Last July, an exception was made for Ais ‘The Bash’ Daly during her stay in the TUF House. Although any contact with the outside world is forbidden in most cases with the reality show, UFC allowed the Irish strawweight to watch their second visit to her hometown, five years after their initial stop in the Irish capital for UFC 93.
Daly is far more than just a fighter from Ireland. She was the first MMA world champion the country boasted, she is one of the preeminent faces of the sport in the country and before Conor McGregor, Cathal Pendred or Paddy Holohan ever graced the hallowed halls of SBG, she was already on the grind.
Holohan made it known that his teammate and close friend Daly was missing from the occasion in his post-fight interview on that historic, July night. And even though Daly was delighted that her friend thought of her in a moment that was no doubt that highlight of his career up until that point, she couldn’t help being a little bit dejected having worked tirelessly to legitimize the sport in her native land.
This October, Daly will finally get the chance to receive a big, hometown reception when she meets Brazil’s Ericka Almeida, something she describes as a “dream come true.”
“I was devastated to miss it,” admits Daly. “It was the biggest occasion that MMA has ever had in the country. To be part of the crew that made it happen and then to actually not be on the card, it was heartbreaking for me.
“It just seemed like it was such a big moment and then to not have any involvement it, to be so far away in the TUF house, it was a lot to take in. It really was heartbreaking, so for this to be happening to me now is a dream come true. It’s absolutely amazing.
“People probably think I’m being dramatic by saying it’s a dream come true, but they have to realize that when I was a little 15 year old girl when I was grappling away against older guys—this type of thing was never a possibility.
“In my mind it was never going to happen, especially when you consider the things Dana was saying about women’s MMA a few years ago. You know, that women wouldn’t be in the UFC as long as he was in charge. Then he set up the 135ers, but that really didn’t do anything for the smaller girls. It was all about Ronda really.
“For a long time I really didn’t think I was going to get that chance, but now we’ve seen the lighter weight class come through and I’m in the division. So, it really is a dream come true when you think about it like that. Sure, stuff is happening for me now, but people forget that I started on this road over ten years ago. Back then, it was impossible to even think about an event in Dublin like this.”
Daly has contested numerous bouts in front of Irish crowds, but this will be the first time she will make the walk in Dublin as a UFC fighter. Given the meteoric growth of the sport in the country over the last two years, Daly is looking forward to witnessing the infamous crowd first hand. As well as that, the Irish straw weight commented on how she believes the fans will give her an extra edge when she is going about her business.
“I think in any fight the crowd can force something out of you. The Dublin crowd is something else, obviously Dana and Lorenzo had been all over the world witnessing different fans but when they came to Ireland they knew they had something completely different on their hands.
“When you think back to Cathal’s fight last year, there are little situations like that where the crowd can get rid of that bit of doubt in your mind and just force you to keep going. Just hearing the crowd can give you that little spike in adrenaline that might give you a little bit of extra strength or a little extra cardio. Really the crowd can be the difference between you getting the finish and your opponent not getting it.
“Being an Irish fighter and having that Irish crowd behind you, I really believe that we have a great sense of pride. We’re proud of our country and we’re proud of peoples’ successes from the country. When we get together like that, I guess it does sort of feel like we’re going to war. We have that sense of comradery.
“Even watching Paddy walk out on TV, you could feel it. It completely makes sense that Conor called him ‘the berserker’ when you hear the way the Irish crowd got behind him. You’d have sworn that Paddy was going off to fight for the country. It felt like it was more than just sport,” she remembers.
Given the fact that Almeida has never fought outside of Brazil before, Daly believes coming face to face with the passionate Irish support might be overwhelming for the young flyweight.
“I’ve seen my opponent’s record and it looks like she has never fought outside of Brazil. Even her first UFC fight was against a Brazilian in Brazil, so that’s going to be a weird experience for her having never fought outside her own country. It’s not just that she’s fighting in Ireland—it’s only the third UFC event ever here, the sport has never had a bigger following and she will be fighting a woman who pioneered the sport in the country, at her homecoming.
“I really think that’s going to be very weird for her. Maybe she is the kind of person who doesn’t really think about these things or maybe she does factor that kind of pressure into her preparation. Either way, I can see the crowd definitely working in my favor.
“As well as that, I get to roll out of my own bed, make breakfast in my own kitchen and then go down and whoop some ass in the 3 Arena. That’s place I’ve been going to since I was kid for all kinds of concerts and things like that. It’s going to be like a gym day for me because if someone told me they had a good female fighter that wanted to three rounds of sparring, I’d definitely take it. That’s how I’m going to think of it. I just want to enjoy the experience.”
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