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Sport and Fitness

An MMA Event is Kicking Off in Dubai This Weekend

Words by Nathan Irvine

We sat down for an exclusive chat with some of the competitors ahead of the Reign MMA Championship  

Fight fans are in for a treat this weekend as Reign MMA Championship makes its debut in Dubai. The cage based fisticuffs is set to go down at Meydan Hotel’s Sky Bubble, and pits Team SBG Ireland against Team MMA Poland.

Ahead of the Reign MMA Dubai tournament, we sat down with Team Poland’s Krzysztof Gapski, Barbara Grabowska and Michal Pezda and Team Ireland’s Ryan Spillane. We talk mental battles, dealing with losses and much more.


Reign MMA Dubai


Reign MMA The full line-up

Barbara Grabowska


Reign MMA Barbara Grabowska is looking for another TKO victory

What was it that got you into fighting?

Ryan Spillane: It was by accident. I was playing rugby at a very competitive level and during the off-season I decided to do some fitness training and heard about a kickboxing gym. After the first session I was completely hooked, gave up rugby and followed MMA full time.

Krzysztof Gapski: A competitive drive and a willingness to test myself.

Michal Pezda: I just like the competition. You know, checking myself and crossing a barrier.

Barbara Grabowska: I don’t know what it was exactly, but since I just was a kid I wanted to be a fighter. So now, I’m making my dreams come true.

What’s harder – the physical or mental battle?

RS: Always the mental battle. Every day you’re fighting a new smaller battle and then the actual fight is obviously the biggest one. I always say that fighting is 80 per cent mental 20 per cent physical.

KG: Mental, because there is stress associated with weight cut. You can’t eat what you want. The training regime is very hard and makes your mind say “no” but you have to force yourself to do it anyway.

MP: I think that physical part is harder. To me, the mental side is easy, I have the power to do what I want to do. But, of course, if you train hard the physical side becomes easy too.

BG: The hardest is always the mental battle. Sometimes, when I’m exhausted, it is really tough to stay positive and motivated, but I know that in order to succeed in the sport, I must keep this kind of mindset.

How did you feel when you scored your first victory?

RS: It felt amazing. It was my third ever fight, and I took it on two weeks’ notice in the opponent’s home town. It ended up with me catching him with a head kick after ten seconds. The feeling was incredible. I still remember being high from excitement the following day.

KG: It was a great feeling and proof that hard work pays off.

MP: It is hard to describe, but it is like you’ve been born again. You feel pain in every part of your body, often can’t breathe, but you feel you are alive.

BG: I’ve scored a TKO win and I remember being surprised that fight finished so quickly. Obviously, I was very happy.

Krzysztof Gapski MMA


Reign MMA Krzysztof Gapski is ready for action

Which fighter do you most admire in sport today?

RS: I like the way Israel Adesanya carries himself. He only needed a few fights in the UFC before he got a shot at the title.

KG: Kelvin Gastelum because I feel he is the complete MMA fighter. He’s not cocky and always approaches the opponent with respect.

MP: Tony Ferguson. I like his style of fighting, he’s the most disciplined fighter I have ever seen. He is so tough and just never gives up.

BG: Boxer, Vasyl Lomachenko. I’m so impressed with his footwork and timing.

Which mainstream fighter would you most like to go toe-to-toe with?

RS: Former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Stipe Miocic. I still believe he’s one of the greatest in his weight class right now.

KG: My skills aren’t quite at their level, so I wouldn’t choose anyone right now.

MP: No idea. I’d rather take the fight that’s actually possible, rather than pick something unattainable. A fight is a fight: one of you has to win, the other has to lose.

BG: If I had to choose famous fighter, I would probably pick Rose Namajunas.

How did you feel after being KO’d or submitted?

RS: There’s no other way to describe it than terrible. MMA gives you the highest of highs but on the flip side the lowest of the lows.

KG: I haven’t been submitted or KO’d yet.

MP: I don’t know yet and I hope I never will. I have lost by decision before though. At first you’re angry and sad, but later you have to use the experience as a tool for learning and use the mistakes to train harder and wiser.

BG: I have never been submitted, KO’d or TKO’d

Michal Pezda MMA


Reign MMA Michal Pezda limbering up

How does it feel to represent your country?

RS: Walking the “Tricolor” into a stadium feels spectacular, knowing you’re fighting for country gives you a massive sense of pride.

KG: It’s a great distinction, but can be stressful due to the immense responsibility.

MP: It’s my first time, but I guess it will be something special and amazing. I will do my best.

BG: It always feels great to represent Poland. I used to be in Polish boxing team and now I’m able to represent Poland as an MMA fighter, it feels even better. 

What’s the worst misconception about MMA fighters you’ve ever heard?

RS: That we’re all dumb, tattooed freaks. MMA fighters are the nicest people you’ll ever meet. We’re not all the stereotypical meat-heads.

KG: That all MMA fighters are thugs.

MP: It is sad, but the most unfair opinion is that it’s a sport for idiots. People who don’t know anything about this profession think that it’s too wild, but it’s not true. MMA is a technical discipline and it requires a lot of hard work.

BG: Some people believe that women can’t become great fighters, and I love proving them wrong!

Finally, which Hollywood tough guy or lady do you think would have the best chance of competing in MMA?

RS: I think Dwayne The Rock Johnson and I would have a good scrap!

BG: Jennifer Lawrence looks tough, so I’d pick her.


Reign MMA Championships takes place on Saturday, March 9 at Meydan Hotel’s Sky Bubble. Tickets start at AED 290 and are available from Platinum List.

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