Fighting your corner

Posted on: 7th March, 2017

Category: Sport & Fitness

Contributor: West Cork People

Aisling Daly, better known as Ais ‘the bais’, is now retired from professional MMA fighting, but she is still very active at coaching the new generations of fighters, with a special eye out for the women. Tania Presutti had a chat with Ireland’s first MMA World champion and female UFC Fighter, about being a woman in a man’s sport.

Being a woman isn’t always easy, and some career choices are harder for women than for men. That goes for firefighters, gardas and not surprisingly professional Mixed Martial Arts fighters. Aisling Daly defied all the odds stacked against her, and accomplished a successful career as a MMA fighter.

“I was very headstrong and young, you know, 18 or 19 years-old, and becoming a world champion and professional fighter, was just what I wanted to do. It didn’t matter what everybody else was doing or saying, I guess in a way, I had blinders on, and was just really focused.”

While her close family always supported her choice, the early stages weren’t without critique and questions about her choice of career. “Some people would say, why don’t you get a real job, a steady income and so on. It wasn’t until later in my career, when I started winning fights, those voices were quiet. I guess that I proved I was serious and I was good at it (fighting). My mom was always very supportive of me. She would always say that everything in sport is down to you. You have to give your youth to it and go back to education at a later stage.”

It wasn’t by accident Aisling Daly got into fighting, as a 10-year-old kid in Dublin, she was presented with three choices for after school activities in the local youth club: Basketball, Karate or art. She quickly determined that Basketball wasn’t for her; while she liked it, she realised that she probably would never grow tall enough to become a successful basketball player and since she ‘stunk’ at art (her own words), Karate was the only and right choice for her.

“I always liked physical sports, so karate was a great activity for me,” Aisling says about her youth, her big passion became BJJ (Brasillian Jiu Jitsu), which she found through her karate trainer. “He was training up at SBG with John Kavanaugh at the time, and would sometimes roll out some mats after karate class and teach us some BJJ. I was immediately taken by it.” After training both karate and BJJ, Daly took the plunge and switched to BJJ and then on to SBG (Straight Blast Gym).

It was in SBG she found and fell in love with MMA too. “My coach, John Kavanaugh, wasn’t really keen to put me into fights at first. He made me train more and much harder than the guys at the same level. Like if there were any Blue-belt guys who wanted to compete, he was like ‘Yeah sure’, but with me, he made me do all these extra things. John was like: ‘I’m not going to send you home to your mum all beat up’. He wanted to make sure I was well prepared for fighting, before he even let me take a fight, so in that sense I got treated very differently from the guys in the gym.”

Aside from John Kavanaugh making her jump through extra hurdles, Aisling never felt she was treated differently in the gym by her teammates. “I was one of the original SBG members, so when MMA started to take off slowly, I was already part of the furniture so to speak, and the new guys who started would automatically know, that if they wanted to be a part of the team, Ais was there, had done the work and ‘worn the t-shirt’. I had been there a long time before them. So the respect was already there.”

Knowing that this isn’t always the case when it comes to gyms and the often male-dominance that exists in the gym environment, Aisling is now running female only BJJ classes (aside from teaching kids and mix beginners classes), where she hopes to bridge the gap between a ‘safe training environment with other women’, to join the mix classes. “I think it’s a good way for a lot of girls to start learning with someone their own size, cause if you start in a mixed class, a lot of times, if you have two beginners – a man and a woman – the man will almost always assume that he knows more about fighting than the woman. And he’ll try and correct her or out-muscle her in the drills.”

Aisling’s way to combat this is to try to install confidence in her female students, so they can stand up for themselves and be selective with their training partners. “I tell them, don’t ever be afraid to say no, I only want to roll with people my own size. It also comes down to the fact, that you won’t have longevity in the sport if you don’t take care of yourself. Some of my girls will go on to the mix classes, maybe start to compete, others will stay with the ladies only class. Both are fine with me.”

Daly says for her own MMA career, there were never any women to train with. “There would be one coming to the gym every now and then, and in the beginning, I would really try and make an effort to pair up with her and make her feel welcome. But nobody ever stayed, I eventually realised that no matter what I did, I had no influence on their choice. And when I became professional I just couldn’t sacrifice my training time to partner up with new beginners, just because they were women. So there was a part of my career, where I wouldn’t do it. I’d be friendly and welcoming, but I had my own fights to train for and that was my priority. You could say now, I’m back to square one again. I’d swoop up the beginner and say ‘let’s roll. BJJ is my favourite sport, and if I can pass along my passion to another person, I’m like ‘this is my gift to you’.”

Since her mom was her biggest supporter (“even though, she call my BJJ suit a Karate suit at times”), Aisling has some advice for parents whose child is looking to get into fight sport.

“I think it’s important to find the right gym, the right team and the right coach. You want someone who is behind you, who makes you feel welcome and part of the team. MMA is an individual sport, when you step into the cage to fight, but getting there, preparing for that fight, that takes a team and with the right team, you can go far. I think, to me it’s important, that the gym is looking after you, like the trainer is keeping an eye out to avoid reckless sparring situations, and keeping it technical, and genuinely care about your wellbeing and safety. You need to know, when you look behind you in the cage, that the people in your corner want the best for you.”

Latest News Articles:

Sam Maguire School Tour launched
Fundraising drive to get Kinsale students to World Robotics Championships to Kentucky
Answer the Call to save lives on March 23
Clonakilty students return from trip of a lifetime to rural Malawi
Clonakilty Fairtrade Fortnight celebrates 15 years
€44 million to improve Cork roads
Clonakilty Access Group AGM hears of many frustrations and challenges for people with disabilities in the town
Schull student scoops top invention award at BT Young Scientist
Schull Garda Station wins ‘Leading Light in Road Safety’ award from Road Safety Authority
Go quackers at the 2018 West Cork Bird Race

Join us on Facebook

Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
... See MoreSee Less

20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
... See MoreSee Less

8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
... See MoreSee Less

20th February, 2018  ·  

Did you know..... ... See MoreSee Less

Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

Jump to: