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Paul Hughes Sparring Session Served As Wake-Up Call To Ryan Shelley: “That’s The Level I Need To Get To!”

Undefeated Irish featherweight Ryan Shelley (3-0) has his sights set on Cage Warriors gold, but the Dubliner knows that he has work to do.

Already a world champion in Taekwondo and Kickboxing, the Team KF fighter recognized that his striking skill set wouldn’t translate to instant success in MMA.

“There was a lot I had to change. I was a bit naive when I joined in thinking that all I have to do is work on my ground game, but that couldn’t be further [from] the truth!” Shelley explains. 


“When I first went, I was getting the legs kicked off of me. Fair enough, I came from a kickboxing background, but there was (were) no kicks below the waist. So, that was a big thing I had to change, I had to change things up in my stance a little bit. Also, another thing, my hands weren’t great, because I had been mainly a kicker when I came into MMA. I had been mixing around with a bit of boxing when I was in college, so I think that really helped me make the transition”

It was a sparring session with Cage Warriors Interim Featherweight Champion, Paul Hughes, that underlined to Shelley the necessary growth that becoming an MMA champion requires. 

“Me and Adam had the pleasure of going up and sparring Paul Hughes.” Shelley recalls.


“I felt Paul in there, we did some rounds, and I was like right that’s the level I need to get to. I’m not there yet. The sparring proved that, but I know I will get there. I just need each fight as it comes to test myself, and eventually I’ll get there!”


Just three fights into his professional career, the Whitehall native has shown a diversity to his arsenal that demonstrates he is on the right path. Far from a one-trick pony, the decorated striker submitted his first two opponents, and used grappling to set up a ground-and-pound TKO finish in his most recent victory over Paulo Vista in December.

Ryan was signed to a multi-fight Cage Warriors deal alongside his older brother Adam. While 28-year-old Adam is eager to hit the ground running, 25-year-old Ryan is happy to take the slow and steady approach:

“He’s [Adam] sort of gunning for it right away. I’m a bit different. I’m a bit younger than him. We’re just at different stages in our life. I’m in no rush whatsoever. I’m gonna take every challenge as it comes to me. What I do want is with each fight that comes, I want a tougher challenge than the last. So by the time that title fight does come along, I’ll have faced each of the challenges put in front of me, dealt with them, and then I know myself I’m ready.”

For now, Shelley is taking things one fight at a time, with the aim to realize his dreams of Cage Warriors gold when the time is right.

“Obviously, my goal is to one day win a Cage Warriors world title in the featherweight division. When that will be? I haven’t a clue. All I know is I have 5 fights on my contract, and I’m in no rush whatsoever!”

Ryan Shelley will face Magdi Gereev (2-0) at Cage Warriors 135 this Friday 1st April. The event will be broadcast live on UFC Fight Pass.


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