Bellator 291 Dublin: Ritchie Smullen set to make a statement on home soil

Bellator returns to Dublin on February 25th and what a night we have in store. Notably one of the biggest outings for Scott Coker’s team, the return across the Atlantic will be relished by the Dublin crowd.


One warrior in particular will also be in high anticipation for the violent festivities will be Ritchie Smullen, who makes his Bellator return on home turf.


I caught up with Ritchie as he prepares to make a statement on his 1st trip back to Bellator in 2 years.


Ritchie Smullen (9-2-1) is an Irish professional Mixed Martial Artist currently competing in the Featherweight division, representing SBG Ireland. Ritchie has competed for Shinobi MMA Fighting Championships, BAMMA, The Ultimate Fighter, Real Fight Promotion and makes his return to Bellator MMA on February 25th.


I’d like to kick things off by thanking you for taking the time to speak with me today Ritchie, and also to congratulate you on your upcoming inclusion to the Bellator 291 Dublin card.


“Yeah I’m looking forward to that, the 1st fight in Ireland for a while.”


What a return though.


Now the Christmas festivities have ended, it’s back to normality and a new MMA year has opened up. How does it feel to be back training, and pretty much straight into camp at SBG Ireland?


“Yeah it’s great, Christmas was a great time and all that but after a few days, it’s good to get back to normality. I’ve got a good fight ahead of me, I’m glad to be back in camp and getting ready for this. Especially with so many of my teammates on the card as well, we’re all preparing at the same time. It’s great, and it’s a great feeling in the gym with a great atmosphere.”


I can imagine how great it must be to return with so many of your team on the card also.


Notably one of the world’s most iconic Gyms in Mixed Martial Arts, SBG Ireland is full to the brim with some of the world’s most talented competitors.


It must be a tremendous honour for you to call John Kavanagh’s SBG the home of your fight camps?


“It’s an honour. I’ve been training with John now for about 12 years now, I remember being the new guy. Now on the mats, I’m one of the longest standing fighters on the team for sure. There’s 60 to 70 pro’s on the mats every day, there’s so many great training partners, especially at Featherweight. I think on this card alone, there’s 6 Featherweight fights gym alone. Pedro’s Co-Main-Event, Ciaràn Clarke, there’s a lot of us on the card. It’s great to have so many good training partners, all at the same weight class, chasing the same goals and the same dream.”


It must feel amazing to have gone in as the new guy, now having young fighters looking up to you as a role model.


“There’s a few of the guys I coach, but mainly it’s Gary Rooney. He’s the number one amateur in the UK and Ireland, because of coaching Gary and him taking off the way he is, my inbox is full of people asking me to coach them hahaha, I just don’t have the time as I’m actively fighting. There’s a few guys I like to help in the gym, but they help me as well, if you know what I mean, because we all train together. It’s crazy seeing the next wave coming through, and I’m glad I’ll be retired by the time they’re at our level hahaha.”


There’s definitely some fierce prospects on the horizon.


Last Bellator fans had the opportunity to catch you in action was back in 2020, in your victory over Harry Hardwick at Bellator Euro series 8. No doubt the fans will be in high anticipation for your return.


How does it feel to once again be taking the walk to the Bellator cage, as well as being on home soil?


“The walk to the Bellator cage is crazy, especially in Dublin. I’m sure you’ve seen the clips that have gone viral, the crowd is crazy. I think this is my 6th fight in the 3Arena, most people go their whole careers without fighting there, it’s crazy and I can’t wait for it. My last Bellator fight was in Milan, and there was actually no crowd either, as it was during the pandemic. It was kinda weird fighting on a big promotion like Bellator, in a big cage with no crowd. So I’m really looking forward to having it back home in Dublin at the 3Arena, with loads of crazy Irish people screaming for me, making that walk and getting that win, it’s gonna be a great night.”



I have to agree, Bellator stands out for me as one of the top organisations, each time they make the trip to Dublin it’s absolutely packed to the rafters.


Since your last inclusion, victory has been your journey, securing 3 explosive victories at RFP 83, 86 and 88.


Do you feel that these outings will show a different version of yourself under the lights of the 3Arena on February 25th?


“Yesh definitely, they were 3 bouts over a 7 to 8 month period. I improve week by week. I know this about myself, I’m training and drilling all the time. It’ll be a year since I last fought, that was by a bit of bad luck on the regional scene and fights falling through. I’ve got a lot of improvements to show, it’ll be a very fast paced fight I’m sure. I’m looking forward to showing the fans that as well by getting back in, I made weight twice for previous bouts in September but the fights never happened. At least with Bellator you’re fighting the best guys in the world, you know your opponent’s gonna be there if that makes sense, there’s no doubt about it. Getting matched across the regional scene and Europe there’s always that thought in the back of your mind of will they, won’t they. That was one of the greatest things about Ukraine, in Ukraine they’re all game to fight. I fought for my 1st title at RFP, the champion pulled out a week before the fight and vacated his belt, so they had me against the number 1 who was on the card as well to fight for it, put us together and did it that way. That RFP in Ukraine was a good show to fight on. It was a bit of a travel, I had to get 2 flights most of the time but it was worth it. I grew over there, I was in a country where no one spoke English, kinda getting pointed where to go. It was a little bit different but it was a great experience, I’m happy I did it.”



I’m eager to see the improvements in the Bellator cage. Being a fan of yours for a while, your game is non-researchable, dangerous in all aspects you never know how you’ll finish. Those 2 years in Ukraine could have only improved on that definitely.


“I don’t know myself half the time hahaha, I just go with it and see what happens.”


Your welcome return will see you take on Polish powerhouse Piotr ‘Niedziela’ Niedzielski. Like yourself, Piotr has relished in winning ways and has been undefeated since 2017.


Bellator really are looking to make their return to Dublin an explosive night for the fans, your inclusion is proof of that.


What do you make of Piotr as you prepare to collide at Bellator 291?



“To be honest with you, I’ve actually seen him fight years ago, it was on a Dublin show, he’s been around a long time. I feel the better the opponent I fight, the better I’ll fight you know what I mean. Like when I fought Rhys Mkee, I fought better than I ever did, the better the opponent I rose to the occasion. I’m looking forward to this, he looks like a good wrestler and powerful with his punches but at this stage, so many fights in, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. Everyone has the same tools, the same weapons, just depends how you use them, that’s what makes you unique or better. I’m really looking forward to this fight with Piotr, it’s gonna be a big fight. When I win this fight, I don’t see why I won’t be number 3 or 4 in the rankings, the guys 17-4. I think I’ll be one of his hardest fights, he’s on a big win streak but he hasn’t fought me yet. So I’m looking forward to the test in 6 and a half weeks, getting that win. I don’t really watch my opponents that much, I saw his last fight because he fought my teammate Pedro, but I haven’t watched any of his fights in Poland or any of his fights in the last few years.”


Just laser focused on your own game.


“That’s all you can do is focus on yourself, like if you watch my last fight I’m different then. I don’t even know what I’m gonna do in my next fight, so how is my opponent gonna know? I don’t really see the point in that. That’s what it’s all about, making my tools sharper and going with that, focus on myself more and just go at the guy you know what I mean. At the end of the day it’s a fight, just bite down on the gum shield and see what happens.”


Highly admirable mindset to have mate.


Announcements are coming in thick and fast as Scott Coker’s preparations for yet another night of pure unadulterated organised violence in Ireland draws near.


Other than your inclusion on the night are there any confirmed matchups in particular that you’re looking forward to witnessing, no doubt, some of your teams?


“Yeah, pretty much all of my team, I’m looking forward to watching all of them. Especially Ciaràn Clarke, I train with Ciaràn on a regular basis. I’m looking to watch all the guys out there, but Ciaràn’s will be my favourite fight to watch.”


He’s one I’ll be looking forward to also, I think he will go far in Bellator.


“Ciaràn’s a great guy, quiet, humble and fights anyone. As you said, just goes out there and does his thing.”


It’s the quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for hahaha.


“That’s what they say hahaha.”


It’s been a pleasure speaking with you today Ritchie, I wish you all the best for the remainder of your camp, and for your return to Bellator.


“Thank you man, I appreciate that. If you’re in Dublin for fight week, gimme a shout, I’ll show you around Dublin.”


Thanks man, I’ll definitely take you up on that if I manage tk make the trip.


Last but not least do you have a message for the fans that will be in attendance and anybody you’d like to give a shout-out to?


“For the fans, expect fireworks, literally. From the second that bell goes, I’m coming out to fight. I’d like to thank all my sponsors for all the help through camp, without them camp would be a lot tougher. Sponsors are a great thing to have, I’m grateful to have them”


Catch Ritchie and many more phenomenal warriors take centre stage at what’s shaping up to be an incredible fight card on February 25th In Dublin.

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