With Kamaru Usman’s foot placed squarely on the throat of the UFC’s welterweight division, ‘The Future’ at 170-pounds is well worth examining.
While the pound-for-pound No 1 reigns supreme, the coming years could see an Irishman hold a similarly vice-like grip over the weight class.
Ian Garry made a blistering start to life in the UFC with a first-round KO win on his debut at Madison Square Garden, announcing himself on the biggest stage in exactly the manner he predicted.
Ian Garry (right) made an incredible start to life in the UFC with a KO of Jordan Williams
Garry found a brilliant KO despite not having it all his own way in the early going
Having had more than a week now to reflect on a life-changing night, the UFC’s youngest undefeated fighter exclusively told Sportsmail about the experience.
‘In the fight I felt overwhelmed in the first two minutes, hearing Bruce Buffer call my name, look up in the stands and seeing “The Future – Ian Garry” – and I’m thinking “this is really happening”.
‘Then I had to get myself into focus, going to myself “right come on, he’s hitting you, concentrate!”
‘I had the red carpet rolled out for me, I don’t even know how many interviews I did, it was my UFC debut at MSG on the biggest card of the year and it was two minutes of me not being right. It doesn’t get bigger than what it just did. Next time I’ll walk straight out and be switched on from the first second.’
A first-round finish with a clean KO would be about as ideal a debut as most fighters could conjure but Garry is a perfectionist.
The Irishman admits he was overwhelmed by the occasion but only briefly before taking over
‘Obviously I got the stoppage I wanted, that spectacular highlight reel knockout that I can add to my highlight reel but it wasn’t perfect and I always seek perfection,’ he adds.
‘There’s a lot I can learn from that fight. People saying you have to lose to learn, no, no, no. I don’t have to lose to learn, I can win and learn all the time.
‘I’ve only won in my career and I’ve learned so much and I want to continue that. Every time I win I learn something. Jordan was difficult, he was coached very well for that fight, he had success in the first couple of minutes then two and a half minutes in, I took over. and he didn’t do much until I knocked him out.’
Of course, comparisons with Conor McGregor are inevitable, and welcomed by Garry himself, who shares a deadly striking game and captivating ability on the mic with his famous countryman.
Garry believes the experience of a massive card will help him be more composed now
The ‘Notorious’ sent Garry a heartfelt congratulatory voice message after his win and is a huge reason the 24-year-old pursued his journey into MMA, despite his mother writing him a letter when he decided to chase his dream instead of go to college.
‘Ian, taking a year out to figure out what you’re going to do is stupid,’ it read.
‘I will not support someone who gives up on themselves and takes the easy way out. Being the next Conor McGregor is not a f****** plan.’
Garry’s first amateur fight was three years ago. His rise has been meteoric and that plan to follow in McGregor’s footsteps is going rather well so far.
He has relocated to Florida and trains at the renowned Sanford MMA gym, a hotbed of talent, although even 6ft 2in Garry admits being made to feel small by some of the monsters he encountered on the mat early on.
Garry won the title in Cage Warriors and he is yet to taste defeat as a professional
Garry (right) as a young fan with Conor McGregor – now he is following in his footsteps now
He explained: ‘I don’t care what room I walk into, or what superstars are in the room, I’ll cause trouble, I’m a bit disruptive.
‘I did exactly that in Sanford, I’m loud, I have a laugh but I got it back, I was called ‘little’ and was getting smashed for the first couple of weeks, they gave it to me and I enjoyed it, they didn’t hold back.
‘For the first time in my life I’m sitting there and there’s about eight heavyweights on the mat and I’m like “f***, I am little”, sitting there with massive lads jacked out of their minds. So I’m there like, “alright I’m not going to argue with you, but I’ll chat s*** to you and try and get in your head”.
‘The move was great, the coaches sensational and I cannot wait to sit down and just learn and grow, evolving as a fighter. I was in a fight camp there, fixing little things, when I go back out of fight camp it will be so fun.’
One significant departure from McGregor, is Garry’s lack of concern over money. He is motivated by thoughts of his legacy, trusting that success will naturally bring the riches with it.
Garry will take a few months to work on his game before coming back next spring
‘I’m living my dream, I’m literally living the life I want to live and for me to just wake up everyday and just do what I do is my dream come true,’ he went on.
‘The fact that I can train in the sunshine state, spend time with family and loved ones, work with the best on the planet, that’s all that matters to me. Getting to a world title, where I want to be. The more success I have, the more of everything comes with it, the more I win, the more eyes on me, the more I win, the more sponsorship and deals flood in.’
Clearly, at 24 and with so few years at an elite level of competition, there is still plenty of room for evolution but Garry recognises that he can breathe new life into a division locked out by the champion.
Both himself and Khamzat Chimaev, the terrifyingly impressive Cechen-born rising star, have the capacity to shake things up in the coming years.
He jokes: ‘It’s like the evil Khabib and the nice Conor!
‘The welterweight division is just stacked to be honest. Usman, I don’t see Usman losing unless he gives it up, he’s unbelievable, he’s very good at what he does. The main threats in the division would probably be Luque, Chimaev and Gilbert Burns.
The 24-year-old is making waves already and his long-term aim is to be one of the best ever
Garry did not have everything his own way and Williams found success in the first two minutes
‘Burns is the most elite grappler, can take anyone out, Luque one of the best all-round and will earn a shot soon. Chimaev is sensational, dominating everyone, deserves the hype and has made a name for himself.
‘I’m 24 this week, in no rush, the success will build slowly, the hype will go through the roof every fight and I’ll sit there ready to take over the division. When I take over, it’s done, a slow rise to be the king for the long haul.’
He continues: ‘I’ll take my time, learn my trade, grow, evolve, get my diet to where I want it to be, I’m about 80 per cent plant based at the moment which is weird for me because I’m changing my diet a lot.
‘I can physically see my body still growing. The welterweight division is mine and it will be mine and I’ve just got to give it time. I’ll keep putting on performances like I’ve done, and eventually take over.’
Garry wants four or five months to work on his craft before stepping back into the octagon again, probably around April 2022. He has a sensible head on his shoulders to go with the grand ambitions but makes no apology for dreaming big.
‘My goal is the UFC title and to be one of the best fighters who ever walked this planet. And I want to do it with a smile on my face.’