Sinead Kavanagh returning from injury exactly one year later, willing to fight into 40s until she becomes world champion

Heading into Bellator 275 on February 25, 2022, Sinead Kavanagh vs Leah McCourt was considered one of, if not, the biggest Irish female MMA fight of all-time. In a fight that lived up to the hype, Kavanagh came away with the unanimous decision victory, but in a bittersweet ending, she was carried out of the cage by teammate Conor McGregor and coach John Kavanagh after she suffered a serious knee injury. Now, exactly one year to the day, in the same arena she last fought in, Kavanagh will return at Bellator 291 in a rematch against Janay Harding.

That serious knee injury would be diagnosed as both a torn ACL and MCL, which has kept Sinead Kavanagh on the sidelines ever since.  Speaking to, Kavanagh discussed her return to action, the desire to become champion, and how she’s willing to fight into her 40s to achieve that goal.

Acknowledging that it took her a while to get back into the gym, Kavanagh said she’s physically feeling in top shape but there were some hurdles to get through mentally. What makes the return even more remarkable is that despite the injury happening in February, she was unable to get surgery into April.

“Physically, I’m in top shape. It took me a while to get into training, mentally, cause the thought of my knee being the way it is after surgery, I’ve been in awkward situations and I feel positive about it now. It was just a long road to go back training, just the rehab itself, it was baby steps.”

From the moment she left the cage at Bellator 275 with the injury, Sinead Kavanagh made it a goal to get back into the Bellator cage for the February event in Dublin, and mission accomplished. With her pending return just days away, Kavanagh couldn’t have a better atmosphere to return than Dublin, Ireland at 3Arena with her fellow Irish men and women raving throughout the event. As the country of Ireland eagerly awaits her return, Kavanagh spoke about how special the Irish crowd is, and why fighting in that atmosphere is something that’s almost impossible to put into words.

“Goosebumps, it’s surreal. Everyone is cheering and they’re drunk and cheering. You walk in the arena backstage and so much mixed emotions are going through your head. You’re nervous, you’re excited, you’re ready to get in there and show everyone your talents, then you walk in and it’s like a gladiator vibe.”

Returning with her home crowd behind her and her physical health back to 100%, Sinead Kavanagh is now ready to avenge a loss from five years ago against Janay Harding when they meet again at Bellator 291. With obvious growth from both women since they first met, Kavanagh knows there will be differences from their first fight and is expecting a tough fight against Harding.

“Janay is tough. She’s a tough girl, she’s awkward and tough. I’m not going to go in for the kill this time, I’m just going to take time because other fights when I do that, I’ve gotten caught early. I’m going to try and pick her off. Now saying that, I might just cut the bits, that’s the style of fighting I do, but in my head, I’m going to take my time.”

The fight against Harding won’t just be a return to action for Sinead Kavanagh, it’ll also be her road back to hopefully earning a title shot in the future, if she’s able to get back to her winning ways. Planning to be active and fight three times in 2023, Kavanagh said emphatically that she would feel incomplete without winning the title, and she’s willing to fight into her 40s to achieve that goal.

“That’s my dream, to be the world champion. I don’t think I’ll be complete if I don’t win it. I need to have that before I retire. Maybe I can fight into my 40s because that’s where it’s going now, with many MMA fighters fighting into their 40s. Hopefully, I have a bit of time. It means the world to me.”

There couldn’t be a better stage and better opportunity for Sinead Kavanagh as she returns to action. Back home in Ireland where she’s undefeated as a fighter, against an opponent who has beaten her in the past, and at a time where fights are happening in her division, a win for Kavanagh would not only send a message to her self-confidence, but to the division as well.

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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