Cian Cowley – Remember his name because this former ISKA Irish K1 Champion is tipped to make a huge name for himself in the world of MMA. An accomplished Thai boxer, Cian has been taken under the wing of one of the world’s best MMA coaches, John Kavanagh. The switch from his home at Warriors Muay Thai to Straight Blast Gym (SBG) has been a difficult transition but one which he is relishing. Under the tutelage of Coach Kavanagh, Cian is determined to become a well-rounded MMA fighter and aims to make his professional debut in 2016.
It has been two months since Cian walked through the doors at SBG and it has taken him a while to adjust to his new surroundings. Cowley said, “It’s been difficult going from being at the top of Thai boxing to a day one beginner in Jiu Jitsu. It’s hard on the mind because you’re going in and beginner level lads are throwing you around the mat and I’m not use to that, but I’m really enjoying it. I’m starting to get the bug for Jiu Jitsu as well.”
The transition from being an expert in stand-up to day one Jiu Jitsu was a tough challenge for Cian but it is something which he has not taken lightly. “Some lads in the gym are high level grapplers and they go to stand-up and say that it’s so hard to learn but I think it would be easier going from the ground up. There’s not a lot to stand-up technique wise, it’s more so how you use it and you’ve to be smart with your footwork but in Jiu Jitsu there’s an answer for everything and there’s so much to learn. It’s a never ending puzzle and that’s why I would rather have had experience in Jiu Jitsu and went to Stand-up,” he said.
Many have questioned his decision to leave Thai boxing and pursue a career in MMA but it was a move which Cian felt he needed to take in order to make a living from martial arts. “I wouldn’t say it was because I saw the success of everyone else; I’m not trying to copy anyone. I have followed some of the lads from SBG but even by looking at the media exposure MMA has now; it made sense for me to move into the sport. I dedicated ten years to Thai boxing and I could have dedicated my life to it; I had a good name in the Thai boxing world but I’m not going to have money at the end of it. There is only a small majority of people like me that depend on this for their livelihood; I’ve no other job or qualifications so I have to fight, and fighting to make money won’t happen in Thai boxing so that’s why I had to move to MMA,” he said.
The move has been met with criticism as some people have said that he is turning his back on Thai boxing but that couldn’t be any further from the truth in Cowley’s mind. “I don’t really care what anyone thinks, that’s my mentality inside and outside of fighting. I’d rather have everyone hate me rather than love me. For the people who are saying that I’m turning my back and I know I’m getting a lot of stick from them saying all I want is fame, and obviously money and fame are nice but I do it because I love mixed martial arts. In my opinion you have to be a complete fighter to do it. I’ve the opportunity to end my career by being able to say that I fought at the highest level of MMA where everything is put together. I think anyone who does martial arts should be able to say that they’ve done it. You can’t call yourself a true martial artist if you’ve not competed using every discipline. The ones saying that, are the ones who are jealous because they can’t do it. Real recognise real and they’re the true supporters,” he said.
“The real people in the Thai boxing community will see the true side of it and it’s not because I don’t love the sport anymore. At the end of the day it’s about my career and I need to make a living for myself so I’ll chase the money. I don’t care what anyone says I’ll never make any money in Thai boxing or K1. There’s only a handful of fighters out there who make decent money and I know lads in the game twenty years with real good names but still can’t afford their own house. I’m not going to be the one in my thirties looking back on a missed opportunity. We’ll see in a few years’ time who’s smiling at the end of it,” he added.
Cian carries a certain confidence going into MMA. He has been a multiple champion at elite level Thai boxing and he’s sure he can match any fighter on their feet. “I know I could fight anyone in the MMA world and I look at the UFC roster and I’m 100% certain I could stand with any of them. That will give me a lot of confidence going into the fights knowing that when they’re standing I can put them away. When I think about that it makes me real eager to jump in and do it because I know that I’d blow them away in stand up. At the same time it’s not just stand-up so anything can happen,” he stated.
SBG was the only gym that Cian wanted to join when he decided to move into MMA. John Kavanagh was a huge influence on his decision and he has learnt a lot from him already since joining. He explains that, “I didn’t really know what to expect from him because he’s so busy with everyone else so I was a bit optimistic. But after meeting him the first time and the first couple of sessions in the gym I can’t really put into words how grateful I am to him. He’s a huge influence on everyone in the gym and I can see why there’s such a good buzz. He’s really down to earth and a very smart coach. Even when I was thinking I’m not going to be good at this he was posting stuff on Facebook about me which gave me that belief to keep going and now I can’t see myself stopping at all. I don’t think I would have got that in any other gym so I’m grateful for that.”
The confidence which Coach Kavanagh has shown in him has been a huge boost and kept him focussed on getting better at Jiu Jitsu. “I’m not saying no other gym would have done the same thing but it’s just the way he’s been pushing me on to do it. I didn’t think he was even going to take notice of me but he said it himself that he’s been following a bit of my career before I joined SBG so he’s clued in and he knows that I’m here to learn. I taught he was going to think that I’m just another kick boxer wanting to do MMA because there’s a lot of people that do that and he’s probably seen dozens of them come through his door. I’m now working on the pro MMA team and that’s a privilege because usually it takes years to get to that stage. With John driving me on and giving me a good plug on social media it has definitely given me a boost and now it’s real,” said Cian.
Cian has been training six days a week in SBG since joining with double sessions every day. Being surrounded by so many big names in the world of MMA has been a surreal experience. He explained that ‘it was mad at the start’. “I’ve been around martial arts my whole life so training in that environment doesn’t phase me but it’s a reality check when you see who’s on the matt with you. I don’t realise when I’m there in the class but then when I look back on photos or think about training with a UFC world champion and other world champions from different organisations it’s very strange. Last week John was teaching a class and I was taking part in it; at the time I didn’t realise but then I saw a picture afterwards and there was Gunnar Nelson, Conor McGregor, Ryan Hall, Paddy Holohan and Aisling Daly – all these big names and then there’s me coming from Thai boxing to train with some of the best in the world. I definitely see it as one of the best MMA teams in the world because people travel from all over the world to train in the gym. You’d think that fighters would go to America but now people come to SBG and for me to be a part of that it’s a surreal feeling. It’s pushed me on to succeed and I’m delighted that I’m a part of it,” said Cian.
Cian Cowley has big plans for 2016 and he is sure to be followed closely by everyone involved in MMA. “I’ll have my MMA debut in 2016 and I want to hit the ground running. Once I have my first one I’ll try to stay as busy as I can because I really want to get my name out there as much as I can. I don’t know what John has planned for me but I want to fight often and stamp my name in the MMA world. By this time next year I want people in the MMA world to know who Cian Cowley is, that’s my goal for 2016. Then I can start thinking about bigger things like the UFC,” he said.