MMA | Broadhurst catches the eye after swapping squared circle for the octagon

11-time champion wins by unanimous decision on MMA debut

Stephen Broadhurst has his arm raised in victory after his win over Sean Boyd on his MMA debut last weekend. PICTURE: KO

The eyes of the world were on UFC champion Conor McGregor when he entered the squared circle for his boxing debut against Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday morning last.

However, just hours before that, former 11-time Irish boxing champion and European Youth Championship bronze medalist, Stephen Broadhurst took the opposite route, swapping the ring for the octagon in the more low-key setting of the Ramada Hotel.

Competing against Sean Boyd in a 78 kg K1 category fight at Cage Legacy Kickboxing 3, the 23-year-old recorded a unanimous win on all of the scorecards, putting on a show of speed, power and class that caught the eye of a number of professional MMA coaches in attendance.

After taking a break from boxing in 2015, Stephen returned to action this year, reaching the National Elite Senior Championship final in February.

The idea to enter the world of MMA came from his time as a boxing coach at Darren Sonik’s local Sanda Mixed Martial Arts Club on the Coe’s Road. With the seed planted, Stephen suddenly found himself on the 25-bout card which featured two pro and five title fights.

As always, Stephen’s father, Tony, was in his corner and he said he was pleasantly surprised at how well his son adapted to life in the cage.

Stephen Broadhurst pictured with his coaches, Darren Sonik from Sanda MMA (left) and Tony Broadhurst (right). PICTURE: KO

“Stephen likes his privacy when he’s preparing for a fight but on Saturday, just as he was ready to go out, he turned to me and said, ‘what am I doing?’,” laughed Tony.

“He knows how to prepare physically for a fight but he hadn’t even sparred with somebody his own weight so he was going into it completely blind.

“Obviously, it’s a lot different than boxing,” he added. “The only difference from a K1 fight and a full fight is that there are no takedowns but you can fully knee and kick and the angles are completely different than what you’d expect in a boxing ring.”

Stephen’s mother, Sheila, and his sister, Amy — another European medalist — fed off Stephen’s anxiety but their fears evaporated as he made his way to the cage.

“He was definitely more nervous than usual but when his music came on he was totally different,” said Tony.

“He had his entrance rehearsed and it seemed to clear his head. That settled him down and it couldn’t have gone any better.”

After landing a number of fast, early shots, Stephen went on to dominate across three 90-second rounds against a fighter from a kickboxing and mixed martial arts background. He landed a strong kick to Boyd’s head in round two and left him reeling with a strong left arm in the third.

Stephen Broadhurst connects with a straight left in his MMA debut against Sean Boyd. PICTURE: KO

“We spoke to him (Boyd) after it and he couldn’t believe how good Stephen’s footwork was,” said Tony. “He seemed to make kicks miss in the same way that he makes punches miss in the boxing ring.

“Beforehand, I always try and picture the ideal way a fight will go and on Saturday night it was close to perfect.”

The question now is whether it was a one-off but Tony says that Stephen — and himself — have got a bit of taste for life on the ‘other side’.

“Myself and Stephen have been involved in boxing for years but we found the MMA really exciting, especially the production and the celebrations and things like that afterwards.

“The plan was to see how well it would go on Saturday night,” added Tony. “Stephen is very intense, mentally and physically, and when he decides on doing something, he wants a reward from it.

“If he decides to continue with it then I’m sure he’ll be looking for a title shot and I wouldn’t rule against him going pro either.”

Mayweather v Broadhurst? You just never know!

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