Gunnar Nelson is happy with his current training arrangement. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
This weekend’s UFC Fight Night Dublin event will be “a statement” for the strength of the SBG Ireland and Mjolnir Iceland gyms, Haraldur Nelson, Gunnar Nelson’s father, recently told Sherdog.com.
The two teams share a close bond. In June, some of the Dublin crew relocated to Reykjavik, Iceland, to train, with the Mjolnir crew then returning the favor by basing themselves in Dublin from early July.
The younger Nelson has spent much of this camp training with Conor McGregor, Cathal Pendred and Paddy Holohan, the three SBG Ireland talents who will be fighting in front of their hometown crowd this Saturday.
“Gunni came here on July 2. Before that, John [Kavanagh] for the whole of June with Conor and Cathal. We had about a dozen guys here, then Karl [Tanswell of SBG Manchester] came over with [Cage Warriors welterweight] Matt Inman and Martin Stapleton from his gym,” Haraldur said.
“All in all, we had about twenty guys -- maybe some of them stayed for the whole of June and the rest for shorter periods,” he added. “So we had a great camp in Iceland and then we came over to Ireland to finish off the camp in Dublin. We had a great camp for this fight.”
Saturday will be Gunnar’s fourth fight for the UFC and his second of this year. He is 3-0 in the organization with two wins inside the distance. He goes into this weekend’s fight with Zak Cummings off the back of a March submission win over Omari Akhmedov.
In recent years there has been a trend for European fighters to relocate to the U.S. once their UFC careers begin to take off. Michael Bisping now lives on Los Angeles, Dan Hardy spent several years living in Las Vegas and Ross Pearson has trained extensively with the Team Alliance outfit in San Diego.
According to Haraldur, Saturday night will be a declaration to the world that, at least as far as Mjolnir and SBG Ireland fighters are concerned, they have world-class training right where they need it: at home.
“I think John Kavanagh is the best MMA coach in the world. I don’t see any reason why we should go to America for training. When we have guys like we have here -- John and his team -- there is no need. We will go to the States if we want to, but only because we want to, not because we need to,” he said. “You go somewhere, you pick something up, you work with new bodies and learn new things for your game. I don’t see it as being necessary, going to train in America just because he will be facing American fighters.”
Before Cummings, the 25-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was originally scheduled to face Ryan LaFlare. However, an injury forced LaFlare off the card. A veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter 17,” Cummings enters Saturday’s co-main event on a four-fight winning streak, including triumphs over Ben Alloway and Yan Cabral in the Octagon.
The change in matchup did little to affect Gunnar’s preparation, his father said.
“[Gunnar] doesn’t train for specific opponents; he just trains to be better than himself. And all of John Kavanagh’s guys do that,” he said. “We are not concentrating on the opponent, because that can change any day. Gunnar trains to get his game better and to be ready for whatever comes up.”
No matter what the future holds, Haraldur does not expect Gunnar will ever need to make a full-time move to the U.S.
“Do we benefit from trips to the States? Certainly. But we would also benefit from Thailand or anywhere else there are good fighters,” he said. “Obviously in the States there are massive gyms with good fighters, lots of training partners. Gunni trained with Renzo [Gracie} quite a bit, though not for this fight and not for a while now actually.
“To be honest, this is the best training camp we have ever had, and it was done mostly in Iceland. Then we came over to finish off at SBG Ireland, and that was the icing on the cake. Everything is so ready. Him and Conor and Cathal and Paddy are going to make a statement on Saturday night.”