Mark Leonard Feature Nov10

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					Fighter Profile
Name: Mark Leonard
MMA All-rounder
It’s widely reported that MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world. Having gathered mainstream
acceptance in the US and Asia, it is now widely carried on TV globally. It’s harder to gauge popularity in
Ireland as MMA has not reached the mainstream media as yet. One person who knows exactly how popular
MMA is in Ireland is Mark Leonard. As a fighter, promoter, trainer and creator of MMA League he’s probably
one of the most qualified to comment on the sport in Ireland.
At the relatively young age of 33, Leonard has a pro fight record of 3 wins and 2 losses (and an amateur
record of 4-1), is co-head trainer at his gym, Point Blank Submissions in Galway, has promoted shows under
his Tribal Warfare banner since 2008 and runs the a national amateur MMA League. What’s most impressive
about Leonard’s resume, it is all done alongside a 60 hour working week as a software engineer at IBM in
Leonard’s route to MMA was via a number of different martial arts. He began training in Tae Kwon Do (TKD)
in 1994 reaching 3rd Dan black belt. In 2002 while working as a doorman to bank roll his college degree,
Leonard began to question how practical his TKD skills would be should trouble ever erupt at the door. In
TKD competitions kicks score more points than punches and as a result TKD fighters may favour the “flash”
over what is truly functional. As a result Leonard figured he had an impressive array of skills that may not be
translate well to a real situation is his role as a doorman when wearing an overcoat, surrounded by a crowd
at close quarters. This led Leonard to contact John Kavanagh and he began training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).
Leonard embraced BJJ and believed he’d found a truly practical fighting system. The BJJ training
methodology Leonard enjoyed most, simply how to control your opponent and win a fight though grappling.
At a 2002 seminar hosted by MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira, a training partner of Leonard’s took the
offer to fight on an upcoming local MMA show. After seeing his mate fare out OK, Leonard thought he'd give
it a try and his 10 fight MMA career was launched.
In his 2nd pro fight Leonard lost to a much more experienced Finnish opponent, He realized that Irish MMA
needed one more rung on the ladder between gym and the ring at a live show so Irish fighters had a chance
to develop their fight skills properly. It was this early experience, or inexperience that prompted Leonard to
start the MMA League. Created in 2004 the MMA League allows amateur fighters to build experience and
test their skills without the daunting prospect of fighting in front of hundreds of people.
In its debut year the MMA League held 3 events in Galway, Cork and Dublin attracting 30-40 fighters at each
event. To put this in context the original Ultimate Finale-Griffin/Bonnar-UFC explosion was still over a year
away and outside of Japan, MMA was still struggling for a foothold. To launch a national MMA movement in
Ireland took incredible foresight. 2005 saw an Antrim event take place that stayed for 3 years. Other venues
through the years have included Galway, Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Kilkenny with numbers increasing
reflecting the growing popularity of MMA at a grass roots level.
Following the rise in popularity of the UFC, MMA in Ireland benefited from the ripple effect, albeit with a lag
MMA clubs and events have begun to spring up all over Ireland. Leonard believes that while it hasn’t
reached the main stream media in Ireland, it has reached a high penetration in society. Appealing to the
younger adult males “you ask any secondary school or college kid what the UFC is and they’ll know” said
Leonard. But its not just interest levels that are increasing. Leonard noticed the difference in knowledge of
fans who attended Cage Wars, Galway’s 1st MMA event in 2002 versus the submission savvy crowd at his
Tribal Warfare events that started in 2008.
If there was a threat to the development of MMA in Ireland Leonard believes things may be moving too fast.
Prior to the explosion of MMA in Ireland, Leonard found fighters spending maybe a year in the MMA Leagues
rookie division, then a year in the veteran division before progressing onto a MMA show proper with a solid
fighting base. Now with the abundance clubs and shows, some fighters are being fast tracked to the ring,
which can see a potential career end if the debut fight results in a discouraging loss. It may seem like a
contradiction that someone who has packs so much into their life so far is asking for patience. But then again
Mark Leonard probably understands the MMA game in Ireland better than most.
For further information on the MMA League check out or drop by to the next event
Saturday, November 20th at St. Andrews, Booterstown Ave, Blackrock, Dublin. Event starts at 11 am sharp
Fergus Ryan, November 2010

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