For Cahir native, Will Fleury – the road to one of the biggest promotion’s world-wide was a lengthy one and one which he had almost paved himself. The Straight Blast Gym mainstay had spent time under the EFC and Brave CF banner before his move to Bellator MMA – competing in South Africa and Jordan, but when granted the occasion, has made Dublin, Ireland his adopted home.
This weekend, the Tipperary all-rounder makes his third visit to the 3Arena – as he takes on Justin Moore in a middleweight affair. It’s a return to the Docklands, and for Fleury, a hopeful return to the win column after a disappointing decision defeat to Norbert Novenyi Jr. last September. The 30-year-old recently spoke with Markey Martial Arts, where he gave his thoughts on his pairing with Moore, commented on his second promotional defeat to a former teammate, and his strive for success with the promotion.
I last spoke with Will back in January 2018, where I posed the question of how the year would play out for him and he dropped the bombshell that he was planning on producing his own line of whiskey. It seemed like Proper Twelve and Conor McGregor had competition, but Fluery has since switched his attention to frozen food.
“I’m now looking at a whiskey ice cream called ‘The McF**kinFlurry’.” Could we have a collaboration on our hands?
In terms of his 2018 switch to Scott Coker’s Bellator, Fleury spoke about his disappointment toward his overall record with the promotion, and how he plans on displaying a résumé which represents his actual ability.
“Getting signed to Bellator was a huge boost to my career and even – I think I was the first of the current wave of Irish guys to get signed up and that was a huge honour,” Fleury said. “I’m not that pleased with how I’ve done in the promotion so far. I’m 2-2 and I kind of want to show that I’m a much better fighter than that in the future. I’m absolutely delighted that I’ve got this opportunity to do that. To be able to fight on a stage where you know that if you win two or three fights, you’re within contention of a title-shot in the world’s second-biggest promotion. I’m delighted to be with them – it’s made the sport here a lot more legitimate in general.“
Redemption seems to be the narrative for Fleury ahead of this bout – and more to the point, to prove to his biggest critic, himself, that’s he’s capable of performing on the big stage.
“My performance that night wasn’t anywhere near where I wanted it to be,” Fleury explained. “He (Norbert Novenyi Jr.) caught me with about fifteen overhands, which in a way, was the thing that kind of made it kind of easier to go away and analyse and see what you need to fix. Those were the significant weapon throughout the fight. I’ve gone away, I’ve made adjustments to my standup game. Look, I feel like I’ve developed a skill set now that can beat a lot of high-level fighters. I already had a very good skill set. I’ve added to it and I’m looking forward to adding to it on Saturday.“
Fleury explained how he and September opponent, Novenyi Jr. were more than familiar ahead of their clash last year – having spent time as training partners many moons ago at London Shootfighters. The Cahir native also told how the result was somewhat hard to digest backstage afterwards.
“It was a strange situation,” Fleury told. “It was a strange fight because myself and Norbert know each other quite well. We trained together at London Shootfighters four or five years ago. It was a tough, tough night. There was a lot of like, shock nearly afterwards, for the fact that something like that can happen to you. I’ve sparred with and trained with a lot of very high-level guys. I do very well in those situations. I know Norbert’s very good, but I fully expected to win. It was a tough, tough situation.“
Justin Moore makes his return to Bellator this weekend in Dublin, having lost to Fleury’s SBG teammate, Charlie Ward in June of last year – and stylistically Fleury had his compliments for Moore’s ability, but predicted a late first-frame knockout victory.
“That was a pretty interesting fight,” Fleury said. “It showed a lot of what he’s able to do. In fairness, he took Charlie down and got his back. He looked impressive enough and fairly strong at times in that fight. I think he calls himself ‘The Gorilla’ Moore and it’s a good nickname because he’s basically a gorilla in human form like. He looks very, very strong – but can he stay strong for long? Look, you have to respect that strength. At the end of the day, power is power and you have to be a good martial artist to overcome that, but I back myself as a good martial artist. I know I’m damn good at this. It’s up to me to go out and show the skills that I have and I’ve accumulated over the last few years of training. It’s a good test. I like the fact that he’s going to come in and try and brute force me and it will probably give me a chance to display a few skills I’ve been working on. I see it being a late first-round TKO.“
With Bellator focusing heavily on it’s European Series – particularly in Ireland and the U.K., Fleury commented on the exposure the Irish scene receives as a result, and pointed at teammate Pedro Carvalho’s success on route to a featherweight title tilt against Patrício Freire in March.
“Yeah, I think Bellator has done a pretty good job coming in and investing in Europe and buying up all the young talent in Ireland. Now obviously, there’s a few guys outside of that. In general, they’ve got anybody who’s looking good, on their books. It’s amazing to see guys like Pedro fighting for a world title. He’s definitely going to win the belt as well which is going to be amazing. What Bellator has done is very smart, I think there is – or was for a long time, a lot of untapped talent in Ireland. Now they’ve come in and tapped into that resource and hopefully, it’s utilized the right way and a lot of fighters have good careers.“
For Will Fleury, the calling of mixed-martial-arts as a profession comes from his love of challenges and the hectic nature of signing up for a contest against an opponent who, like you, is attempting to expand themselves both physically, and mentally.
“There’s a lot of different reasons as to why I got into MMA, but the main one is just, loving that feeling of having to embrace a challenge. When you’ve signed up for a fight, you don’t have a choice anymore, it’s just, train, train, train, be as good as you can be, so in a way, it forces you to be on top of your game and to continue to grow and expand as a person. I think there’s a lot of beautiful things about martial-arts that people overlook. We probably see a lot of talk about it online, about the positive benefits. It is all there, it’s real. I feel like I’ve become a happier, healthier person from this so like, in a way – yeah, I’m going in to compete and it’s great but the main reason I do martial arts is to just enjoy my life more. I feel like it facilitates that.“
In terms of three dinner party guests, Fleury stuck closer to home – and dismissed the idea of inviting any sort of celebrity, or public figure.
“For my dinner table, I’d have Kieran Davern, John Phillips, and Karl Moore just cause there all, f**king, good characters, great guys and I genuinely love spending time around them, all of them. I think it would be better craic than having dinner with Mahatma Gandhi or any of that s**te so – although punching Gandhi in the face would be a bit of craic, but no, the lads. That would be probably the most enjoyable time I could have.“