Sport

Dubliner Dylan Tuke primed to be a hometown hero in PFL Europe

Dylan Tuke (right) in action during his PFL Europe win over Briton Conor Hughes in Berlin.
Dylan Tuke (right) in action during his PFL Europe win over Briton Conor Hughes in Berlin. Dylan Tuke (right) in action during his PFL Europe win over Briton Conor Hughes in Berlin.

SENTIMENTALITY doesn’t seem to be in Dylan Tuke’s locker but he’s still setting his sights on becoming a hometown hero in PFL Europe.

The Championship Final will be in Dublin, on Friday December 8, and the true blue Dub is targeting a place in the lightweight decider by winning again this weekend in Paris.

  • Dublin to host inaugural final of MMA Professional Fighters League Europe
  • John Mitchell: from Cork to Paris in PFL Europe via Dubai and Thai boxing
  • Ireland trio among 32 fighters set for inaugural PFL Europe season
  • Poster boy Simeon Powell knows he's a target to be hit at PFL Europe opener

“The 3Arena is two minutes around the corner from my flats, O’Brien Hall, Gardiner Street flats,” says the 27-year-old.

“I don’t believe in ‘fate’ or ‘manifesting’ but it’s almost turned me into a believer how everything has worked out. Come December I’ll have my first world title and I’ll gain it in my hometown. I’ll have my Scottish and Irish flags side by side. In front of my home D1 crowd.

“It’s a dream come true. A 12-year-old boy’s dream is going to be fulfilled. I’ve waited a long time to fulfil it.”

Although training in Scotland now, Tuke is proud of his Dublin background. Hailing from Sean McDermott Street, D1 – “D1 for life!”, he shouts out – he has been involved in MMA for 15 years now.

His first sporting involvement was GAA, playing football for the Trinity Gaels club, as he recalls: “I used to go and stay at my nanny’s a lot, she looked after me when I was younger. She lived in Donaghmede so I used to go and play there at weekends.

“I played Gaelic football to a very good level… Joined MMA when I was 12, stayed with Gaelic until I was about 14, but just fell out of love with it. That upset my grandfather, he didn’t want me to leave Gaelic because I was good at it.

“I just loved martial arts so much.”

Family played its part in getting him into MMA too: “I used to get bullied really badly in school. I had a cousin, Paddy, he was like an idol of mine, I loved him so much. He was doing MMA in a local gym and I really just wanted my cousin Paddy to think I was cool, that I was worth being around.

“I joined the gym and just fell in love with it. Once I went through that door I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“That was it, I was hooked – it was like taking a shot of heroin.

“I left that school, went into a different school. I bet the bullies wouldn’t say anything to me now!,” he laughs.

Dylan Tuke wrestles with Connor Hughes in lightweight contest in July. Picture: Billy Cleary PFL Europe
Dylan Tuke wrestles with Connor Hughes in lightweight contest in July. Picture: Billy Cleary PFL Europe Dylan Tuke wrestles with Connor Hughes in lightweight contest in July. Picture: Billy Cleary PFL Europe

Combat sports gave him self-confidence: “Definitely, 100 per cent. I learnt to grow, come out of my shell. Not really care what people think any more.

Also, I was really good at it. It gave me something, thinking ‘This is great’.

“I don’t know where I’d be without it – either on the end of a needle or in a jail cell, probably. I’m blessed.”

This Saturday at a sold-out Zenith Paris La Villette in the French capital, he’ll be fighting unbeaten Polish-born Jakob Kaszuba, who’s now based in Jacksonville, Florida.

Tuke beat Britain’s Conor Hughes in the first stage of PFL Europe in Berlin, pointing out: “I’m only after coming up from featherweight, I smoked him pretty convincingly.

“Now I face this fake Polish bloke from the States. I’m taller than him. I’m six foot. He’s 5’10” – and they’re being nice to him. I think he’s 5’9” without his heels on.”

The ebullient Tuke, nicknamed ‘the Nuke’, guffaws when he hears his opponent’s moniker:

“Is his nickname ‘The Boar’?! That’s because he’s a boring chap. [He didn’t say ‘chap’…]. I’m ‘the Nuke’, he’ll find that out soon. I’m not too worried… Skill will prevail.”

There’s the potential for an ‘all-Ireland Final’ in Dublin in December with Cork nativeJohn Mitchell in the other lightweight semi-final.

Of Mitchell, Tuke says: “He used to come up and look for spars off one of my sparring partners, Ciaran Clarke. He’s a nice boy.”

However, he insists he’ll beat either of them: “If John Mitchell gets through then it’ll be John getting smacked around in Dublin. If it’s [Alex] Chisov,

then it’ll be Chisov getting choked in Dublin.”

Tuke is aiming to get out of the fight game before enters his 30s, saying: “By the time I’m 30 I’ll be 18 years at this.

“I’m like a Ferrari with 300,000 miles on the clock: I look amazing, look like I’m young, but… It’s the training. I haven’t had any injuries, thank God, but it’s wear and tear on the body, it’s hard work.

“I’d like to get me world title, get me money, and then fall back into a coaching role. Maybe come out of retirement for one of those celebrity boxing bouts! That’s where the real money is, going and battering monkeys!”

If this tournament goes to plan, Dylan will move on – and down, if only in weight: “I win this then I’ll go down to featherweight, which is my natural weight class. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll jump into the States tournament then I’ll win the million[-dollar] tournament, get my second world title, and then I’ll just drift off, drift off.

“I’ll be just like one of the Avengers in Endgame, just leave.”

If he does soar off with his metaphorical cape, he acknowledges other Irish fighters who’ve helped him along the way, insisting that money - $100,000 for the winner of each weight division in PFL Europe - is not the motivating factor for him:

“I’ve always been broke. I don’t think about cash like that because I come from nothing. I get by on what I have to get by on. I make it last. I’ve had lots of good people around me.

“Aisling Daly, Ireland’s first ever male or female world champion, female black belt [in Brazilian Jiu-Jjitsu] is one of my best friends - she was one of my long-time idols, role models. She helped me out so much coming up.

“Peter Queally, Paddy Holohan, Chris Fields, helped me so much, money-wise; if I went without food they’d always look after me, if I needed any training gear they’d help me. So there was always ‘family’ around me.

“The same now I’m in Scotland, I have all my boys around me. That’s the best thing about MMA, the community. It’s become a family.

“I definitely don’t think I’ve struggled coming up. I’ve had big pay-days, fought on some of the bigger shows in the world.

“Now I’m basically PFL Europe’s golden boy, about to win my first world title and $E100,000, go off then to fight in the States.

“It’s been a good road. I never look back and wish I hadn’t done it or say, ‘Oh, f---, I wish I’d gone to college!’ I joke about that, but I’m blessed.”