Top 10 Irish UFC Fighters

UFC fighter, MMA fighter

Ireland has a rich history of combat sports, known for being one of the boxing capitals of the world. However, after Conor McGregor’s ascension to superstardom, MMA’s popularity boomed in Ireland. Many Irish MMA fighters have left an indelible mark on the sport’s history, with many greats competing in the UFC.

As a fan of the UFC for over two decades, I have seen the evolution of the sport to include more fighters from around the globe. Despite Ireland being a very small country with a population of only 5 million, they have produced some of the most important UFC fighters in history. That includes the biggest star in the sport, Conor McGregor.

In this list, I share my picks for the top 10 Irish UFC fighters in history. The list is not comprehensive (there are 5 other Irish MMA fighters not included), as I prioritized success in the UFC as well as significance (such as being the first Irish UFC fighter).

10. Stevie Lynch

Stevie Lynch

Birthday: N/A

Weight Class: Welterweight

Years Active: 2006-2007

MMA Record: 5-2

UFC Record: 0-1

Accolades: First Northern Irish UFC fighter, first fighter to fight under the Irish tri-colour

Stevie Lynch may not be a household name, but he’s in the history books as the first fighter to ever compete in the UFC under the Irish tri-colour flag. Lynch made this decision despite being a Northern Ireland national, which is part of the United Kingdom.

Lynch had a very short MMA career and an even shorter UFC tenure. His career started promisingly – going 5-0 in the European MMA circuits before signing on a deal to fight in the UFC. He fought against Dustin Hazelett in what became his only UFC appearance, losing via anaconda choke submission in the first round.

Lynch would fight one more time under the Cage Warriors banner before retiring from MMA in 2007. He has the distinction of being the first Northern Irish UFC fighter and the first UFC fighter to represent the Republic of Ireland’s flag.

9. Tom Egan

Tom Egan

Birthday: N/A

Weight Class: Middleweight

Years Active: 2007-2014

MMA Record: 7-5 

UFC Record: 0-1

Accolades: First Irish UFC fighter in history

Tom Egan is the first Irish UFC fighter in history from the Republic of Ireland. Despite only having fought in the UFC one time, he is considered a pioneer for the sport of MMA in Ireland. As a member of SBG Ireland, the gym of coach John Kavanaugh and UFC superstar Conor McGregor, Egan helped pave the way for future Irish UFC fighters.

Egan competed at UFC 93 against John Hathaway on January 17, 2009. He lost via TKO due to elbow strikes in the first round. He would go on to fight 7 more times in his career, finishing with a record of 7-5.

8. Aisling Daly

Aisling Daly

Birthday: December 24, 1987

Weight Class: Strawweight, Flyweight

Years Active: 2007-2015

MMA Record: 16-6

UFC Record: 2-1

Accolades: First female Irish UFC fighter, first female Irish MMA fighter to earn BJJ black belt

Aisling Daly is the first woman Irish UFC fighter, known for her participation in season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter. She had a successful MMA career that saw her compete in Bellator, Invicta, Cage Warriors, and the UFC.

As a member of SBG Ireland, Daly trained under John Kavanaugh and was teammates with Conor McGregor. As a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter, Daly became a quarterfinalist and earned a UFC contract. She made her debut at UFC 186, losing a unanimous decision against Randa Markos.

Daly would win her next bout at UFC Dublin in 2015, a night where many members of SBG Ireland competed. She defeated Ericka Almeida via unanimous decision in what would become her final MMA bout. Daly retired from MMA in 2015 after a brain scan revealed an abnormality that would prevent her from competing again.

7. Shauna Bannon

Shauna Bannon

Birthday: October 23, 1993

Weight Class: Strawweight

Years Active: 2022-Present

MMA Record: 5-1

UFC Record: 0-1

Accolades: Second female Irish UFC fighter in history

Shauna Bannon is the second woman Irish MMA fighter to compete in the UFC. She is a highly-touted prospect with a karate background who trains out of Holohan Martial Arts, the gym of former UFC flyweight Patrick Holohan. Bannon was 5-0 when she earned a UFC contract.

She made her UFC debut at UFC London on July 22, 2023, against Bruna Brasil, losing via unanimous decision. Despite the loss, Bannon is still considered to be one of Ireland’s best hopes for a future UFC champion.

6. Cathal Pendred

Cathal Pendred

Birthday: September 2, 1987

Weight Class: Welterweight, Middleweight

Years Active: 2009-2015

MMA Record: 17-4

UFC Record: 4-2

Accolades: Cage Warriors FC Champion, Cage Contender Champion, UFC Fight of the Night honors (vs. Mike King)

Cathal Pendred is an Irish UFC fighter who was born to Irish parents in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. His family moved back to Dublin, Ireland when he was 4 years old, where Pendred would eventually take an interest in MMA and start training at SBG Ireland.

Pendred is known for his appearance on the 19th season of The Ultimate Fighter as a member of BJ Penn’s team. He would go on to become a semi-finalist and earn a UFC contract. Pendred made his debut at UFC Dublin on July 19, 2014, a night in which every member of SBG Ireland would win their bout. He defeated Mike King via rear-naked choke in the second round, earning Fight of the Night honors.

Pendred went on to win his next 3 fights in the UFC. His first loss was a controversial split decision against John Howard at UFC 189. He lost via TKO in his next bout at UFC Dublin on October 24, 2015, against Tom Breese. Pendred made the decision to retire after the loss so he could focus on a new career in acting.

5. Patrick Holohan

Patrick Holohan

Birthday: May 3, 1988

Weight Class: Flyweight

Years Active: 2007-2015

MMA Record: 12-2-1

UFC Record: 3-2

Accolades: UFC Fight of the Night (vs. Chris Kelades)

Patrick Holohan is an Irish UFC fighter who competed in the flyweight division. Better known as “Paddy,” Holohan was a teammate of Conor McGregor under coach John Kavanaugh at SBG Ireland. Known for his slick grappling and unusually tall frame for flyweight, Holohan collected 3 victories in the UFC Octagon.

Holohan was a competitor on the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2013, getting eliminated after dropping a decision to Josh Hill. He still earned a UFC contract, making his debut against Josh Sampo at UFC Dublin on July 19, 2014. Holohan defeated Josh Sampo via rear-naked choke in the first round. Every member of SBG Ireland won their fight that night, including Conor McGregor in the main event against Diego Brandao.

Holohan’s unfortunate retirement came in 2016 after it was discovered that he suffers from a rare blood disorder. He would go on to become an Irish politician. He also opened his own gym, Holohan Martial Arts, where Irish UFC strawweight Shauna Bannon trains.

4. Joe Duffy

Joe Duffy

Birthday: February 18, 1988

Weight Class: Lightweight, Welterweight

Years Active: 2008-2020

MMA Record: 16-4

UFC Record: 4-4

Accolades: UFC Performance of the Night (vs. Ivan Jorge), MMA Junkie Submission of the Month July 2015 (vs. Ivan Jorge), win over Conor McGregor

Joe Duffy is an Irish MMA fighter who competed in the lightweight and welterweight divisions. He is noted for his memorable triangle-choke victory over Ivan Jorges at UFC Glasgow on July 18, 2015, as well as being one of the fighters who defeated Conor McGregor before McGregor made his UFC debut.

Duffy competed on the 12th season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2010, but was eliminated before being assigned a team. Not earning a UFC contract, Duffy made a name for himself under the Cage Warriors banner, where he submitted then-unknown lightweight Conor McGregor with an arm-triangle choke on November 27, 2010.

Duffy would go on to make his UFC debut in 2015 at UFC 185, where he defeated Jake Lindsey via TKO after a head kick. He would win his next 3 of 4 fights, with the only loss being a decision against Dustin Poirier at UFC 195.

Duffy’s UFC contract was renewed for 7 fights in 2017, but a series of injuries held him back. From the end of 2017 until 2020, he only fought 3 times – losing all 3 bouts against James Vick, Marc Diakiese, and Joel Alvarez, respectively. Duffy retired from MMA after his fight with Alvarez.

3. Norman Parke

Norman Parke

Birthday: December 22, 1986

Weight Class: Lightweight

Years Active: 2006-Present

MMA Record: 30-7-1

UFC Record: 5-3-1

Accolades: Winner of The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes, Cage Contender champion, KSW lightweight champion (interim)

Norman Parke is a Northern Irish MMA fighter who competed in the UFC from 2012-2016. He is known for being the lightweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes, a regional version of TUF where British fighters competed against Australians. He defeated fellow Brit Brendan Loughnane in the semi-finals, who would go on to become the PFL featherweight champion in 2022.

Parke’s UFC debut was also The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes finals, where he defeated Colin Fletcher via unanimous decision. He would go 3-0-1 in his next 4 UFC bouts, with the draw resulting from a point deduction after Parke grabbed his opponent’s shorts. Parke suffered his first UFC loss against Gleison Tibau at UFC Boston in January 2015.

Parke was eventually cut from the UFC after losing to Rustam Khabilov at UFC London on February 27, 2016. He continued his MMA career, going on to compete in the BAMMA and KSW banners. During his time in the KSW, he became the interim lightweight champion.

2. Ian Garry

Ian Garry

Birthday: November 17, 1997

Weight Class: Welterweight

Years Active: 2019-Present

MMA Record: 12-0

UFC Record: 5-0

Accolades: Cage Warriors champion, UFC Performance of the Night (vs. Daniel Rodriguez)

Undefeated Irish MMA fighter Ian Machado Garry is considered to be Ireland’s next best hope for a future UFC champion. Known for his slick striking skills, Garry has already been compared to the most famous Irish UFC fighter, Conor McGregor. At only 25 years old, Garry is expected to be a fixture in the UFC welterweight division for years to come.

Garry won the Cage Warriors welterweight championship at Cage Warriors 125 on June 26, 2021, prompting the UFC to offer him a contract. He made his promotional debut at UFC 268, where he knocked out Jordan Williams at the very end of the first round. During his Octagon interview, Garry alluded to Conor McGregor’s legendary quote about the Irish not coming to take part, but to take over in the UFC.

Since then, Garry won his next 4 fights, including notable finishes of Song Kenan and Daniel Rodriguez. He was expected to fight Geoff Neal at UFC 292 on August 19, 2023, in what would have been his toughest test to date. After Neal pulled out with an injury, UFC veteran Neil Magny stepped in to take his place.

Garry credits his interest in MMA to Conor McGregor, shifting his attention from boxing to mixed martial arts after McGregor popularized the sport in Ireland. Channeling his inner “Mystic Mac,” the nickname given to McGregor for predicting the outcome of his fights, Garry predicted how he would defeat Daniel Rodriguez at UFC Charlotte. When his prediction came true, Conor McGregor tweeted out his support of the undefeated Irish MMA fighter, stating “Ian Garry. Another one! #CantStopDestiny.”

1. Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor

Birthday: July 14, 1988

Weight Class: Featherweight, Lightweight, Welterweight

Years Active: 2008-Present

MMA Record: 22-6

UFC Record: 10-4

Accolades: First Irish UFC champion, first UFC simultaneous multi-division champion (featherweight and lightweight), most PPV buys in UFC history, fastest title win in UFC history (13 seconds), fastest title finish in UFC history (13 seconds)

Conor McGregor is not only the most famous Irish UFC fighter in history, he’s the most famous MMA fighter in the history of the sport, bar none. Conor McGregor is the first UFC champion born in Ireland and is part of the reason why the UFC enjoys the international popularity it has today.

Known for his incredible boxing skills and signature straight left, McGregor set the tone for his career when he became a simultaneous multi-division champion in Cage Warriors. After defeating Dave Hill via rear-naked choke at Cage Warriors 47 to win the featherweight title, he knocked out Ivan Buchinger in his next bout to win the lightweight title.

That set the stage for McGregor’s UFC debut at UFC Stockholm in 2013, where he knocked out Marcus Brimmage in the first round. He would win his next 6 UFC bouts – with 5 of them coming by knockout. During that stretch, he knocked out UFC greats like Dustin Poirier, Chad Mendes, and Jose Aldo. In fact, his first round knockout of Aldo was the fastest win and finish in UFC championship history, a record that still stands.

McGregor’s first UFC loss came against Nate Diaz at UFC 196 in March, 2016. Diaz was a late replacement after McGregor was originally scheduled to fight Rafael dos Anjos. After dos Anjos injured his foot, Diaz stepped in, creating one of the greatest rivalries in UFC history. McGregor would redeem his loss at UFC 202, defeating Diaz via majority decision.

McGregor would then make more UFC history when he defeated Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November, 2016, becoming the first simultaneous multi-division champion in UFC history. After defeating Alvarez, he went on to box Floyd Mayweather in one of the biggest crossover combat sporting events in history.

Since becoming the “champ-champ,” things haven’t been great for McGregor. He’s 1-3 in his last 4 fights, including being finished by Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier (twice). He suffered a devastating injury at UFC 264, snapping his shin in the first round of his trilogy bout against Poirier.

McGregor is one of the most important figures in MMA history, popularizing the sport both in his native Ireland and around the globe. He will forever be known as the greatest Irish UFC fighter in history.


How many Irish people are in the UFC?

There are currently 3 active Irish UFC fighters on the roster: Conor McGregor, Ian Garry, and Shauna Bannon. There have been 15 Irish UFC fighters in history. Fighters not included on this list are Charlie Ward, Rhys McKee, Dean Barry, Paul Redmond, and Neil Seery.

Did Conor McGregor retire from the UFC?

As of the publishing of this article, Conor McGregor has not retired from the UFC. He is expected to fight Michael Chandler as his next fight, as the two were coaches on The Ultimate Fighter season 31. McGregor recently gave an interview in which he planned 3 more fights; the bout against Chandler, competing for the BMF title against Justin Gaethje, and then completing the Nate Diaz trilogy.

Although he has not officially retired, there remains speculation as to whether or not McGregor will compete in MMA again. His leg was surgically repaired after a devastating injury at UFC 264, leading some to believe he will not be able to come back. McGregor is also the wealthiest MMA fighter in history and many speculate that he will not have the same drive to compete again because of it.

It’s worth noting that McGregor has feigned his retirement multiple times throughout his career. He first suggested retirement in 2016, when he tweeted “I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese. Catch ya’s later.” Rumors circulated of his retirement in both 2019 and 2021, but McGregor would go on to fight Donald Cerrone and Dustin Poirier after those rumors.

Who was the first Irishman in the UFC?

The first Northern Irish UFC fighter was Stevie Lynch, who debuted under the Irish tri-color at UFC 72 on June 16, 2007. However, since Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, some don’t consider Lynch to be the first. The first Irish fighter from the Republic of Ireland to compete in the UFC was Tom Egan, who fought at UFC 93 on January 17, 2009.

Are there Irish girls in the UFC?

There have been two female Irish UFC fighters in history. The first was Aisling Daly, who competed in the UFC from 2014 until her retirement from MMA in 2017. The second is Shauna Bannon, who made her UFC debut at UFC London on July 22, 2023.

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Timothy Schoonmaker
Timothy Schoonmaker
I was an amateur boxer in high school when I competed in the prelims of the New York Golden Gloves amateur division. Later in life, I began training BJJ. My friends at the academy introduced me to Muay Thai, and I train all 3 martial arts today. I am currently a purple belt in BJJ, hoping to advance to brown soon!