Northern Ireland's Leah McCourt returns to action at Bellator 259 on Friday night, armed with her MMA skills and another crucial weapon – her analy
Northern Ireland’s Leah McCourt returns to action at Bellator 259 on Friday night, armed with her MMA skills and another crucial weapon – her analytical MMA mind.
McCourt takes on Australia’s Janay Harding on the preliminary card at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut in a bout between two of the most promising up-and-coming featherweight prospects.
The 28-year-old hasn’t been in the cage since her main event victory over Judith Ruis at Bellator 240 in Dublin in February 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with her recovery from shoulder surgery, meant that the fighter known as “The Curse” was forced out of action for more than a year.
But now she’s back and ready to make her mark once again as he looks to move her way up Bellator’s women’s featherweight ladder.
Dana White blocked bout with Oscar De La Hoya, says UFC legend Georges St-Pierre
McCourt joined Bellator’s European broadcast team as an analyst, where she shared her technical insights and opinions on the bouts held during events in Milan and Paris last year.
And McCourt said that she’s grateful for the opportunity to learn a new skill in front of the camera, while also sharpening her analytical skills in the process.
“It was good to still be involved,” she explained.
“I’m a bit of an MMA nerd. I constantly watch fights, study fighters and knew I would be able to do it because of my knowledge.
“It was definitely nice to sit back and watch and analyse and look at different opponents and see what they bring to the table.
“I did definitely learn the last 15 months. It’s not in the gym smashing my body that’s going to help me get better. And it’s nice to kind of take a step back and get that experience.”
Now McCourt is fit to return and will take on Australia’s Harding in a bout that could catapult the winner toward the division’s big names.
And, after the high-octane build-up to her previous fight in Dublin, McCourt said she’s embracing the COVID-safe locked-down fight bubble environment she’s operating in at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
“It’s been so nice, so chilled compared to the crazy fight week of Bellator in Dublin last year,” she admitted.
“I keep saying it, it’s been good to relax and this is the calmest I’ve ever felt.
“I’m so focused, and it’s been nice to just being able to breathe and (be) calm instead of constantly doing things fight week and not being able to just relax.
“So it’s been a really nice environment out here. Bellator have looked after us so well, and I’m just full of gratitude to be in this position and to have the opportunity to fight on Friday night.
“I know too many amateurs back home are getting fights cancelled, so many pros are getting fights cancelled. I just want to enjoy this process, and I have so far.”
And if McCourt is in need of any additional motivation or inspiration ahead of fight night, she need look no further than her daughter Isabella, who left her a surprise good luck card in her suitcase to wish her mum well ahead of her first professional fight on American soil.
“She breaks my heart, and when anybody asks me about her I start crying!” McCourt laughed.
“But she’s my biggest motivation, obviously.
“We’ve grown up together. I had her so young, we’re such a team.
“I’m out here trying to make her proud and provide her with a better life, and that’s why I’m here.”
Bellator 259 takes place Friday night, live on BBC iPlayer.