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Dylan Tuke Praises James Doolan and Higher Level MMA for Successful Return

Dylan Tuke (5-2) was once touted as one of the brightest young prospects emerging out of Ireland. A teenage star rising in the shadows of the famed first wave of Irish fighters to grace the UFC Octagon, the Dubliner was a staple of the SBG Ireland mats. Now training at Higher Level MMA in Scotland, “The Nuke” heaps praise on his new team and head coach James Doolan.

Over the years, Tuke fell out of love with his once adored SBG Ireland HQ.

“I had to look around me and think about if guys are talking shit behind my back, guys are doing this, guys are doing that, guys are avoiding my rounds, or guys are purposely missing things.” Tuke recalled to MyMMANews.com

As SBG affiliate gyms were born across the country, former Cage Warriors champion Chris Fields and BJJ black belt Tom King opened SBG Swords. It was at this gym, which later rebranded as Team KF, where Tuke found a new home, training under the tutelage of some of the mentors who had taken him under their wing as a teenager. None more so than “Mama Ais” as Tuke calls her, Ireland’s first MMA world champion Aisling Daly.

2018 would inevitably become one of the most pivotal years of Tuke’s life for a variety of reasons. A 1st-round loss to now-ranked UFC featherweight Sodiq Yusuff in March would mark the beginning of a 4-year absence from MMA competition for “The Nuke.” However, an April visit to James Doolan’s Higher Level MMA in Bathgate, Scotland, would plant the seeds for a new home for Tuke in years to come.

“I’d never shut up about James. I’d never shut up about him. I’d just talk about him all the time. Ever since I went over that one time, I was just in love with his style of coaching and how he handled his boys!” Tuke explains.

While Doolan made an immediate impact on Tuke, it wasn’t until May 2021 that the inner-city Dubliner would make the move permanent.

“I just needed a change of scenery,” Tuke said.

Amidst a court case for a 2018 assault, Tuke recalls how Chris Fields pushed him to leave the gym, but out of love rather than rejection. Tuke remembers how Fields even assisted him financially in making the trip.

Now fully settled in at Higher Level MMA, it’s apparent that Tuke is in much more positive space, both mentally and emotionally.

“I love my guys, man. I don’t have to look around the mat and try to find a round.” Tuke beams.

“Everyone goes with me. Everyone wants to go with me. Everyone wants to learn from me. Everyone makes me feel like I’m hot shit.”

“James said one thing to me when I first came over: you give me everything, I’ll give you everything. You give me nothing, I’ll give you nothing. I’ve given him everything, he’s given me everything. I’m just in a great space over there!”

After 4 long years, Tuke also made an emphatic return to competition, stopping Nicolae Pirogan in the 1st-round to win the Battle Arena featherweight champion last month.

“I was shitting it!” Tuke admits.

While Tuke was facing the uncertainty of the unknown following such a hiatus from MMA, his teammates at Higher Level were there to reassure him.

“When I was coming up into that fight, they were like ‘3-minute, 4-minute job Dyl!’. And there was me doubting myself, me sitting there being like ‘do I still have it? Do I still got it? 4 years out. Do I still have it?”

“I doubted myself. Sitting there going, you probably don’t have it. You probably lost a step. You don’t know what’s after happening. Even though you can perform at a really high level in the gym. It’s almost like you’re thinking it’s going to be different out there. So, it was just my guys. I just love them all so much. They’re just so great to me. They look after me like a little brother since I came. I’ve wanted for nothing since I’ve been there. James and Lindsey have looked after me great. I want for nothing, ever.”

Though the win at Battle Arena marked a successful return to the win column for Tuke himself, he took as much joy in the opportunity to begin paying back James Doolan and the team at Higher Level MMA.

“It felt good to get my first win for Higher Level. It felt good to add a belt to James’ wall of champions. If anyone follows me, you’ll see I posted that I’m a ninja now. I’m up on the Higher Level champions wall, which meant so much to me!”

“It just feels good to be able to give something back to James Doolan. He does so much for me, in such a short space of time. I just owe him the world, and I appreciate him and can’t wait to give him more world titles”

“I hate this word ‘destiny’, but I think it was just destiny for me to meet James. Me and James are meant to be UFC champion, coach and fighter together. That’s just how I feel. I’ve never felt more comfortable with anyone in there on the night.”

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