Paul Hughes at Bellator Champion Series Dublin (Credit: Bellator Champions Series)

Paul Hughes at Bellator Champion Series Dublin (Credit: Bellator Champions Series)

Bellator Champions Series Dublin: The Next Generation of Irish MMA Has Arrived

When Bellator touches down in Dublin, Ireland and puts on events at the 3Arena, those nights are usually special. Whether it’s memorable performances, a crowd that is unmatched, or a new fighter announcing their arrival, these are the nights to remember in Irish MMA history. In the most recent event, Bellator Champions Series was once again back in Dublin and the 3Arena, with six Irish fighters being showcased, four that were victorious, and all four made a statement about the future of their country’s fighting faces. There’s a tremendous partnership between Bellator and Irish fighters, one that was perfectly told by legendary coach, John Kavanagh.


On the evening, Paul Hughes, Darragh Kelly, Nathan Kelly, and Nate Kelly all took home victories and collectively, and also individually, announced the arrival of the next generation of premier Irish MMA fighters. Although it wasn’t her night, Sinead Kavanagh also had a significant moment on the card as she took on Arlene Blencowe with former UFC two-weight champion and Irish superstar Conor McGregor in her corner.

For the longest time McGregor was main and sometimes lone MMA fighter associated with the Irish, but the nation has been on a steady rise over the last few years. Here’s a look at each winning fighter from Bellator Champions Series and how they set themselves up as must-see TV not just in Ireland, but around the world.

Nate Kelly: 

Nate Kelly (Credit: Bellator Champions Series)
Nate Kelly Credit Bellator Champions Series

The one amateur fighter that has shined on both the PFL and Bellator platforms, Nate Kelly is someone the fight world must get to know sooner rather than later. Yet to make his professional debut, Kelly picked up his second consecutive first-round submission victory, doing it at nearly the same exact time as his previous fight. With a 4-2 amateur record, Kelly called for 4 ounce gloves in his next fight, signaling his move to the professional side. He’s had two fights in Bellator and 1 in PFL, always opening the show to get fans in their seats from the beginning, and he’s continued to deliver.

At such a young age and remarkable talent, Nate Kelly figures to be in the sport for quite some time and in doing so, believes he will be the next great Irish MMA superstar, which could all happen before he turns 25-years old.

Nathan Kelly:

Nathan Kelly (Credit: Bellator Champions Series)
Nathan Kelly Credit Bellator Champions Series

Not to be confused with the younger Nate, Nathan Kelly is hovering around as a future title contender sooner rather than later. Riding an 11-fight winning streak, 9 of which have come by way of first-round stoppage, it is time for Kelly to face the toughest competition. He’s as an electric of a performer as any promotion has, and as a good character in the sport, it’s easy for fans to latch onto him.

There are quite a few big names atop the Bellator featherweight division and it’s time for Kelly to be given a test against some of the promotion’s best. He also would be a treat for fans in the United States and should be consider for their event in San Diego, California later this year. With continuous displays of dominance like he has shown, Nathan Kelly could have chance at the gold in his near future.

Darragh Kelly:

Darragh Kelly (Credit: Bellator Champions Series)
Darragh Kelly Credit Bellator Champions Series

The last name Kelly runs strong and deep with the Irish, especially their fighters. Joining the likes of Nate and Nathan, Darragh is another fast riser out of Ireland. Getting to fight for the first time in nearly a year, Kelly extended his undefeated professional record to 6-0 with a first-round submission victory. Having fought three times in 2023 and only once thus far in 2024, he made it known he’s itching for more activity.

More activity likely leads to more impressive victories and Darragh Kelly has only gone to the judges once in his first six professional fights. If the schedule gets busier, this will be just another Kelly for the world to watch as he ascends up the rankings and looks to put himself on the map in 2024 and beyond.

Paul Hughes

Paul Hughes (Credit: Bellator Champions Series)
Paul Hughes Credit Bellator Champions Series

The biggest free agency splash of 2024 quickly delivered under the PFL and Bellator promotional banner. Leading up to his debut, Hughes spoke about his belief and confidence in the promotion, their interest in him, and his pride of being with them, and that is good business for all involved. In 13 professional fights, Hughes is 12-1 in his career and his last three wins have come by finish.

When the announcement of Paul Hughes to the PFL was announced, it sent a shockwave through the fight game that PFL was here for big business moves, and Paul Hughes is big business. If he continues to succeed in 2024 and stack up wins, he should be an automatic for the 2025 PFL Global Regular Season in the Lightweight division.

Bellator and Ireland have had a great history together and that has continued on throughout the years for fans looking to identify the next great talent. If there most recent event showed anything, it’s that both PFL and Bellator have an eye on talent worldwide, they’re willing to step up and sign the biggest names, and they’ve become a promotion that all fans need to be watching because of their young rising talent.

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Mike Pendleton
Mike Pendleton is a current contributor to MyMMANews while also hosting his "On The Mic" podcast and is a former Associate Producer at Sirius XM's Fight Nation. With a special passion for interviewing and talking to the very best around the fight game, you can read or listen to Mike's work across his multiple outlets. Follow me on Twitter: @MP2310