Leah McCourt: Bellator Dublin fight 'a celebration of women'

By Paul BattisonBBC Sport
Leah McCourt
Leah McCourt is a black belt in judo

Mixed martial arts fighter Leah McCourt says it will be a "celebration of women" when she becomes the first female to headline a Bellator Europe event in Dublin on Saturday.

McCourt's bout with Germany's Judith Ruis was promoted to the top of the card when James Gallagher's fight against Cal Ellenor was called off.

The Belfast featherweight, 27, has won three of her four professional fights.

"This is probably the biggest moment of my career," she told BBC Sport.

"I'm delighted Bellator have given me this opportunity - it's a celebration of women and it's an exciting time for me and my family."

US-based Bellator is widely regarded within the industry as the world's second highest-profile promoter of mixed martial arts events, after UFC.

On the go for 15 hours - a day in the life of Leah McCourt

McCourt, who is on a three-fight winning streak, divides her time between MMA commitments and being a single mother to nine-year-old daughter Isabella.

"I have to sacrifice a lot of time," she said. "It's difficult but Isabella has a great family and she understands it's for her that I'm doing this."

While training to face against Ruis, who has won six and lost four of her 10 professional fights, McCourt talked us through a typical day:

  • 7am - wakes up and goes for a run
  • 9am - takes Isabella to school, then drives for two hours from Belfast to Dublin
  • 11am - trains for two hours with coach Owen Roddy
  • 1pm - does the two-hour drive back to Belfast
  • 3pm - picks Isabella up from school
  • 5pm - makes dinner and helps Isabella with her homework
  • 7pm - out training again at the local gym in a number of different MMA disciplines
  • 10pm - arrives home
A map showing the route from Belfast to Dublin
McCourt makes the four-hour round trip from Belfast to Dublin every training day

'I'm ready to make history'

Isabella will be at Saturday's show in Dublin - the first time she has watched her mother fight.

"She's so special," said McCourt. "Anyone who ever meets her falls in love with her - she's my life partner.

"It's the first fight Isabella's ever been at so that's exciting for me and her."

McCourt, whose nickname is 'The Curse', comes from a background in judo and has amateur world titles in both MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

And she said headlining Bellator Dublin would be an emotional occasion.

"It's surreal," she added. "I'm ready to rise to the occasion. This will be a main-event performance and I'm ready to make history.

"Life hasn't been easy but I've worked since I was very young to have this opportunity.

"I was an amateur world champion so my goal is to be a professional world champion as well, and just keep climbing up the ranks with Bellator."

Leah McCourt fighting Kerry Hughes
McCourt (left) secured a submission win over Kerry Hughes in her previous fight in September.

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