaches and teammates around him in the gym.
“I was given a lot of good advice, I have a lot of good friends in the gym and I was always steered right.”
Richie is set to face Adam Gustab (3-3-0) in Dublin next month. Both men’s most recent fight ended in defeat, so no doubt each will be seeking redemption at the other’s expense. Jiu Jitsu is Richie’s go to and he promises to put on a masterclass for all in attendance.
“People might think they have an answer for me, but when it comes to grappling, I am going to keep coming forward, keep putting the pressure on. If I fail the first time, I will keep going and going and going. I can see me just making it a dog fight from the ground to the ground. He might get back up, he might not but I am going to finish it on the ground.”
Although Richie is firmly focused on his next opponent, he is hoping to have at least three fights in 2019.
“By the end of the year, everyone will know my name.”
As well as being a professional athlete training three times a day, Richie coaches clients in SBG. He balances all of this with being a dedicated family man. Clearly doting on his baby daughter. He is optimistic that the exposure and purses offered by Bellator will put him in a position to make a living from fighting. A dream echoed by many of the fighters I have spoken to.
“My (professional) career has been very enjoyable so far. I have had five pro fights. I have been in the 3 Arena twice, I have fought in Liverpool twice. I have fought in Vegas in the UFC…I have seen a lot of places in my career through fighting and cornering.”
Richie’s camp is going extremely well and everything is falling into place, so he has opted to stay in Dublin while some of his teammates are heading for Iceland. Smullen says he doesn’t really like travelling and feels more comfortable training in his own environment. This sounded like a very measured decision to me. He has all the hallmarks of a man who knows himself and what works for him. Not willing to allow himself to waiver from the game plan, no matter how exciting the alternative.
Richie was reluctant to speculate on his future after his current Bellator contract expires. He seems to be withholding judgement on his ultimate ambitions until then.
“I don’t really know about that question just yet. Both shows (UFC and Bellator) are big show with good options. I can’t say what’s going to happen in five fights time, but where I am now, I’m happy. I just want to fight all these guys, prove I’m the best and let’s see what happens from there.”
I tapped into the coaching side of Richie and I asked him what advice he might have for people looking to start training in martial arts. He was unequivocal in his response. He urged people to get involved, whether their motivations are to get into fighting or to improve their fitness.
“Knowledge is no load to carry”
Richie is grateful for the support of his team at SBG, his coaches and his sponsors, Townhead Barbershop Arklow,
Hot Bun Catering,
Ger Conroy Fitness,