Former BAMMA champion Shay Walsh will finally make his Bellator MMA debut after his previous opponent, Luis Tosta, had withdrawn from Bellator 169 during fight week last December.

Walsh, features on the main card of Bellator 173 against Northern Ireland’s James McErlean on February 24, 2017 in the SSE Arena, Belfast. 

Shay Walsh on bouncing back from financial losses and possible retirement

As a result of Tosta pulling out at such short notice, Walsh suffered financially when sponsorship deals and further earnings were lost, days before the scheduled fight. Shay was understandably frustrated and heartbroken that he’d left his young family behind in England during his fight camp in Thailand, making him seriously consider his future during the Christmas holidays.

However, over the festive period, Walsh’s future was clarified after Bellator reassured him of his agreed contract (of three fights but only needing to fight two following Bellator 169) and that he would be matched-up as swiftly as possible. Two months later and Walsh is ready and focused on crossing the Irish sea for the big stage.

BAMMA 25: Shay Walsh weigh-ins. Copyright BAMMA.

SWOT analysis on fight camp and opponent

With his focus now restored and having done his research on his next opponent, something that had impressed Walsh most about McErlean was his durability in recent fights including, the submission win over Sam Spencer at Tanko FC 2.

“He’s a tough cookie. He’s never been stopped. I’ve seen on the video he’s weathered a couple of storms and come back and got the wins so that’s impressive, yeah.”

Over the last two years, Walsh has been training out of Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, Thailand. However, since the Bellator 169 fight fell through, Walsh adapted his training regime so that he wouldn’t need to leave his young family for a prolonged period, to prepare and has been training in the UK in recent months instead.

One of the main reasons in the past for setting up camps at TMT and living in Phuket was to benefit from both the lifestyle and higher standard of training an sparring each week. Compared to the struggles of the usual routine of balancing work, life and training to a high level all the time. However, Walsh has implemented a plan that seems to have all bases covered for himself in the UK.

“Few times a week I’ve been travelling down to Atherton Submission Wrestling training with the guys down there, Darren Morris has been very welcoming to me. Been training a lot with Mike Wilkinson, obviously former UFC and co-main event now on ACB coming up at Manchester so, it’s just been perfect times for us both. We work well together and we’re both fighting at a similar time. So, I’ve been down there a few times a week and been getting my work in with those guys.”

Mind over matter and using visualisation techniques

Having had some degree of turbulence during the holiday period and other issues in the past like losing his BAMMA title to new UFC signee, Tom Duquesnoy – how does the former BAMMA champion remain focused and mentally resilient in overcoming hurdles that come his way, especially when fighting?

“I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform not really so much thinking what’s gonna happen after this fight. I’ve got a tough task ahead of me. Like I said, I always put pressure on myself, not so much it being a big show because its a fight and I want to win no matter where it’s at.

“I’ve entered fights with many different emotions before and it’s all been about working out what’s best for me, you know; and as we spoke earlier, in the year it felt like I was too emotional going into that Tom [DuQuesnoy] fight and I had to go back and sort of reassess my thinking and my mind and my visitations and that sort of stuff. I do a lot of visualisation and just trying to play the fight through, good and bad, and just focus on myself and get the training in. Try not to overthink at the same time as well that’s the something you know, can play up on your mind too much.”

Click here to watch, listen or to download the full podcast with Shay Walsh ahead of his clash with, James McErlean.

Read more about the joint, Bellator 173 and BAMMA 28 preview and fight card on February 24, 2017 in Belfast headlined by, Liam McGeary vs. Chris Fields.