Paul Buckley has taken the Irish MMA scene by storm, marking his professional debut at Caged Steel on December 12, 2023, ending the fight in spectacular fashion in round three. We caught up with this prodigious talent to delve into his journey into mixed martial arts, his past victories, and more!
Your sporting background, including rugby, suggests a natural affinity for sports. What drew you to MMA?
“I played rugby from about age 10 to 19 and quit then because it was too challenging to train properly while doing MMA. I had always been interested in joining MMA, but I didn’t have the time due to rugby. Then, one summer, my younger brother joined, so I joined the next day to ensure he wouldn’t gain an edge over me.”
Transitioning from other sports to MMA can be challenging. How did you find the shift, and what elements from previous sports have you incorporated into martial arts?
“I initially joined MMA just for fun and immediately fell in love with it. I had always been interested in it while growing up. It wasn’t too challenging; there was plenty of work to do, but I enjoyed it, so it wasn’t a problem. The main thing I gained was a strong mindset and the ability to handle pressure in other sports because even though martial arts are very different, many mental aspects are similar.”
Your ability to apply pressure on opponents was evident, especially in your amateur fight against Sammy McCambley. What was your mindset during that fight?
“That was my first fight in 2 years because I was on an Erasmus in Italy, and then after that, there was COVID-19. Sitting on a loss for that long truly drove me during training and motivated me to improve. I developed a lot in those two years and wanted to showcase it.”
Your relentless fighting style, combining wrestling and striking, is impressive. How does training at MMA Cork contribute to your skills?
“The incredible coaching from Arann and the experience shared by the guys who preceded me made everything much easier when it came to fights. Additionally, the guys who have been coming up in the last few years are all similar in weight to me, so we’re all pushing each other. Being competitive in training is making us much better.”
You took the fight at Caged Steel on short notice. What motivated you to accept the challenge?
I hadn’t fought since June or July before that, so the entire time I was looking for a fight and had been consistently improving. When the opportunity finally came, I had levelled up since the last fight and was more than ready to go.
During your Caged Steel debut, you displayed confidence by not holding back. What fuelled this confidence in your first pro fight?
I had made loads of improvements, mainly by taking my time and staying composed early in the fight, which allowed me to get the timing down and become more aggressive as the fight progressed. I was as fit as I’ve ever been for the fight, so I knew I had more than enough energy to maintain a high pace until it reached its distance.
In a previous interview, you mentioned a damaged knuckle post-fight. How’s the recovery progressing, and do you anticipate it affecting your performance in 2024?
Well, I’m waiting to see a different doctor for a second opinion on the hand because I feel it wasn’t properly attended to, and I want to ensure I do everything I can to heal it correctly. Until then, I’m still in the gym, working on anything I can.
Ending 2023 with your pro debut must be a milestone. What are your plans and goals for 2024?
So the original plan was to get 3-5 fights by August next year, obviously that has changed now. The main thing is to get my hands right and improve in any way I can until then.
John Mitchell, a 5-time Irish MMA Champion, identified Paul as one of Ireland’s top prospects. Keep an eye on Paul Buckley in 2024—he’s a rising star!