Most martial artists prefer not to look back on their debut. Former UFC Champion Forrest Griffin, pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva, and noted heavyweight Andrei Arlovski all started their careers 0-1.
Paul Mcveigh remembers his first fight for all the right reasons.
On a cool November night in 2002, a small miner’s club in Ireland played host to Grapple and Strike 6, a mixed martial arts event that featured twelve match-ups between local fighters. McVeigh would be fighting in a cage for the first time, a major change of scenery from the plain mats of the gyms that he was used to. His opponent, David Griffiths, was fierce, experienced, and brought with him a Rickson Gracie fifth dan (black belt) to work his corner. Sound bad enough? The crowd was drunk off its rocker, belting out profanities every other second. McVeigh was sure to break down under the pressure. All odds were against the young bantamweight.
Minutes later, the future star emerged victorious, forcing his opponent to tap out on his third attempt with an arm bar. It seemed that the chaotic environment that surrounded young Paul McVeigh that night did not faze him.
“I would consider my mental game a strength,” he says, “Most of the stuff that is advocated in sports psychology books was stuff I was already doing naturally.”
Almost eight years later, Paul McVeigh’s MMA record has become as a true reflection of his confidence; at an outstanding 15-6, he has finished off almost all of his opponents and has never lost twice in a row.
One can’t help but notice that almost three quarters of his wins are via submissions. The various joint locks and chokes that McVeigh has executed in bouts over the years are due to his expertise in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (or BJJ to martial artists), a Judo-based discipline in which he holds a purple belt.
“I think its a factor of me having crappy wrestling and letting guys get on top of me more than anything else,” he says of his submission count, “ I don’t tend to try and submit people from top position too much, but if they give up their back, my finishes are pretty good. If I see an opportunity to end a fight I’ll go for it.”
McVeigh started training in BJJ as a youngster. “Like every kid in Europe, it was mainly because I was crap at soccer. What kept me going was the amount of turbo hot girls that seemed to keep turning up [at Jiu-Jitsu class] every week. Being a bit of a pervert, I turned up to every available class and ended up getting pretty good! It was around this time that I started to think that coaching martial arts would be way more fun than a real job. Teenage hormones are really the key to my success.” McVeigh told me wittily.
After graduating from the University of Glasgow, McVeigh made the decision to coach and fight full time. The decision was an easy one for him to make, but how would his family respond? What would his friends think? How would he overcome the stigma of being involved in what many see as “human cockfighting”?
McVeigh doesn’t recall feeling particularly nervous about the subject. “Television in Ireland is not great; I think that’s the reason I have five brothers and sisters,” he jokes, “My parents can afford to lose a few of us, and me dying in a cage would simply be an interesting footnote!”
After taking in his new lifestyle, McVeigh joined the Dinky Ninjas, a team of martial artists that would soon become one of the UK’s finest. As a coach at the Griphouse Gym, he explored several other disciplines in order to become a more complete fighter. While his ground game was already strong because of his grappling roots, he still sought improvement in the other aspects of his game.
Muay Thai (Thai boxing) helped him to utilize everything from knees to elbows in striking his opponent, while wrestling taught him how to keep his opponents off balance and work in the clinch. It wasn’t long before Mcveigh found himself roundhouse-kicking a bag one hour and practicing triangle chokes the next. It was a sudden introduction to the fast-paced world of mixed martial arts.
McVeigh attributes much of his success to his balance between being physically prepared and having a solid strategy: “Technique is super important, but then again being a friggin’ gorilla will help out a lot too,” he remarks.
Opponents also began to fear McVeigh because of his incredible stamina. He loads his body with sugars after weigh-ins, usually in the form of an immensely large supply of chocolate. As tough as it is for an Irishman to lay off the alcohol, McVeigh manages to do so until the victory celebration.
It wasn’t long before Paul McVeigh captured the CWFC Championship belt, the same belt that had been worn by the likes of Michael Bisping, Gegard Mousasi, and Martin Kampmann. He knows that following in their footsteps won’t be an easy task. “Hopefully I can go on to be as successful as those guys,” he says.
After defending his title and fending off all challengers with ease, McVeigh got the break he had been waiting for when he qualified for the Cage Force bantamweight tournament in 2008. McVeigh would be fighting in Japan, a Mecca for mixed martial artists, for the first time. He put on a great show for the sellout crowd, though he lost a tight split decision in the opening round.
Even after getting a taste of international superstardom, the 27-year old phenom believes that he should stay local and build more of a reputation before going global. He is currently working extremely hard to improve his wrestling, which he believes to be his Achilles heel.
At the same time, McVeigh claims to be “a bit of a geek,” citing a love for video games. When he is not training or coaching, he usually finds himself reading anything from volumes on psychology to comic books.
Paul McVeigh is extremely well respected among his peers. He offers an excellent piece of advice to up-and-coming fighters, begging students of the sport to immerse themselves in it. “Put in the hours and always strive to do ten percent more than everyone else. Read around the topic…this is a thinking man’s sport for sure,” he offers.
In the many cases, mixed martial artists choose a broader education as opposed to pursuing a top-notch degree in order to focus on fighting. McVeigh urges young fighters not to take this route. “When I helped set up our gym, I already had a first class honors degree and a job offer from a human performance testing laboratory. If being an MMA coach was my only option, I don’t think things would have turned out as well,” he says, “You can get way more training done when in school than in a nine-to-five job, so you might as well stay there, get a degree, and get mad good at fighting in cages on the side!”
Just upon appearance, one can’t help but classify McVeigh as another punk who thinks he is king of the streets. A bright pink mohawk and cauliflowered ears don’t exactly match up with a 135-pound Irishman with a top-notch education and a steady job.
To his friends, however, Paul McVeigh plays the role of the funny, intellectual dude who just- so-happens to have a passion for the most badass sport around. It is a paradox for the ages; perhaps his nickname, “Metabolic,” is a reference to both his incredible physical strength and his sharp mind, the true cornerstones of his success.
|Record||15 – 6 – 0 (Win – Loss – Draw)|
|Wins||1 (T)KOs ( 6.67 %)
11 Submissions ( 73.33 %)
2 Decisions ( 13.33 %)
1 Other ( 6.67 %)
|Losses||2 (T)KOs ( 33.33 %)
2 Submissions ( 33.33 %)
2 Decisions ( 33.33 %)