This Saturday night, Dublin’s James Sheehan has the chance to become Ireland’s next Cage Warriors world champion. CW titles have a long and storied connection to the Emerald Isle, particularly Dublin – with many former champions from the great fighting city going on to achieve incredible things in the sport. 

Ahead of Cage Warriors 170, resident Play-by-Play man Brad Wharton takes a look back at just some of Ireland’s most memorable CW coronations!  

Final tickets for CW 170 are available here!

Neil Seery overcomes the odds 

Of all the coronations on this list, Dublin’s Neil Seery’s was perhaps the most unexpected. Originally slated to take part in the reserve bout of a flyweight tournament, fate conspired to put ‘2Tap’ straight into the title picture against the heavily favoured Finn, Mikael Silander. 

Neil Seery snatched up a shock armbar finish.

Against the odds, the working class hero had his Cinderella moment, outclassing Silander in a nip-and-tuck affair before submitting him with a third round armbar in a moment that saw the air in Dublin’s Helix turn momentarily black in a hail of tossed pints. 

Seery had been convinced by coach Andy Ryan not to hang up the gloves following a series of bad results; now he was a world champion.  

Rhys McKee digs deep in Belfast

In one of the most nail-biting title fights in Cage Warriors history, Belfast’s SEE Arena was on the edge of its collective seat as Rhys McKee and Justin Burlinson tore lumps out of each other for eleven chaotic minutes. 

Having returned from his first stint in the UFC in pursuit of CW gold, the Irishman was within touching distance of making his dreams come true, but Burlinson had other ideas. 

The bout devolved into a dogfight; as much a battle of will as a battle of skill. Battered, swollen and with cuts that looked like they might be enough to stop the bout between rounds, McKee soldiered on, stopping his man to an absolute cacophony of cheers in the third round.    

McKee was swept away by a sea of adoring fans

An emotional celebration – and post fight ambulance pizza with Burlinson – followed, capping off one of the most epic nights in Irish MMA history.

Chris Fields takes the title in Jordan

After a crunching head-kick KO over Jack Mason and a surprise submission loss to John Phillips, Chris Fields had thought his run through the 2012 Cage Warriors middleweight tournament was over. 

Fate – as it so often does in multi-night tournaments – intervened, and Fields found himself on a flight to Jordan to face leglock machine and tournament favorite Pavel Kusch. 

The Ukrainian had only been out of the first round twice and never out of the second, with submissions in all twelve of his professional victories. Fields had other ideas though, defending Kusch’s early leglock attempts and making him empty the gas tank early. 

Chris Fields

By the time he’d heard the third round bell for the first time in his career, Kusch had had the fight worked out of him, with Fields turning up the pace for a decisive finish twelve minutes in.    

Paul Hughes raises the roof in York Hall

In terms of sheer atmosphere, this one may never be topped. On one side of the building you had a French army backing Morgan Charriere, still hurting from his split decision title loss to Jordan Vucenic earlier that year. On the other, the Irish were out in force, their man Paul Hughes also not long removed from a Vucenic decision they thought unjust. 

Paul Hughes and Morgan Charrière mixed it up in York Hall

To say that York Hall felt like a powderkeg ready to go off would be a gross understatement. 

Mere words can’t do what followed justice. Maybe you’d have to watch it back, maybe you had to be there, but the following twenty-five minutes were a gut-churning rollercoaster ride of elation and anxiety. 

As the judges’ scorecards were revealed and Hughes realised his dream had come true, the outpouring of emotion – on both sides – was incomparable.  

Conor McGregor makes history

It had to be, didn’t it? 

Conor McGregor became a two-time champion at CW 51

You can say it’s old or overplayed, but what can’t be denied is that Conor McGregor’s ‘champ-champ’ moment was one of the most important and pivotal junctures not just in his career, but in all of Irish MMA.

It wasn’t even supposed to happen; the Irish prodigy had been slated to defend his featherweight strap against Jim Alers on New Years’ Eve 2012, but the American was forced to withdraw with an injury just weeks from the scheduled headliner. 

Desperate to stay on the card with the scene buzzing about a possible UFC call up, McGregor opted to go up in weight to face 21-3 Slavic wrecking machine Ivan Buchinger. 

The rest, as they say, is history.