Ireland has become a hotbed of MMA talent especially since the rise to fame of Conor McGregor. One of those young talents on the rise is Danni Neilan. Concluding her first full year in the professional ranks in September 2020, she won all three of her Bellator bouts. If the young SBG Ireland prospect can continue this run, there is no telling where she will end up in 2021.
From the Horse Track to Discovering MMA
“I worked in horse racing for years and was a late starter to MMA. At the age of 25, I made a clean break from the racing industry,” Neilan told MyMMANews. “Shortly after I was on a date with a fighter and he told me all about MMA and Conor McGregor. I thought to myself I could definitely do that too and joined a gym a week later! The rest is history I guess!” Though she considers herself a late starter to the sport, she has learned the sport at a frenetic pace, only needing about a year and a half in the amateur ranks before turning pro. As any young, inspiring fighter in Ireland would do, she sought out the best fight team in the land.
SBG Ireland Influence
“Firstly, Conor McGregor was my first influence. I was so inspired by his self-belief and achievements. He is the reason I joined SBG! Once in SBG my head coach John Kavanagh has had a massive impact on my development from raw beginner to pro fighter! Finally, my fiancé Alan McCormack is my striking coach but more importantly, he is with me day in day out pushing me for technical improvements and max efforts,” stated Neilan.
MMA has been growing at a rapid pace since the explosion of McGregor. “I am still a newbie to the world of MMA. This time six years ago, I barely knew it existed at all!! So I guess I was also in the Conor McGregor wave of fans and hype. But I have seen the sport grow from strength to strength every year in Ireland,” said Neilan.
Pro Debut in Bellator
Making your pro debut is an exciting time for an MMA fighter. Many fighters early in their pro careers are still learning at the rate of young amateurs. It’s more common than not for a fighter to make their professional debut on the regional scene. Not only did Neilan make her MMA debut on the second-largest MMA stage in the world in Bellator, but also on her home national soil of Ireland. On September 27, 2019, Neilan made her professional debut inside Dublin, Ireland’s 3Arena at Bellator 227: Gallagher vs Salazar. “I made my pro debut for Bellator in the 3 Arena in Dublin. It wasn’t too stressful at all! My teammates all regularly fight on big shows for big promotions so I saw this as the natural path for me also, especially after getting a silver in the IMMAF world championships. I embraced the experience and told myself this is just the first of a big pro career for me. With all that said I am incredibly grateful to Bellator for giving me that chance as a pro debut!!” stated Neilan.
Bright Irish Star
Ireland could have another champion on their hands if Neilan can continue displaying the skills she’s shown so far. It has been 10 years (2010) since Bellator has crowned a strawweight champion. Should the organization revive the title in the near future, Neilan could find herself squarely in that title hunt. “I am happy with how the first year has gone!! 3-0 was exactly what I wanted to get noticed as a legit strawweight prospect! I want to keep fighting and beating good opponents and work my way up to a world championship! Bellator doesn’t have a strawweight division so I am hopeful they will consider this when I have doubled my record and proved my worth,” stated Neilan. “For now I train day in day out chasing the best world in the pursuit to level up and overtake them someday!”