Gypsy Traveler fighting at UFC 138

Friday, November 04, 2011

Irish Travellers or Irish Gypsies are a traditionally nomadic people of ethnic Irish origin, who maintain a distinct set of customs and traditions. They live predominantly in the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Among the traditions they maintain is the “Straightener” a bareknuckle boxing match to decide inter family disuputes and matters of pride. For what is believed to be the first time, a Traveller, welterweight John Maguire, is entering the Octagon.

Interestingly, the Travellers used to engage in formal matches (called “All In”) that allowed wrestlng, clinching, elbows, and boxing, something intensely familiar to anyone reading this.

John Maguire is one of the most decorated new breed of British fighters to be drafted into the UFC. Holding two of the UK’s most prestigious domestic titles, Maguire’s story is bound up with a rich heritage of fighting and personal sacrifice.

As a traveller, (or gypsy as the culture is better known in the US), Maguire was no stranger to the bare knuckle methods employed to solve family feuds.

“Fighting can be big in the community,” Maguire explains. “It is usually more to do with family rows than for money and it’s just the way travellers settle problems. Travellers prefer the fair-play style or “straightener” than the all-in style. They don’t really like the wrestling and grappling and a lot of them are ignorant of MMA. I was brought up around boxing as it is a big deal with travellers, but I love MMA.”

“I’ve never lived anywhere else than caravans. ’ve been on the current site for about 10 years now and all my family live there. It’s a nice, quiet family site and I’ve got my own caravan; it’s a nice big one as well.”

In Cambridge Maguire found Tsunami Gym. Under the tutelage of UK fight scene veterans Robbie Olivier and Pierre Guillet,  Maguire defeated all comers using his crushing wrestling game to grind his opponents into an early defeat.

All of this has culminated into a bout with Justin Edwards in the UFC’s return to England on Saturday, and it is an opportunity that he is grabbing with both hands.

“I’ve been sleeping in the gym for the whole training camp. I’ve only been home once. There are no comforts; no TV, no computer or Playstation. I’m sleeping in a store room on the floor.”

“I’m training twice a day. I’ve taken off the last five weeks from work and I’m even adding in a strength and conditioning program,” Maguire said. “Everyone at the gym is helping me to prepare and I’m doing loads of sparring and wrestling. My brother Tommy is helping out loads; he tells me how it is if I’m being lazy or crap.”

“Justin is coming off a win but I’ve fought guys just as good if not better. I just need to hold my nerves together. He likes to wrestle but I’m a wrestler with a very active ground game so I’ll be happy to trade takedowns with him. More than anything though, I want the win and that’s the top to bottom of it. He’s a mini-Randy Couture and he comes out fast in the first round.

“I’m ready to ride the storm and wait for the openings. Whatever comes, any mistake, I’ll capitalize on it … but to win with my trademark Kimura would be good.”

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