With several lightweight titles on home soil under his belt, Clare’s Sam Slater is hoping to make a name for himself at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships in Bahrain next month as he seeks to kickstart his career in MMA, writes Fergus Jayes.
Currently studying Science in Trinity College in Dublin, the Tuomgraney man enjoyed a memorable debut year in 2016 where he won the national Clan Wars Lightweight title which he followed up with the Lightweight title in the UK Fighting Championships just two weeks later.
With little MMA activity in his area, Slater explained how the relocation east was pivotal to him taking up the sport.
“I always had the desire to do it ever since playing the UFC video game in 2009 with my brother on holiday, but there was just never any opportunities where I lived.
“I was always a sporty person, I played soccer at county level so my athleticism was at a good level but when it came to fighting I had never done any form of combat.
“When I moved to Dublin in 2012, soccer kind of tapered off for me. There was a SPG (Straight Blast Gym) just five minutes from where I lived so I thought that was an ideal chance to start training in MMA.”
Despite his late start to the sport, he immediately found his rhythm and training twice a week evolved into training twice a day in the space of a few years.
“I had never trained to this volume with any other sport, twice a day six days a week,” he said.
“Fighting for the three rounds is the exact same as playing a match with full intensity, you always have to be aware.
“Despite all the physical training, the hardest aspect of MMA for me is the diet. With gym and sparring, it takes its toll on the body but when it comes to eating it’s a mental drain.
“I enjoy pushing myself, but when it comes to sitting in front of the TV with a bowl of green beans that’s the toughest part of training!”
Slater’s next challenge is the Amateur World Championship in Bahrain in November which is entirely self funded.
“The registration alone was more than the flights, although it did include accommodation. It’s all coming out of my own pocket as there is no government funding.
“The last time I had something like this was the European Championships in Birmingham which wasn’t too bad as I just stayed with my aunt, but Bahrain is a different monster entirely.”
Slater has every intention of competing for the gold, and plans on emulating Conor McGregor by becoming a part of UFC in the future.
“This guy made me realise you can make a career out of the sport. He opened all these doors, and to the untrained eye you might not notice the impact he has made for upcoming Irish fighters, not just as a role model.”
And could he trash talk with the best of them?
“If it came down to it, I do think I could talk the talk like he does. At the end of the day it’s necessary to build up the hype.”
Slater has set up a GoFundMe account which he hopes will help build up the finance needed to make the trip to the Far East. The championship will be held on November 13 and runs for five days, with a fight each day.