By Tom Bell
Darragh O Conaill has spoken of his excitement and determination to use his upcoming Polaris Pro match against Max Campos to put Irish jiu jitsu firmly on the map.
Cardiff, Wales will host the first Polaris Professional Jiu Jitsu Invitational, with plenty of world class talent due to fight in a mix of gi and nogi, submission only bouts. Dublin’s O Conaill earned himself a place on the card following an impressive 2014, closing the year with baseball bat choke victories at Subf15teen and the Toukon Challenge against Chris Regan and Maciej Kozak respectively.
Well known on the domestic circuit, the Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu black belt is now determined to help establish Ireland as one of the top Jiu Jitsu nations in the world, and he knows that Polaris will give him a platform to help achieve that in front of a worldwide audience, with the event available on live pay-per-view this Saturday.
“It’s definitely the highest profile event that I’ve been in so far,” says Darragh. “I mean, I got to do the BJJ Kumite before – the reality show that Lloyd Irvin did, that got my name out there. But, with names like Keenan on there, this is definitely the biggest event yet for me. You can fight in big tournaments, but when you’re on the only mat, when it’s a showcase, it becomes a way bigger deal.”
The card features the likes of Keenan Cornelius, Kit Dale, AJ Agazarm, Angelica Galvao plus many more, including some of the most established and respected grapplers on the planet. Remaining humble, Darragh spoke of the pride of representing his country on an international stage:
“I still find it hard to get my head around. People like Eduardo Telles and Mike Fowler, Pablo Popovictch.. they were the guys I used to watch, I used to study their instructionals. To be included on the same list of names, it’s a huge honour, you know.
“I guess it’s a chance for Irish jiu jitsu to be on a big stage and for people to see that we do have high level people and that the scene here is growing just as much as anywhere else in Europe. It’s great for Irish jiu jitsu and for me and my career personally.”
Touted as a top European prospect for some time, the East Coast Jiu Jitsu Academy’s head coach first competed at the Worlds in 2010, but has since then found a deeper meaning in jiu jitsu, going on to form one of Ireland’s most successful academies and gaining a new-found motivation within the sport.
“It definitely started out as a personal mission from the first time that I ever went to the Worlds in 2010,” says O Conaill on fighting at the Mundials. “That was the big stage and it’s what I had my head fixated on. Since then, jiu jitsu has become a bigger thing for me, I started teaching so it became about my team as much as about me. It became about all my friends and all my team mates here. It’s about getting me and my guys to the highest level we can and we will do that together. That then spreads to growing Irish jiu jitsu as a whole – we want to see all of us doing well.
“It started with me, then the team, now for sure man, I want myself, I want Chris Bowe and everybody else competing at the highest level against everybody else and those big names. It’s great to let people see that there is high-level martial arts in Ireland.”
Combat sports have seen a spectacular rise in popularity during recent years in Ireland, with a wave of Irish mixed martial artists sweeping through the UFC. O Conaill believes it’s in the mentality of his countrymen to fight and fight hard, which he hopes will be shown on Saturday against Oxford Shootfighters’ Max Campos, a well respect and dangerous opponent.
“I think everybody knows the stereotype of the fighting Irishman, but I think it’s a mentality in the people. Irish people are quite stubborn, they’re hard to keep down. The country has been invaded but you can’t keep the people down. We’re a tough people and fighting seems to be in our DNA, I’m not saying we’re trying to take over in jiu jitsu, but man, we’ll put it up to anybody, we won’t be backing down. I’m not necessarily saying I’m here to take over European BJJ but anybody who get’s in our way we won’t be backing away from.
“I think too man that it’s more fun for us. Everybody knows that in Brazil and America that the guys are good, the same in England with it’s developments but I think with us, for me especially, because I don’t train with loads of black belts. It’s me and my friends, not big names, that makes it extra fun. It’s like, I don’t care who you train with, but me and my mates, here in Dublin? We’ll do our best to beat you no matter who you train with.”
Polaris is available to order on pay-per-view this Saturday. Viewing and match details can be found at www.polaris-pro.org