Kickboxing ace, Richard ‘The Face’ Kiely is somewhat late to the show for Bellator Dublin this Saturday night – but make no mistake about it, the charismatic striker is sure to draw in a significant audience nonetheless. The Tallaght native was matched with promotional debutante, George Hardwick just three weeks previous – as he makes his third walk under the Bellator banner, at the 3Arena.
The welterweight competitor will feature for the first time since his flying-knee knockout loss to Michael ‘Venom’ Page in the organization’s last appearance in Dublin last September, as he looks to enter the winner’s enclosure once more. The Straight Blast Gym trainee made his premier appearance in the Bellator cage in February 2019, finishing Mickael Bucher via an opening frame knockout. Speaking in a recent interview with Markey Martial Arts, Kiely expressed his thoughts towards former opponent, Page, Saturday’s foe, Hardwick, and revealed his excitement to return to action injury-free, following an training mishap with UFC light heavyweight, Johnny Walker, and how he expects his clash with Middlesborough native, Hardwick, to earn Fight of the Night honours.
In the build-up to his clash with Page last year, the animosity between the two was rife. They traded verbal-barbs and were involved in a shoving match at a pre-fight face-off in Dublin. With both men scheduled to appear at Fightcon in Cork next Saturday – it’s fair to say bad-blood is still present in this rivalry.
“I didn’t really care about Page’s post-fight antics,” Kiely said. “Look, the chaps a toilet brush of a human-being. He has no class. You’re right when you said there was a lot of animosity in the lead-up. I didn’t expect anything more from him as to how he behaved. I don’t have much to say about him – I don’t give a s**t. I didn’t give a s**t then, and I don’t give a s**t now. If I was to bump into Page again, which is likely at some stage, there’s going to be animosity again. That’s unresolved and I don’t think we’ll ever like each other, that’s just the way it is.”
After Page secured the victory last September, he certainly goaded Kiely moments afterwards, which drew some criticism from referee Dan Miragliotta. Kiely explained how a commissioner had issued a €1,000 fine to him after he gave MVP the finger in the aftermath of the contest, but later decided against the punishment.
“You’re taken out for a medical check,” Kiely explained. “I was grand. I wasn’t knocked out – I was stunned, he caught me with the knee. The biggest issue was my neck at the time. Johnny Walker had spiked me on my neck and had herniated a disc, and impinged the brachial nerve which cut-off all the power into my right arm. Look, I think it was quite obvious that I wasn’t loose or anything in that fight and I was quite stiff as a result of the pain. I just got changed and went out with my family. The commissioner came in and said he was going to fine me a grand for giving him (Michael Page) the finger – but then I shook his hand and he goes, ‘You know what? I’m not going to fine you that grand now because you shook my hand’. He probably understands that Page is an arsehole and I’d say he kind of appreciated me giving him the finger.”
Saturday’s opponent, George Hardwick has similarly to Kiely, dropped his last professional outing – and ahead of his first walk under the Bellator banner this weekend, Kiely complemented his ability and explained how he expects to earn the Fight of the Night accolade.
“I’ve watched some of George’s fights and he fights in the pocket, he fights in range,” Kiely told. “He’s tidy and solid everywhere – heavy with the leg kicks. Look, I’m not even focusing on him as an opponent, I’m just focusing on getting back in and doing what I do. I’m going in with no injuries now and I’m looking forward to getting in and expressing myself. Anyone – I can knock anyone out that’s in there with me. All I need is one shot and the fights over. It doesn’t matter how I match up with people or anyone stylistically – all I need is one shot to put the lights out. It has potential to be Fight of the Night. He stays there in the pocket, he puts his combinations together well. He doesn’t back down so I think it’s going to be Fight of the Night. Like I said, all I need is one shot. If I land on that one shot, he’s going out, simple as that.”
With featherweight contender, Pedro Carvalho gunning for gold in March against Patrício Freire, I got Richard’s thoughts on his SBG teammate’s success in such a short space of time with the promotion.
“Pedro is mad, he’s absolutely stone mad, but he’s a really great lad – he’s a great guy,” Kiely said. “He’s just a decent human being. The work ethic that man has is second to none. He is the hardest worker in the gym I think and he deserves success. He comes from a humble background. I think he was over here cleaning in Tallaght hospital when he first joined SBG he was a cleaner in Tallaght hospital and he was training whilst cleaning. He has a little child now – if ever anyone deserves good things to happen to them, it’s Pedro. When I say good things which deserve to happen – he’s after making them happen. He went out there, took his opportunity when he was written off as an underdog and he’s where he needs to be. He has a very, very real chance of being a world champion and I really think he’s going to do it.”
With the UFC landing back on Irish shores on August 15th. later this year, Kiely gave his thoughts on the promotion’s return to Dublin after a four-year hiatus – and explained how the decision to return to Ireland benefits the sport no end.
“Yeah it’s great that the UFC is coming over,” Kiely explained. “I think it’s great. The more, I suppose, high-profile MMA events we have in Ireland, the better for the sport. It draws more people to the sport. We all know the atmosphere that’s in the 3Arena so – I’m actually surprised it’s taken them so long to come back. It’ll be interesting to see whether they put on a decent event or if they put on just a second-rate event. It’s gonna be interesting, I’ll be there anyway I’d say.”
In terms of the transition from kickboxing to mixed-martial-arts back in 2015 – Kiely explained how the challenge of testing his ability in the sport drew his attention and in those five years, he’s extremely proud of what he’s achieved.
“I experienced a lot of success in my kickboxing career,” Kiely told. “I suppose I got somewhat exhausted. You were going out and winning titles and I suppose there was no real exposure – not that I was doing it for the exposure. It would be an anti-climax after winning and no one really knew about it. I got into MMA because I thought it was the pure form of combat in terms of if it was a real fight. For instance, in kickboxing and you’re clinching, the clinch is broke up – in MMA, you’re clinching, tough s**t, you’ve got to work your way out of it or you’re getting taken down. I wanted to see – and also the smaller gloves as well. I wanted to experience that because the guard is different and what have you – not that I fight with much of a guard. I just wanted to see how far I’d go. I took a year off to go into MMA and within the year and within three fights, I fought for a world title.“
“When I look back on it, it’s a bit mad, I’ve had five fights and I’m 3-2 and people will say what they want about the record. The two people I’ve lost against was Alex Lohore with a cruciate knee ligament injury, and Michael ‘Venom’ Page with a herniated disc in my neck. Without context, the record isn’t great, I understand that but, with context, in a very short space of time, I’m after fighting one of the best fighters in the world in MVP, I’m after fighting for a world title already. I’ve main event-ed, and co-main event-ed the 3Arena so I’ve done a lot in those five fights that most people haven’t done in their career. So, whoever wants to denigrate can kiss my arse.