In July 2016 Leah McCourt became the World IMMAF Featherweight champion. It marked the pinnacle of a hugely successful amateur career that saw her previously crowned as a European champion.
As I was doing some research for the finished article ( yes I occasionally stir myself) I stumbled upon something that may be something and may be nothing.
In the immediate aftermath of that World title win, she sat down and penned a heartfelt Facebook post, on her public athlete page, to her long list of family, friends and sponsors for their support. The post is still pinned to the top of her page today. What drew my attention was at the very end and what looked to be a biblical reference to Luke 11, 9:10.
Not being familiar with it I couldn’t help but look it up.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened “
I smiled to myself when I finished reading it. It tallied with the woman that I had been speaking with on the phone in a funny way. Apt.
When we chatted, Leah was on her way to Dublin and a session with her striking and MMA coach Owen Roddy. Leah lives just outside Belfast. On a good day this is 4 hours driving. In fact one of the first things she said was
” I live in my Car! – I train with Owen in SBG Charlestown. Two hours there and two hours back !! – I drop Isabella at school and need to be in Charleston for 11:30 ”
I am sure there are easier options. But as the quote above indicates you must seek in order to find. In this instance seeking the best means a 4 hour round trip 3 or 4 times a week. There is no hint of complaint or protest; in fact the opposite. Champs do what needs to be done.
As an aside, a smart sponsor should snap her up and sponsor her a car. She would be a superb ambassador.
On an average day she will drop her daughter off at 9 to school and she is literally in a race against the clock to get to Dublin, get her sessions in and hustle back to meet her daughter after school. Once school, homework, dinners and the everyday wonders of raising a child are attended to ( and if she is like the rest of us they never are!); she more often than not will have an evening session or night session working on one of her other disciplines.
The day we spoke we were both busy, she had a window of time to talk but the phone connection kept dropping. It didn’t seem to fluster her and she answered every question with thought and care. Even when at times she had to start an answer again having already answered half the question before the connection dropped.
If we have a female star on the Island ready to make a big bold statement in professional MMA it is Leah McCourt. She has the amateur pedigree as can be seen below. She clearly has the desire and application too. She has the raw talent, the attitude and personality. A little luck and she will be away.
As I am writing this today the Bellator 217 media day is taking place in Dublin. Leah is one of the stars of the show. She openly refers to problems facing women’s MMA in Ireland, particularly around the difficulty of getting fights. We spoke about them also and the same candor is evident on screen as it is on the telephone.
Leah has had two fights as a professional and they have been separated by more than a year. No such luxury of building a nice cushy record in her first few fights. It is a record that has all the hallmarks of illustrating exactly what she is talking about. Women must fight what is put in front of them, when it is put in front of them it would seem.
With the Bellator deal now in place though and a big investment in the UK and Ireland by that promotion one would hope a more steady stream of fights is on the horizon for her.
” I know promotions find it hard to get females. I find that professional females have to take big jumps in level. My first professional fight was against a two-time Olympian and my second fight was against a former IMMAF world champion “
” The girls may get on to a promotion quicker but it is always going to be tougher Because you are fighting tough fights every single fight “
To that end, I watched Leah’s last fight on the Cage Warriors franchise against Manon Fiorot which Leah won on a split decision. It was certainly a very engrossing bout and what struck me about her in that fight is that she looks to have exceptional upper body strength, which was very evident on her feet going into the clinch.
To my untrained eye, the area she requires a little attention in is her striking, she is already, it seems well on top of progressing in that department. Owen Roddy is one if not the best in the business.
Finally getting back to Luke 11, 9:10
“…….For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened “
And if the door doesn’t open expect Leah McCourt to kick it down.
(If Luke 11, 9:10 refers to something else this article is fecked and my sincerest apologies!)