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How Sinead Kavanagh Beat Homelessness And Olympians To Earn Cyborg Shot

How Sinead Kavanagh Beat Homelessness And Olympians To Earn Cyborg Shot
Jonathan Byrne
By Jonathan Byrne
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Bellator 271 takes place on Friday in Hollywood, Florida. For Dubliner Sinead Kavanagh; fighting for a world title is nothing short of her destiny.

The title holder, Cris Cyborg, is one of MMA's greatest ever. Having dominated Strikeforce and Invicta and won a UFC title, her name shadows over Bellator competition.

Kavanagh had her first professional fight in 2015 and while it might look like on paper she rode the wave of the 'Fighting Irish' it's far from the truth.

Kavanagh's Tough Upbringing

Sinead Kavanagh grew up in Inchicore in Dublin and said her early life "wasn't an easy road." She is the middle child of a family of five.


"One of my sisters is an addict. She lives in a tent in town," she said in an interview. Her schooldays centered around getting into trouble and occasional drug use.

"I was a wagon in school," she said. "Going on the mitch and I remember I got arrested for robbing a car in my uniform."

Kavanagh started boxing as an early teenager after practicing different forms of martial arts as a child. But then things took a dramatic turn.


At 17, she became pregnant with a child while in school. She said she lived out of B&Bs and hostels while trying to support her son.

Her mother was involved in a serious car accident around the same time and became dependent on alcohol. It left Kavanagh with a lot on her plate.

"Me ma with take him sometimes, depends what way she was. I kept a dream alive, looking back now I don't know how I fuckin' done it."



Boxing Professionally 

With school behind her Kavanagh found her knack in the boxing circuits in Dublin. She eventually made her way into the Sport Ireland's High Performance Unit.

Training twice a day, she wound up boxing at an elite level and won five senior national titles during a decorated amateur boxing career.

She was joined in sparring by the likes of Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington over the years. Kavanagh wouldn't taste the same Olympic boxing success as her peers.


In 2012, she travelled to the World Championships in China but came short of qualifying for the Olympics that year in London.


"Boxing was not good to me," Kavanagh said. "I didn't make it. I was up there with the best. I boxed no. 1s, no. 2s, Olympic medalists."

Given her background in karate and kickboxing - there was only one route for the Dubliner to go down.


Then Came Mixed Martial Arts

Having first started training under coach John Kavanagh at SBG at the age of 28, Sinead Kavanagh said MMA "kind of gave me a bit of hope."

"I never got paid in boxing, even though it was a high level." She then decided to move on after much deliberation, saying "it cost me to box."

The community aspect of MMA appealed to her after Coach Kavanagh took her under his wing. She said she was "broken" at the time after dealing with the politics of amateur boxing.

Not long after, Kavanagh would make the trip with her to Las Vegas to fight in an IMMAF World Championship final staying with her coach and Conor McGregor.

"I always thought I should have joined MMA years ago," she said. "It opened my eyes. It gave me some light in my life at a time it was needed."

Despite losing in the IMMAF world final, her opponent admitted to taking enhancements. Sinead Kavanagh could do no more as an amateur.

The next step was to start doing it professionally.

Cyborg Challenge

Since turning pro Kavanagh has amassed a 7-4 record with one of those a highly controversial majority decision loss to Leslie Smith; one many had her winning.

With two of her other losses coming by split decision and doctors stoppage, it doesn't paint the picture of her status now in the women's ranks.

She's matured in the cage with her boxing attributes her strongpoint, posing the risk of being a heavy hitter with several knockouts on her record.

With Cris Cyborg finishing her last three opponents as Bellator featherweight champion, many think Kavanagh will pose a fresh challenge for the title holder.

"This means my life, it means everything that I've done as a kid. My whole life is this fight. I've nothing to lose, everything to gain, I'm not even stressing," she said to Severe MMA before the fight.

"I'm the best boxer in that division by far. I see holes in Cris' game and I'm going to make her pay for them."

Bellator 271 takes place on Friday night and will be live on Virgin Media Two and Virgin Media Sport.

See Also: Watch: Ian Garry Describes 'Overwhelming' UFC Debut On MMA Hour

Ian Garry
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