Interview: Eoghan O’Flanagan on leg locks, Sean McDonagh and his Dream McDonalds Order

Eoghan O’Flanagan has enjoyed a lot of success over the last few years after taking a double gold at NAGA, winning the Roll Models Sub Only Invitational by beating Ross Nicholls in the final and becoming a Polaris veteran. I was recently fortunate enough to pry Eoghan away from training for a few minutes to catch up and find out some of what makes him tick:

Hey Eoghan, how’ve you been, everything alright with you lately?
Yeah, good. Well, I’ve got cauliflower ear but other than that I’m fine.

Yeah that’s pretty normal to be fair.

Yeah you’d think so but I’m really not enjoying it, it just f***ing hurts haha. It’s not bad other than that.

Have you managed to get to the doctor and get it all drained?

Not really, that’s just my new ear now. I drained it four or five times now and it didn’t work. I was training for ADCC and it kept getting hit so I’ve just accepted that’s the size of my ear. That’s my new ear so I’ll just have to do the other side now so I don’t lose balance haha.

At least you’ll even it out I guess, so let’s get it started! How did you find your way into the sport, what got you started?

Ah yeah well I did judo because my mum brought me to a judo club when I was like 4 years old and I did that untill about 11, secondary school, and then I stopped when I discovered the internet. I restarted in Judo at around 13/14, maybe 15, I think I was 14 but there was jiu-jitsu there instead so I tried it and just like, everyone was really s**t at judo so I could just throw them but then every time I ended up on the ground I got choked, so I was hooked!

Fair enough, so you’ve been in jiu-jitsu since you were 14?

Yeah, 14 I was going probably once a week but then 15 I was going three times a week and slowly more and more. So yeah, probably started just around 14.

So, what are your top tips for anyone starting out in the sport today?

Oooh, starting out you’ve got to be weak. Try and be as unimposing as you can, just be slow and fat and useless and then you’ll be forced to use technique haha. Then eventually by training more and getting more technique, you’ll slowly without realising, and that’s the key, without realising how strong you’re getting, you get stronger so you’re never actually relying on strength or size and speed.

That’s actually great advice to be fair! So when you were first starting out, were there any competitors you based your game around?

So, I only really started watching jiu-jitsu when I got to blue belt. From white to blue, it was mainly like everything was new and amazing so it didn’t really matter, it was more about just surviving. Then blue belt I don’t know, it just kept changing depending on who was winning! At first it was Lucas Lepri and then the Mendes brothers for a long time and Leandro Lo for a very long time. I never really looked at the heavyweights other than Buchecha, just for like entertainment like UFC-style entertainment. Then when I switched to no-gi it was all just Danaher stuff pretty much, Eddie Cummings especially.

That makes sense, because you do only compete in no-gi really, do you train or compete with a gi at all?

I don’t even train in the gi anymore really, like I’ll do the ocassional session if I want to rest or if I just want to try something different for a change. But there’s no real reason I do gi anymore.

I guess if you’re not planning on competing in it you don’t want to waste time, right?

Yeah yeah, and also it just fucks up my back and lower hands so I think no-gi is a more longevity-based game.

I definitely agree with you there, and you mentioned watching a lot of Danaher and Eddie Cummings as well, the leglock game’s really exploded lately, is there anything you can see becoming a game-changer in the future?

Oh, in the future? Not really, I think leglocks were the last limb to be explored in nogi, I mean that was just a one-off wasn’t it? People just ignored leglocks all this time. Now it’s just going to be tying it all together probably and who can combine it all the best.

Yeah definitely, A lot of people seem to think the next step is really just combining leglocks with passing more effectively than we see now.

Yeah that makes sense, so basically what Gordon Ryan’s doing. Just like, passing but with the constant threat that you can just sit back and leglock them if you’d want to. I don’t know, I’d say in terms of defending leglocks or reversing people that are trying leglocks, that’s probably going to be the next big thing. I mean i’m not really sure how yet, but we’ll see haha.

Well when you have competed, who do you think your toughest match has been?

Well, out of the people that have beaten me probably Ross is the best, Ross Nicholls.

You do sound pretty confident in that to be fair.

Yeah, I’m trying to think who else really but undeniably Ross is one of the best in the world at the moment. He’s probably the best person to have beaten me, but not one of the only ones. There’s been many people!

Well we have had a wave of talent come out of the UK lately, including yourself and Ross so who do you think, other than you and him, would sit up there with the best of the best so far?

Oh! Freddie Vosgrone. I mean, he’s German but he trains at Carlson Gracie Essex so he’s technically fighting out of England I guess? And Sean Coates got silver at ADCC by narrowly losing to Adam Wardzinski in the final so I would say he’s probably, just by competition results, the second best.

You mention Freddie Vosgrone and you actually competed on the same card as him for Polaris, didn’t you?

Yeah! And we competed in the North v South thing as well, well I didn’t even compete in the end because he beat three guys haha.

Well you’re actually 1-1 on Polaris so far, so is there anyone you’d like to face next there?

Uhhh, well I know they asked me this in a Tatami interview and I said Sean Mcdonagh because I was supposed to face him on my first Polaris and I can’t remember but I think he broke his hand or something. Now, he’s still learning leglocks properly but in the year or two he’s been doing them, he’s been doing them to death basically so he’s really good. I just want to get it out of the way!

That’d be good to see. One last question then, everyone cuts weight to a certain extent or at least diets properly and after that a lot of people have something playing on their mind they really want to eat or drink, what’s that for you?

What, one snack I would have? Well normally just after I compete, not really for any reason but just because its decadent I’ll have a Mcdonalds haha. Not even because it’s nice really, just because it’s bad for you.

Excellent choice, what’s your order then?

Well it depends on the day really, I usually actually avoid chicken nuggets. I’ll go for like standard burger, chips and a drink but it’ll vary depending on the day, maybe I’ll get two burgers and no chips If I’m feeling that way haha.

Alex Lindsey

Alex Lindsey is the managing editor here at Grappling Insider. Originally starting training in MMA in 2008, injuries and university slowed progress until he decided to put on a gi for the first time back in 2015.

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