By Alastair Magee
The streets of inner-city Dublin can be a challenging and dangerous place to grow up but an increasing number of high level athletes are emerging from the area.
Ryan ‘Chaos’ Curtis is a young Irish MMA prospect who hails from inner-city Dublin, and speaks with great pride and admiration for his home place when so many others look to out-weigh the positives in search of negatives.
The media have reflected a bad light on the region in recent years but speaking to Curtis, you get a sense of the underlying close-knit community and trust its residents have for one another.
“It just gets a bad rap because of what people are saying in the papers. These are people looking in from the outside who don’t know anything about the area or its people,” said Curtis.
The 23 year old remembers the generosity and kindness of his neighbours growing up. “The thing about it is that everyone tries to help each other out, it doesn’t matter who you are,” he said.
With so much animosity targeting the inner-city, it can be easy to forget how the other side are living but Curtis feels that more focus should be going to them.
“It just doesn’t seem right that a well-off area will get credited because bad things happen there too. Essentially you have people robbing each other in those areas without masks. Let’s be real here, most of the bankers come from that area. They’re the ones who have the country on its knees,” he said.
As a kid Ryan had an interest in football but soon found himself inside St. Saviours boxing club which is ran by his two uncles.
“A lot of hugely respected athletes come out of that club, for example, Darren Sutherland. I was never hooked on boxing but when I saw MMA I thought ‘that’s cool’, I’d love to do it,” he said.
His fighting instinct was ingrained from a young age and the inner city played a crucial role in developing his tough exterior and ‘never say die’ attitude.
“When you grow up on the streets around here you sort your problems out amongst yourselves. That was our way of dealing with things so it wasn’t like I was afraid to fight. I just never got into boxing but once I saw MMA I thought it was cool so I just started doing it.”
As part of an exciting young team at SBG Charlestown, Curtis owes a lot of his success to Coach Owen Roddy, one of the men responsible for raising the standard of MMA in Ireland.
“Owen’s had a big impact on my career. He comes from Ballymun, which also gets a bad rap but the people are absolute diamonds out there. He’s had a similar experience so I could always relate to him.
“We have the same kind of banter and from day one we clicked. I’d regard him as a half mate/half coach. I respect him like a coach but then I can talk to him as a friend also. I get the best of both worlds with him,” said Curtis.
In October 2016, Curtis (4-0) made his long awaited debut as a professional on Irish soil when he fought Shamsul Haque (7-9) in a flyweight bout at BAMMA 26 in front of a sold out 3 Arena.
Although he had not fought in Ireland since 2014, ‘Chaos’ received one of the largest receptions on the night and he credits his loyal supporters for this.
“I feel very proud. Everyone from the inner-city supports me. There’s other fighters from different areas of Dublin and they don’t get the support which I do. I’m privileged to be from here!
“It was a crazy experience. I remember everyone screaming ‘Chaos, Chaos, Chaos!’ when I was backstage and I had the Ireland flag wrapped around me. I just kept telling myself to relax,” said Curtis.
He continued, “A lot of people might get caught up in the moment with support like that but I knew that I needed to keep a calm head. It didn’t hit me really because I was in the moment but then after the fight I remember standing in the middle of the cage looking around and everyone was cheering for me.”
As his popularity increases, he’s finding it more and more difficult to walk down the street without being recognised. The idea of being a role model is something which hasn’t quite sunk in for him yet.
“I stopped at the traffic lights the other day and two kids came running over to me with a marker asking me to sign their arm. When you see things like that it’s a bit crazy. Even walking down the street I’m getting stopped for pictures and having people come up to me wishing me well.
“I don’t see myself as a role model but I suppose when you get to a certain stage you just become one. I try to carry myself well and stuff like that for the kids and other people who look up to me,” he said.
Ryan Curtis is a shining example of the good things emerging from Dublin’s inner city. He has a refreshing outlook on the area and will continue to reflect positivity as he rises to the top of MMA.