By Jake Smith
2016 IMMAF World Champion, Leah ‘The Curse’ McCourt will look to take one step closer to a shot at the Bellator Featherweight World Title when she faces Janay ‘Hollowpoint’ Harding at Bellator 259 on Friday May 21st.
This isn’t the first time ‘The Curse’ and ‘Hollowpoint’ have been scheduled to meet. The two were originally meant to face off at Bellator London on May 25th 2020 however, the card was pulled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since signing with Bellator, McCourt’s stock has risen bout after bout, victory after victory. She is currently on a three fight promotional win streak and ranked #7 in the Women’s Featherweight Division. After clinching 2015 European Open Gold and solidifying her IMMAF legacy with a 2016 World gold a year later, McCourt joined the professional ranks. Following two bouts on Cage Warriors, McCourt was one of a host of European talent picked up by global promotion Bellator.
‘The Curse’ made a big statement in her promotional debut, utterly dominating Hatice Özyurt in the first round for the doctor waved the bout off prior to the second due to the damage Özyurt had received. Second time out, and once again in front of a packed out 3Arena, McCourt dispatched Kerry Hughes in emphatic style with a first round rear-naked choke.
Now a firm fan favorite amongst the ever faithful Dublin crowd, McCourt stepped up on under two weeks notice to take the highly converted main event slot of Bellator 240, where she convincingly defeated Judith Ruis over three rounds.
In the wake of the biggest night of her MMA career, the pandemic struck and McCourt opted to use the time wisely and have a much needed shoulder operation. The operation led to McCourt spending several months on the sidelines. During September 2020, Bellator hosted four events in Europe. With not being able to compete as she was still recovering from her operation, McCourt swapped the gloves for the microphone and co-presented all four events alongside Andy Shepherd and Gareth A. Davies, earning plenty of plaudits along the way.
The Harding bout will be the first time McCourt has competed on US soil since the 2016 World Championships. When asked, knowing what she knows now, what advice she would give IMMAF champion McCourt, she said: “I would tell her to believe in herself and keep persevering no matter what comes her way; and that’s just my mentality for everything now. I feel like no matter what comes up I am going to overcome it.
Reflecting on her last five years in the professional game, McCourt credits her faith and gritty determination in helping her become a perennial contender at 145lbs.
“I still kind of pinch myself at the opportunities I’ve been given and how fast my career has took off. I lost my professional debut, come back, and went on a bit of a run. I always say, if you’re going through hell keep going and no matter what comes up you can achieve what you want to.
“I definitely look back and I can see God’s hand in my life in every situation. He opens doors that no man can shut and I have really trusted in him, in my journey, in my path and where my career is going.”
McCourt’s bout will be broadcast live on the BBC’s iPlayer service at 10:30pm BST, Friday night, another remarkable milestone for MMA in the U.K.