Veteran MMA fighter Connelly still on the Rise

Tristan (Boondock) Connelly got his nickname because he loved the movie Boondock Saints and used its theme song, Blood of Cu Chulainn, as his walk-up music for his first pro mixed martial arts pro bout.

The nickname, and walk-up song, stuck.

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It will be blaring loud and proud tonight in all its Irish glory at The Q Centre in Colwood when the local favourite goes for the inaugural Rise Fighting Championship lightweight crown against D’Juan Owens of North Carolina (16-12-1 as a pro).

“It’s a hometown title fight for me and it’s going to be awesome,” said Connelly.

The Rise FC4 card features eight bouts, of which the Connelly-Owens title fight will be the marquee draw.

“I am close to signing, but am the No. 1 guy in Canada not in the UFC, and I’m hoping to stick some wins together to get noticed for the bigger shows,” said Connelly.

Stringing wins in succession is just what Connelly has been doing and he hopes to make it four consecutive victories tonight.

“I started off 5-5 as a pro and am now 12-6,” he noted, about the trajectory.

With a jujitsu background, Connelly said: “I am more of a grappler, but am also still a very good striker.”

The Oak Bay High graduate didn’t come to the sport until late. He was a hockey player and avid skateboarder before discovering MMA at age 19. He became hooked from the moment he walked into the cage.

“I am all in,” said Connelly.

“I do this because I love it and want to, not because I have to.”

So much so that he now owns his own training gym in Richmond, named Checkmat, where he also coaches and instructs young fighters.

It wasn’t so long ago he was one himself. He’s still going strong at 33, and still in the quest for that next level in the pro game.

“Tristan is highly durable and has a super strong work ethic. He is one of the hardest-working fighters I’ve seen,” said Jason Heit of Island MMA, one of Connelly’s former coaches.

That’s not an assessment with which Connelly disagrees.

“I feel consistency and durability are my greatest attributes,” he said.

In the co-main event tonight, in what is the first pro MMA fight in Greater Victoria in seven years, TUF 16 veteran Michael (The Mercenary) Hill will also look to defend home cage in attempting to capture Rise FC’s first welterweight belt.

Another hometown fighter, returning after a three-year hiatus, is undefeated pro David Puhky of Victoria.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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