Charlie Leary – “To fight in Hawaii is massive”

Bellator MMA returns to Hawaii on April 22nd and what a night of violence it’s set to be in ‘The Big Island”



Main-Eventing the evening’s violent festivities will be Patchy Mix vs Raufeon Stots will conclude the $1 million Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix, but for many UK fans, the return of Charlie ‘917’ Leary will be the one to watch.


I took a trip down to Team Crossface last week to catch up with Charlie, as he prepares for his highly anticipated return to the cage at Bellator 295 where he takes on Yancy Medeiros in the barn burner of a collision.


Charlie ‘917’ Leary (17-12-1) is an English professional Mixed Martial Artist currently competing in the Lightweight Division, representing Team Crossface. He has competed for Bamma, Ultimate Challenge MMA, Cage Warriors, Kayo MMA, Shock N Awe, UWC, UCMMA, Phoenix MMA UK, CESE, Budo Fighting Championship, FCC, Brave CF and Bellator MMA.


I’d like to kick things off by thanking you for inviting me down to the gym to speak with you today Charlie, and also to congratulate you on your explosive return to the Bellator cage on April 22nd.


“Thanks mate, I appreciate it, I appreciate your time man and you coming down.


Anytime brother.


Many around the world who have followed your journey will know that you are always prepared for the call from the Bellator team. Now amped up for your inclusion in Hawaii, how has your camp been going as you prepare for the violence at Bellator 295?


“You know what, it’s actually picking up really well. I was annoyed that I couldn’t get back out there sooner, not annoyed with Bellator because they were trying. Me and my partner having a baby in August meant I couldn’t get on the shows in October, I was thinking November but there was no card, they tried to get me on the Dublin card but that fell through. It did come about that I’d be on the Paris card, I was umming and ahhing because it was a bit far off, but the guy they wanted me to fight pulled out. Then they asked if I could arrange a Visa, because they wanted me on the Hawaii card. Obviously, I jumped at the chance, it’s a great opportunity. Just started to ramp up the training now, we had Sam fighting for UFC last week so I’ve been in training with him the whole time, I’m feeling good it’s more keeping the weight down and stuff like that.”


Always the hard worker man, your dedication is unwavering.


“Thanks mate Yeah, I’m in twice a day pretty much, weekends too. I’m here whether I have a fight or not really. Whether I’m training, coaching or helping the guys out I’ll always be here.”


There’s some absolute killer’s here, it must be amazing to pass on your knowledge to the younger generation of the sport like Aaron Gray today?



“It is, it’s really nice. You know what, I found that teaching helps me improve my game a lot as well because I have to take a bit more time and look at the details of techniques, and this improves me also. And like you said, when I got guys like Aaron in the gym it’s great for me, he can push me. The more I teach him, the better it is for us both. We got some real good guys down here now, everyone pushes everyone, everyone helps out and it’s nice to see.”


It’s been 9 months since we last witnessed you in action, and no doubt you have been hungry to compete once again?


“Mate, it’s been a bit of a nightmare, it will have almost been a year when fight night comes around. I had 2 quick fights previously, but before that it was over a year again, the pandemic just screwed me over big time. I really hope this is the start of more activity and I can’t thank Bellator enough, they’ve helped me with my visa which I hope now means I can get on any of the upcoming cards, and I’m not just waiting around for European shows. I’ll go over there, put on a performance, show them what I’m capable of and hopefully get another call for one of the cards in America. To be a little more active this year would be nice.”


A great holiday on top of that also, hahaha.


“Mate, I can’t complain, can I? Mrs ain’t too happy about me going to Hawaii without her. I’ve been training about 15 or so years and fighting at pro for 13 or so years and had 31 fights. When I 1st started out, my dream was to always fight in America. When I 1st started out, the UFC was the be all and end all pretty much, if you didn’t fight in America you hadn’t really made it if you know what I mean, so it was always my goal to fight out there. Luckily these days,  you have promotions like Bellator coming over and doing cards on the European scene so you can get on the big shows, and not have to go to America, but it’s  always been my dream. Getting to where I am in my career now and fighting for Bellator, it got to the point where I thought it’s never gonna happen, I’m never gonna fulfil that dream. So to go over to Hawaii, oh mate it’s a dream come true, I’ll put on a performance I’ve been working on my whole career.”


A well earned opportunity mate.


Due to make your 8th appearance and with Scott Coker’s organisations, you now enter your 5th year on the roster. A new year will bring a new set of personal objectives for many competitors, have you laid out a set of your own upon your return?


“I definitely wanna be more active, I wanna make sure I’m getting more than 1 fight a year, preferably 2 a year. Recently I’ve been looking to try and improve my game, I’ve spent a long time trying to add bits in, trying to add this and add that and recently I’ve come to the conclusion that I think I’ve been getting it wrong. I don’t need to add stuff, my game is my game yeah, everyone knows how I fight. I think I need to spend a bit more time sharpening the tools I’ve already got and just perfecting certain parts of them. Line I said, I’ve had 31 pro fights, I know how to fight and I know what I’m doing, I just make little mistakes. So I’m gonna improve and sharpen the skills that I’ve got and be more active, two big things for me this year.”


A very admirable outlook to have man, I for for one am looking forward to your return, sorely missed on the Bellator cards.


Bellator returns to Hawaii for a night of pure unadulterated organised violence at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu. Your highly anticipated return sees you take on Yancy Medeiros, in true ‘917’ fashion, yet another highly rated opponent to your Résumé.


Yancy is a fresh face to the Bellator roster, previously fighting at the UFC and impressed back in 2022 with his debut victory over Emmanuel Sanchez at Bellator 279.


What do you make of Yancy as you prepare to collide in ‘The Big Island’?



“When I got offered the Hawaii fight, my manager phoned me and he said Listen, they want you on the Hawaii card against a hometown fighter and I was like, sign me up. My manager was like, he’s a good opponent, he’s got a good record I’m gonna send over the details now. I opened it up and I was like, it’s bloody Yancy Medeiros. I remember him fighting Cowboy, mate, he fought 14 times for the UFC. For me it’s an honour to fight the guy, to fight him in Hawaii is massive. I’ll be fighting him in his hometown, I’ll be booed on the way in, but I can guarantee you they’ll be cheering me on the way out. He comes to fight no matter what, he doesn’t come to outpoint me, he comes for a war and I love that. And I think he realises that I do too, it’s a great opponent and a great fight. Like I said I’ve watched a lot of his fights man, even from early on in his UFC career, I’m really impressed with how he fights, it’s good for me, I can’t wait.”


When I saw the announcement I was like, oh my god, what a fight and what an explosive return for you.


“Absolutely. He’s coming to fight, I know he’s not just gonna try to hold me against the cage or take me down and lay on me, he’s gonna be looking for a finish. He’s looking to strike, he’s looking to beat me up, which is great for me. This is what I want, this is the fight game and I’m gonna go out there and try to do the exact same thing to him.”


Another huge card is being pieced  together to give the fans in attendance a night they’ll not soon forget. Other than your inclusion on the night, are there any confirmed fighter’s or bouts in particular that you’re looking forward to witnessing?


“Obviously the Main-Event, Patchy Mix vs Raufeon Stots, that’s gonna be a great fight. I always liked Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, she’s a great fighter as well. Apart from those I’ve not seen that many more have been announced, I’ve obviously been concentrating more on myself. Straight away those 2 fights sell the card themselves, I know they’ll have quite a few Hawaiian hometown on the card also. The 1 thing you can rely on is Hawaiian’s is they come to fight, so any of them guys are gonna put on a show. The Main-Event is definitely one I’ll be looking forward to, that Bantamweight division is on fire, got some really good guys, it’s gonna be awesome.”


Couldn’t agree more, I’ve been in high anticipation for that since they both reached the final, definitely not one to be missed.


Again, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you again today Charlie, I wish you all the best for your continued training and all the best for April man.


“Thank you very much mate. Like I said, I appreciate your time and you coming down to the gym to speak with me.”


Anytime man, always enjoy making the trip to see you guys.


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?


“Big shout-out to my friends and my family, to all my training partners whether it’s helping me train or being there for me. For the fans, expect a good show, I’m coming over to put on a show for you all. I know they love a good fight and I’m promising one, be ready for it.”

Join Our WhatsApp Group

Join our UFC WhatsApp fan group and discuss the latest UFC events and news