Not your average Monday for Garath

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Not your average Monday for Garath thumbnailStrabane man Garath Vaughan and UFC star Conor McGregor.

IT WASN'T an average Monday afternoon for Strabane man Garath Vaughan, who got to meet and train with one of the world's biggest sports stars.

The local ju-jitsu expert and Strabane Straight Blast Gym (SBG) founding member was in Dublin training at the prestigious SBG headquarters - home to renowned MMA coach John Kavanagh and UFC superstar Conor McGregor - when suddenly 'The Notorious' himself walked in the door.

"I called over and trained with the boys for a while, and Conor landed in out of the blue, said Garath. "He just sort of comes and goes as he pleases when he's in the country."

"We did a bit of a roll session on the mat and had a chat for about 10 or 15 minutes. It was just nice to hang out and chat with him, and also see if I could get any inside information," joked Garath.

It wasn't his first time meeting the UFC double-champion however. "I'd met Conor years and years ago on the local MMA scene. I was to fight on a card that he was on, but my opponent pulled out. This was long before anybody knew who he was, long before his UFC days.

"I find him very, very approachable. He is no bother to me. He has that outlandish persona, but he has great time for his fans and great time for anybody who has a love for ju-jitsu.

"He has a lot of nay-sayers but it's all part of the territory. You either love him or hate him, it's one of those things. He's a global superstar, and I'm very lucky to have the opportunity to be on the mat with him.

McGregor and Vaughan of course share a mutual friend in Strabane's own rising star in MMA, James 'The Strabanimal' Gallagher, and the Dublin fighter had high praise for the town and Gallagher in particular.

"He is always encouraging, and he had a great word for Strabane people, and James Gallagher and his parents. They are a long-time supporter of his, long before he made it big."

SBG Strabane has a long association with Kavanagh, and just last month he visited Strabane last month to present belts to members, with Garath receiving the purple belt.

"I'd visit Dublin to train regularly. I'mvery lucky to know John and be able to go up and train with him, and try and bring as much knowledge back as possible to the club in Strabane.

"We have the likes of James, and he's be a regular training partner with us. When he's home he comes over and trains in the club, and we are very lucky to have him.

The knowledge he brings down to the club is phenomenal. We're both lucky enough to have one of the best coaches in the world in John. We are only a small cog in the empire that is SBG, but he makes more time than enough for us."

As for Gallagher, Garath believes he will continue his rise through the ranks in 2018 and become an MMA superstar like McGregor.

"James is a great role model for the young people of Strabane, and he's a great asset and help to our club. I count him as a close personal friend as he's trained ju-jitsu with me since he was very young.

"I think I went to all his fights. The only one I didn't get to was Madison Square Garden, it's a bit of a jaunt!

"His game can only come on. You look at the calibre of the stable John Kavanagh has in his gym. Conor, Paddy Houlihan Kiefer Crosby, Gunnar Nelson, he is working with these guys on a regular basis.

They are world class. James is like a sponge, he just wants to learn and learn, and now it's come full circle, he comes down and teaching me."

SBG Strabane train every Thursday sand Friday night, with advanced classes on Tuesday nights. Next year, the club hopes to host at least three seminars, where it is hoped Kavanagh, McGregor's striking coach, Owen Roddy, and his wrestling coach, Sergey Pikulskiy, will come down to teach.

There are also private lessons available for beginners to come and try out the sport.

"It's a great sport for all ages, and we have a vast age range in the club with various kids and adults classes every week.

On Sunday mornings we have an open mat class where anyone can turn up and roll, whether you train with us or not. It's very accessible.


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