Brian Moore: 'Florida is a crazy place, an event here would be a lot better'

SURE-FOOTED: Brian Moore’s MMA ambitions with Bellator are locked in cold storage until October at the earliest but he is finding no end of ways to keep busy until the pandemic eases and he can step into an octagon again. Picture: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
By Brendan O'Brien

His fitness studio is shuttered for now, his MMA ambitions with Bellator locked in cold storage until October at the earliest, but Brian Moore is finding no end of ways to keep busy until the pandemic eases and he can step into an octagon again.

Clients are still being seen online, there's the extra time he can spend with his wife Noreen and their daughters Missie (5) and Bonnie (2), and then there's the finishing touches he has been able to apply to the exterior of a family home built only last year.

Front steps, a patio and two sheds have been added and he sounds particularly excited about the arrival in a few weeks from the US of some Fuji mats for the home gym from which he is maintaining readiness for a possible bantamweight world title shot down the road.

“If you can't work on one thing you can work on something else,” Moore explains.

'Work' is an imperfect word given there isn't anything he does that appears to be a trial. 

He will tell you that nothing is better than being a father but coaching and fighting are other obvious passions and he has been feeding his grá for history and science in recent months too.

Moore has been fascinated with the past since the age of eight or nine, his interest piqued by lessons learned in school and by the voices of his mother and aunts who specialised in the patriotic ballads of the great PJ McCall whose own ancestry had a branch in nearby Rathangan.

It was these renditions of 'Boolavogue' and 'Kelly The Boy From Killane' that prompted pleas from the young Moore to be taken on trips to Vinegar Hill and other local battlefields. And it's to history that he turns when explaining exactly where it is that he lives.

Brought up in Duncormick, home now is the townland of Bannow just next door. Some people know Bannow as Carrick or some other variation, mind, and even the spelling is contested. Confused? He's used to that. Easier just to say that Bannow Bay is where Strongbow's first Norman expedition came ashore in 1169.

Who says history isn't relevant?

The interest in science was actually heightened by his regret over the decision not to study it in school and by book recommendations made by his SBG coach John Kavanagh with whom he lived in Dublin for a few years and under whose banner he still fights.

The strength of that relationship with the man so closely allied with Conor McGregor is clear when Moore moves on to discussing his next Bellator fight which looks increasingly like it will involve New Jersey's Ricky Bandejas whose record stands at 13 wins and only three losses.

“It looks like it is going that way,” says Moore whose own pro career record is 12-7. 

“We both want it. He is a top-tier fighter and doing great things at bantamweight. I have been doing good things at featherweight so it makes a lot of sense.

“There is another side to it as well. Bandejas has beaten two of my SBG teammates and he's running with that narrative. I'm John's longest-serving pro fighter so I feel I should be the one who steps up and stops that talk.”

The Wexford fighter could yet get his way at the Bellator fight night planned for October 3rd at the 3Arena in Dublin. Could. 

Like sports events the world over, it will have to avoid any number of potential knock-out blows before that can happen.

Word is that Bellator have plans to recommence operations as early as mid-July in the USA, though travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements mean that this will be out-of-bounds for fighters such as Moore who are based on this side of the Atlantic.

Fact is he would be highly reluctant to make the journey across The Pond given the risks involved even if it was logistically possible. Others seem less exercised by something as trivial as a global pandemic with the good people at the UFC ploughing on regardless this month.

An executive order by Florida governor Ron DeSantis cleared the way for UFC 249 to go ahead in Jacksonville a fortnight back. Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje headlined and Donald Trump gave the thumbs up with a pre-recorded video message.

All very strange, all so ... America.

“I was very split over it,” says Moore. 

“There was two camps: the 'yes, let's do it' and then people who were saying it shouldn't go ahead. No matter what camp you were in though you were still going to watch it. It was great to see MMA again as a consumer but, as a fighter, I wouldn't have travelled. It's early days, like.”

As with the Bundesliga in Germany, there were obvious oddities to the promotion given the absence of fans. 

The commentators spoke in hushed tones due to their close proximity to the octagon and every blow landed carried a clarity normally obscured by the wider hubbub.

Moore quite liked that. There was something about the stripped-down, basic nature of it all that appealed to a fighter whose combative nature has prompted him to take on fights against some of Bellator's top names at painfully short notice.

“If anything it makes sport a bit more real.”

It was not an event without its issues.

The fighter Ronaldo Souza and his two cornermen tested positive for Covid-19 less than 24 hours beforehand. This was after mixing with other fighters and UFC president Dana White who was then one of a number of people at the event not to practise the required social distancing or wear a mask.

White's contravention of the protocols was particularly careless and difficult to understand given, as Moore said, it handed more ammunition to critics who have already launched plenty of ordnance at the sport in the last decade.

It's not something he would expect to see repeated at an event in Dublin.

“I don't think it will be the same. They done it in Florida but it's a bit of a crazy place. 

It's renowned for things not being done by the rules. If it it was done in Ireland... I'm not the biggest lover of the government but I can't fault them in too many ways in how they've handled the whole situation.

“I know people will argue with me on that and that's fine because everyone has their own opinion but the way Ireland has handled it, in general, has been very admirable. If there was an event to be held here I think we would be a lot better with the guidelines.”

Plenty of other questions remain besides. Bellator can attract 11,000 to the 3Arena but how many fans if any, will be allowed in such a space come October? Whatever the date and the backdrop, Moore has already served notice of an ability to adapt.

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