By James Eakin
As we approach the Irish Cadet National MMA Championships in December, the time seems right for an update on the work of Danny and Jack Corr; men who have done so much for young people in Northern Ireland.
As the founder and chairman of the Ulster MMA Association, Danny Corr wanted to remove the stigma of violence surrounding MMA, and established a community project called Fight to Unite to put youth at the heart of his projects. In 2018, Corr won the Changing Lives Through MMA award at the 2018 IMMAF amateur MMA awards and since then has helped many young people avoid the pathway to crime.
Fight to Unite builds self-confidence, and gives employment opportunities to young people. Funded by Comic Relief, the program has been the perfect platform for young people to learn about disciplines of MMA that can be translated into everyday life.
Not only is Danny Corr continuing to do exceptional work in his native country, but he is now also supporting IMMAF’s Youth Development Commission chair Richie Cranny as he develops a new Youth project in Australia which aims to tackle mental health issues amongst the young.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Danny’s son Jack Corr, who himself is a member of IMMAF’s Athletes’ Commission and is one of the key figures in the Fight to Unite Programme.
What personal benefits did you see from being a part of the Fight to Unite scheme?
Jack: I worked there for 2 years, working with Nationalist and Unionist groups and schools, as well as homeless groups. We originally worked with the charity Fight for Peace but since 2019 we have been running a programme inside ZKJ Gym. The Fight to Unite scheme allowed participants to gain qualifications in Maths and English. I thought it was good mixing personal development with training. When I started doing the youth work side, I realised that a lot of kids weren’t getting the sport side of a regular development program. When you add MMA to it, it gives kids a different kind of buzz. These young people hear all their mates are going to it so it gives them excitement through the sport of MMA. It gives kids with an addictive personality an opportunity to focus on something other than recreational rioting.
Looking ahead to the Irish Cadet Championships and IMMAF Championships, how have amateur programmes helped young athletes get the competition they want?
Jack: Ciaran Clarke and Paul Byrne have started a cross border programme at their own gym with the All-Ireland governing body. I would say there are about 4 or 5 participants who are having their first amateur bout soon in a competition which is a stage below the Irish Cadet Championships.
What do you think about the structure of IMMAF competition?
Jack: I think we need more IMMAF style competition in countries because the shows are great. One of the guys from our programme fought at the Arnold Classic, Ciaran Maskey and another girl, Aine fought there. He started with the youth programme and she made her debut at the Arnold Classic.
What are the future plans for Irish amateur MMA?
Jack: My dad (Danny Corr) has four competitions booked starting in January from high level amateur all the way to novice level in the style of the Arnold Classic. More competitions like that will be good because we can have them more frequently. Shows aren’t that regular, and we want to make the competition more frequent. Fighters should care more about the experience, not their record.
Not only has Corr Snr already achieved incredible things within the world of amateur MMA, but he was also awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) in 2021. His work continues to marvel and will always be of inspiration to the masses.