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Conor McGregor inspired generation of Irish fighters, Nathan Kelly wants to do the same for next gen

PFL star Nathan Kelly believes it’s time for him and other Irish fighters to inspire the next generation of mixed martial artists in the country.

Kelly, like so many other MMA stars in Ireland, were first inspired by the rise of Conor McGregor.

The former featherweight and lightweight UFC champion first joined the organisation in 2013.

McGregor already had a big following thanks to his performances at Cage Warriors, though his stock went through the roof once he linked up with Dana White’s MMA giant.

“When he first joined the UFC, I was like a kid on Christmas,” Kelly told Planet Sport when asked about the impact McGregor had on his career.

“I was so excited, and he gave me this sense of belief in myself that I could follow in the same footpath. Obviously, I’m not the only person he gave that belief to. Hundreds and thousands of people across the country had that same motivation. He’s got them into the sport.

“Without him, I think half the people today probably wouldn’t be fighting. Especially in Ireland, they wouldn’t have thought they could make it this far because we’re a small nation and we didn’t seem to have many big opportunities with major organisations before then.”

Kelly recently improved his professional record to 9-2 after picking up a first round submission victory over Dimitry Solimeis in the main event of PFL Europe last December.

The 26-year-old won all three of his bouts in 2023 as he looks for bigger and better things in the New Year.

One of Kelly’s ambitions is to inspire the next crop of MMA talent in Ireland. He said: “McGregor had a big impact on Irish MMA and the growth of it.

“He paved the way for the likes of myself. I’m only 26 now. Eleven pro fights in, I feel like I’m only beginning my journey now as a pro. I’m really getting into the swing of things. Especially in an established organisation.

“Now it’s up to me and other lads around Ireland to pave the way for next generations and show that we can still keep this f*****g cycle of fighters, produce these types of fighters in Ireland for many years to come.

“I grateful in the sense that some of the coaches we have now, they’ve learned from scratch, they had to learn the hard way. We’re in a position now where we have learned from their mistakes. They’re passing this information down to us.

“By the time if I get into coaching, I’ll have their wisdom. Maybe I will learn from my own mistakes and then I can pass them onto the next generation.

“I think Conor kick started this cycle of fighters. Now it’s up to us and all the lads from Ireland to keep the cycle going and really invest time into promoting and getting people into the sport. Really try to build another stable of Irish athletes for the future."

Photo Credit: PFL Europe

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