Location: Dublin, Ireland
Year Established: 2001
Founder: John Kavanagh
Head Coach: John Kavanagh
Notable Title Wins: UFC Featherweight Title, UFC Lightweight Title
How was SBG Ireland established?
Straight Blast Gym Ireland was established in 2001 as an affiliate gym of Straight Blast Gym International. An affiliation created by BJJ black belt Matt Thornton, whose affiliation is now over 35 gyms worldwide.
It was founded by owner and head coach John Kavanagh after meeting Thornton at an MMA show in South Africa. At the event, Kavanagh and Thornton became friends after sharing a locker room together.
Kavanagh was looking to legitimize his gym with a BJJ black belt lineage and earn his Jiu Jitsu black belt. After each coach visited the other’s gym, Kavanagh’s gym became an affiliation of Thornton’s school. Straight Blast Gym Ireland.
In 20 years, SBG Ireland has gone through a complete revolution. Going from a start up MMA gym to a top tier school home to some of the world’s best fighters.
John Kavanagh (Head Coach)
The founder and head coach of SBG Ireland is BJJ black belt John Kavanagh. He is a pioneer of early MMA within Ireland and the UK.
He participated in some of the earliest sanctioned MMA fights in the country and later became a coach. Kavanagh is the first BJJ black belt from Ireland and went on to organize Ireland’s first BJJ federation. John is also the current president of the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Organization.(IMMAO)
At his gym, Kavanagh is both the head of the Jiu Jitsu program and striking classes for his fighters. When he isn’t running his gym or overseeing Ireland’s BJJ and MMA federations, John is busy coaching his fighters. He is a regular fixture at numerous UFC and Bellator events.
Sergey Pikulskiy (Wrestling Coach)
The man behind the wrestling program at SBG Ireland for the last 2 decades is Moldovan wrestler, Sergey Pikulskiy. He has been Conor McGregor’s personal wrestling coach for 15 years
Before he became the wrestling coach at SBG, Pikulskiy wrestled and trained with the Moldovan national team for 7 years. The Moldovan wrestler competed internationally and used his background to prepare the fighters of SBG.
Karl Cannon (Muay Thai)
The head of SBG Ireland’s Muay Thai program is coach Karl Cannon. Karl oversees all of the Muay Thai classes at the gym from beginners to pros.
He routinely corners fighters from the gym in both MMA and Muay Thai bouts. Cannon also helps coach Kavanaugh in numerous outreach programs within the gym.
Staunton is a BJJ black belt under Kavanagh and is one of the BJJ instructors at the gym. After receiving his black belt in 2016, he began teaching at the academy.
For the last decade, SBG Ireland has really started to make a name for themselves in the global MMA scene. Here are some of the most recognized fighters that call the gym home.
Without a doubt, the most known that helped put SBG Ireland on the map is “the notorious” Conor McGregor. One of the most talented and popular fighters ever with a personality to match.
People see McGregor as a brash fighter always looking to get buzz for his fights. But he is one of the hardest working fighters on the planet.
In his first 7 fights, Conor would win all but one of the fights by knockout. The last one of the streak being a one punch KO of reigning featherweight king Jose Aldo.
Then he would go on to have two fights with Nate Diaz. Two of the most viewed MMA fights in history.
If that wasn’t enough, he would later win the lightweight title and go on to box Floyd Mayweather. A boxing match that had nearly 6 million ppv buys worldwide.
McGregor has had one of the most successful fighting careers of all time. Winning numerous titles and having the most viewed fights of any MMA fighter ever. In the future, he will look to continue to add to his legacy.
UFC welterweight vet Gunnar Nelson has been training with SBG Ireland for the last decade. When he isn’t training in his country of Iceland, Gunnar makes trips to Ireland to train with Kavanagh’s team.
Nelson has been in the mix within the welterweight division since 2010. Earning a record of 17-5-1 with 13 of those fights being in the UFC.
On top of being an accomplished MMA fighter, Nelson is also a highly competitive BJJ competitor. Winning multiple Pan American BJJ championships and competing at the ADCC in 2009.
The latest addition to the SBG Ireland crew is UFC light heavyweight standout, Johnny Walker. Winning his first 4 fights within the UFC with three of those coming by way of knockout.
Then Walker hit the first rough patch of his career dropping 2 straight fights. He came to SBG to find himself and reach his true potential as a fighter.
Walker has only had one fight under the SBG banner, but it was a highlight reel TKO of Ryan Spann. With SBG, Walker will look to evolve as a fighter and reach the elite level of the light heavyweight division.
The young Bellator star has been a fixture of their bantamweight division for the last 5 years. Making his debut at just 19 and drawing big crowds on Bellator shows in Ireland ever since. He’ll likely be a multiple time champion before his career is done.
The Legacy of SBG Ireland
Straight Blast Gym Ireland in the last decade have been able to put themselves among the best gyms in the world. During this time, nearly 30 SBG fighters have fought within the UFC and Bellator.
The home of Conor McGregor has been recognized numerous times as an elite MMA gym. Having been nominated for gym of the year 3 times (‘14,’15,’16) and John Kavanagh winning coach of the year in 2016.
John Kavanagh and his fight team will look to continue developing top fighters and vye for more world titles.