As we look forward to our long-awaited return to Dublin this weekend, the former voice of Cage Warriors remembers the raucous atmosphere of the Irish fight fans and recalls the moment he took a knee from a man who would go on to become the biggest star in the sport – Conor McGregor.
Before he started calling fights for the UFC, British play-by-play man John Gooden was the voice of Cage Warriors.
And nobody knows the passion of the Irish fight fans quite like John who, during the now-famous rise to prominence of Conor McGregor, ended up right in the thick of it with the legendary Irish fight fans during both of ‘The Notorious’ one’s Cage Warriors championship victories.
We chatted to Gooden at CW80 in London where he shared his memories of his Irish fight night experiences ahead of our return to Dublin this weekend for Cage Warriors 81.
“I think my first taste was the Helix when Conor won his first world title,” he began.
“I got injured – Conor kneed me in the face! But I stayed here to live to tell the tale!
“He jumped the fence. His fans were going absolutely bonkers, and I think if he didn’t go out, they were coming in. So strategically he did the right thing, although he sort of ran through me to get to them!
“But Josh (Palmer, Cage Warriors co-commentator) and I were covered in beer and it was just this melee of craziness. So that was really cool, because I can say I took a knee from Conor McGregor – which he apologised for, as well!
“The Helix was an interesting venue. It was on different levels and the last time I was there the Irish were having mixed results. Then Conor came out and, as he does, rouses everyone and came away with the victory in the fashion that he did. That just put the capstone on the night and just made it celebratory.”
After that fight both McGregor and Gooden were UFC bound, where they would reunite in Dublin at the 3Arena for UFC Fight Night: McGregor v Brandao, an event that has gone down in folklore as one of the most raucous in UFC history.
“I’ve been over to Dublin twice (with the UFC) but the first time in 2014 – McGregor-Brandao – it’s gonna be difficult to top that,” Gooden smiled.
“The fans were SO good. The Irish fighters went 100%. They won, they won, they won and the crowd loved it. They got behind every single one and it was just a big celebration.
“Going back there, it was a sensory overload and I’m gonna take that to the grave with me.”
That event has been held up as the standard by which all fight night atmospheres are now judged, but there have been plenty of examples of the Irish fans’ passion since then, whether it’s at home for a host of different events, or on the road supporting their heroes overseas.
And on Saturday night the Irish fight fans have the opportunity to cheer on their boys on home soil once again at Cage Warriors 81. With a host of Irish fighting talent set for action, including Karl Moore bidding to capture the vacant Cage Warriors light-heavyweight title against American Josh Clark, we’re expecting another party atmosphere at the 3Arena.
Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.ie, priced €98, €38 and €24, with ticket holders also able to attend a special meet and greet session with our special guest fighters Neil Seery, Nicolas Dalby and the newly crowned Cage Warriors Welterweight Champion Karl Amoussou.
The bout will be televised live on eirSPORT 1 in Ireland, BT Sport in UK and Ireland, and streamed worldwide on UFC Fight Pass.