HE had two title belts in two different weight divisions and he won a World Championship bronze medal in Las Vegas but at the age of 25, Denis Perry stepped away from the MMA world.
Initially, it was to be a brief break but as next year became the year after and then the year after that, it looked as though one of Ireland’s brightest prospects in the sport has been lost.
Not so, however, as on Saturday night after a five year hiatus, the Strabane man made his comeback to the octagon and he did so in some style.
The 30-year-old received just four days notice to prepare for a heavyweight clash with Jordan O’Neill, who is almost a decade his junior.
Despite having significant levels of cage rust, Perry proved his skills remain very much intact as he took his younger and fresher opponent the full distance of three rounds before missing out on a narrow split decision.
“We got the phone call on Tuesday morning asking if we were available and Garath [Vaughan, coach] said it was up to me,” he explained.
“We were under a lot of pressure to get bloods and medicals done but with 2020 being the year it was with a lot of freedoms being taken away from us, I decided that the chance to compete and do what you love is something we didn’t have this year.
“Opportunities like this don’t come often and the times that’s in it we thought it was the right thing to do.
“Even though I took a loss, I am in great spirits over it.
“I had five years of ring rust built up but I gave him all he wanted and it gave me hope.
“The message I was trying to give, including to myself is don’t count anyone out, especially yourself.”
FULL STORY IN LAST WEEK’S STRABANE CHRONICLE