Rumblings from Rush – Cowzer on Hogan’s defence, Redmond’s exit, his Coady fight, Neil Ward’s debut and the prosperous amateurs at Rush Fight Academy


This week PETER CARROLL spoke to Paul Cowzer, head coach of Rush Fight Academy about Tommy Hogan’s preparation for Battle Zone Contender Fight Night, the thriving amateur team at RFA, John Redmond’s departure, Neil Ward’s pro debut and his goals for 2014.

Rush Fight Academy were comfortably one of the most exciting amateur teams on the Irish MMA scene in 2013. This weekend one of their charges, Tommy Hogan, will defend his amateur welterweight Battle Zone title against James Brennan of the MMA Clinic, a team who are no strangers to the North County Dublin team’s tough and aggressive style.

Having claimed his title against Brennan’s team mate, talented prospect Ciaran Daly, Hogan now has the opportunity to cement his place at the top of his bracket, something that his coach Paul Cowzer has every confidence he will do.

“Tommy is the best amateur welterweight in Ireland,” said Cowzer. “He’s a real all-rounder. His wrestling is great, his jiu jitsu is very strong, he’s confident standing up and his cardio is excellent. The one thing that I think separates him from the other fighters is his intelligence. He’s always improving and every time he competes you see something new and this Saturday should be no different.”

As far as Hogan’s opponent on the night is concerned, the RFA head coach has done his homework on Brennan, citing the Clinic man’s striking and submission oriented ground attacks as points of reference during is fighter’s preparation.

“Even though they’re from the same gym, Brennan and Daly are completely different fighters. Brennan is a lot better standing up, he has some great kicks. From what I can see Brennan is more inclined to use a jiu jitsu grappling style where Daly is well known for his wrestling.

“We didn’t really have to make a specific game plan for this bout, that’s what I’m getting at when I’m talking about Tommy’s intelligence. He can win this fight everywhere, he’ll find a way, it doesn’t matter what Brennan does,” he said.

Cowzer also revealed that Hogan is eyeing professional status before the end of 2014, with the passionate RFA boss assured of his fighters capability due to the well documented depth of the amateur 170lbs division.

“We’re looking at him going pro before the end of the year. He’s had a lot of hard fights, we don’t hide from anyone and if he’s going to make mistakes I’d rather he make them at amateur. The welterweight division is packed here and he’s fought a
lot of the most dangerous guys,” he observed.

One fight that does appeal to Cowzer is a clash with another amateur welterweight champion, Ayo Daly. The Tony Carrick product made his intention to fight Hogan known after retaining his title at Ryoshin Fighting Championships 4 over another Cowzer trained welterweight, Paul Lawrence, back in November.

“We wanted to fight Ayo at the Rumble in Rush but we got Anzor instead, he’s another great striker they’ve got down there. I know he’s thinking of going pro soon as well, but there’s nothing to say this fight can’t happen when Tommy joins the pro ranks. If we were ever offered the fight we’d certainly take it,” he asserted.

Something that had the potential to affect Hogan’s camp was John Redmond’s shock exodus from Rush Fight Academy last week. Moving to Team Ryano, Redmond’s announcement shocked the national MMA community due to his close bond with Cowzer, with the two rarely being seen without each other since the genesis of RFA on the scene.

“It wasn’t ideal John leaving when we had a welterweight getting ready to fight. That’s the real loss for the guys, they lost a sparring partner who was a professional fighter. They lost a coach as well, but really I think the whole thing has brought everyone at the gym closer together.

“The whole thing came out of the blue, I was coaching our technical MMA class and he came and told me he wanted to have a word. We had a talk and he told me that he had decided to move on. What could I say? If a fighter wants to move on, good luck to him.

“It’s more like a friend moving on than a fighter. John really turned his life around at this club and with the help of the sport. It’s a weird situation, it’s messed up. I know he’s going to get great training with the Ryano lads, but it remains to be seen whether it will get him where wants to go in the sport,” said Cowzer.

Some questioned the decision of Redmond given the success of RFA in 2013 and his own return to the winning column with Cage Warriors. Cowser has his questions too, but instead of focusing on what could have been, he is looking to the future with great enthusiasm.

“We’ve got a loyal group of lads down here and our training is as good as anyone’s. Very few teams could have guys doing what they’re doing so early in their training. We have guys like Tommy Hogan and Neil Ward fighting for titles after two years of training, they’re at the top of their divisions.

“The Caffrey brothers had no training before they come up here and they’re two of the most exciting fighters out there now. Adam is the toughest man in the world, I tell him all the time. Luke is going straight to the top of boxing or MMA depending on whatever one he chooses to pursue.”

Given his strong boxing background, the Rush coach also highlighted how he believes that Luke Caffrey could have a future in both boxing and MMA, outlining why the young talent could pursue both sports.

“A lot of people think you have to focus on one or the other, but Luke has been training both since he started. I think if he does well in boxing it will boost his profile and attract people from the MMA to give him a fight or vice versa,” he explained.

Although there is a lot of thought put into when a fighter should take a professional status in the sport nowadays, Cowzer went straight into the big leagues with only his pugilistic background and no real ground game. In one of the most memorable fights in the history of the sport in Ireland, Cowzer took a win over Keith Coady at Cage Contender 5 in 2010, but he revealed via a social media post last week that the fight had been changed to an amateur contest after the fact, therefore taking the win from his professional record.

The bantamweight clash was contested under the old pro “B” rules according to Cowzer, which were understood to be professional under the old system. With A and B rules designated to professionals, C and D rules applied to the amateurs until the new classification came into effect.

The former Battle Zone featherweight champion outlined his complaint with the changed classification of the bout and confirmed that after adequate evidence was provided to Sherdog, they changed the decision back to a professional win.

“It could have been a problem with how the fight was registered with Sherdog,” he commented. “When it went up first it read that I had actually beaten Ger Coady who hadn’t trained in a couple of years at that point.

“It was well known that it was a professional fight, we were both paid and we were wearing four ounce gloves. The Coady fight was my sixth professional fight and it was only switched to a “B” class matchup in the rules meeting. Conor McGregor fought Gary Morris with the same rules and that fight appears on his record, I don’t know how it would apply to one fight and not the other.

“The fight has been restored to a pro win on my record, as far as I know John Ferguson rang up and explained we had been paid and they also reviewed the video evidence of the fight. Now that Keith’s going pro I think his team want him to start with a clean slate, but if we could all do that, I’d have my first five fights removed from my record.

“This is the second time this has happened with that fight, but I have a good backlog of emails and evidence there now if it gets taken off me again.”
With such a young team under his tutelage, Cowzer explained how some of his fighters are simply too young to go pro despite their experience in competition.

“A few of the lads down here could go pro if it wasn’t for their age. A prime example is Adam Caffrey, technically he’s ready to go pro but because he’s just turned 20, he just needs that little bit of more experience and maturity in competition.”

One man that has met all of the criteria for Cowzer is Neil Ward who will make his pro debut at Cage Warriors 65 on March 1st against Gavin Kelly.

“We just knew Neil was ready,” he said of the bantamweight. “He’s a special talent and he’s another guy I think can go straight to the top. He’s made his mistakes at amateur, he’s always learned from them, but that’s what the platform is there for.

“He’s got a tough debut against Gavin Kelly, they were the two best amateur bantamweights in the country before he went pro so it makes for a great fight. Gavin has had five professional fights and won four of them, it’s a real test, but I believe Neil has the tools to beat him.”

Having established themselves as one of the most prosperous Irish amateur teams in 2013, Cowzer mapped out his goals for Rush Fight Academy in 2014.

“This year I want to see our top amateurs progress to the pro ranks. We have guys there to take their place on the amateur team. For example, we had the best amateur bantamweight in the country before Neil Ward went pro, but Luke Caffrey will slot in there now and he will be the best amateur 135er in Ireland. The same applies for Tommy, when he goes pro we have Paul ready to take over that weight division.

“We’ve got other guys like that too, it’s just a natural progression and I think it will work well for us. When you think of the likes of SBG, they’ve been doing it for about 12 years and they have a system that works the same way. At Rush we’re just getting ready for the first generation of pros, we’ve been going for about 5 years or so and we’ve never been shy about competing.

“When I think back on it, it’s plain to see that myself and John were competing at a level we weren’t able for too soon. Back then it wasn’t about the UFC or anything like that, we just wanted to fight.”

By Peter Carroll – @PetesyCarroll

Owner/Editor of Writer, Podcaster, Producer of 'Notorious: Conor McGregor' film, 'Conor McGregor: Notorious' TV series, 'Ten Thousand Hours', 'The Fighting Irish' and more documentary films.

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