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EXCLUSIVE: During his appearance on a Floyd Mayweather undercard, Cage Legacy promoter, Declan Kenna, realised exactly what it takes to put together a major combat sports event

When Declan Kenna boxed on a Floyd Mayweather undercard, he took it as a learning opportunity, soaking up everything the legendary fighter does to put on events that dazzle fans across the globe.

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On May 17, the Irishman will bring Cage Legacy 22 to The Dome at Grand Central Hall, Liverpool, for his company’s first-ever English MMA show. And like Mayweather, he understands that delivering a high-quality production is just as crucial as making competitive fights.

Floyd mayweather hi-res stock photography and images - Alamy

Blessed with palpable charisma, the man who has previously turned up to KingPyn press conferences in beyond quirky suits, is going all out for his major event, pumping money into a light show and a DJ, who’s set to rock the crowd from the opening bout to the main event.

However, while Kenna is slowly solidifying his place among the most promising promoters in Europe, he wouldn’t have the level of understanding he does today had he not had the chance to fight at the O2 Arena on the same night Mayweather walked out to battle Aaron Chalmers.

With a fire burning in his belly, Kenna was desperate to compete on the same bill as his hero. Alas, with the card full, his chances looked slim. But in a testament to his unrelenting powers of self-belief, he kept grinding away, and eventually got his shot, against one of the most dangerous prospects in the sport.

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In an exclusive interview with Daily Star Sport, he reminisced: “I had a feeling you were going to ask me about that straight away. Throughout my whole life, I’ve been involved with martial arts. I got into boxing, and I had a couple of fights and built a bit of a reputation. Then, I was hounding the promoters to get on the Mayweather card. As soon as I saw it get announced, I was like, ‘I wanna be on that’. Carl Prince was like, ‘Stop, you won’t be on it. The card is full. Stop, stop, stop’. But I was ever so persistent and eventually, I got the phone call a week before the show saying, ‘There’s a guy out, do you want to jump in’?

“Straight away, I asked, ‘Who is it against’? They told me it was J’Hon Ingram. I didn’t know anything about him, so I looked him up on YouTube straight away, and there he was, knocking out Rolly Romero. I was like, ‘Do you know what? I’m never going to get an opportunity like this again’, so I thought, ‘I’m gonna go for it’. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I didn’t get the win, but he’s renowned for highlight-reel finishes, and he couldn’t knock me out. I went the distance, and it’s a night I’ll never forget.”

Kenna isn’t often a man who gets starstruck, but in the presence of the richest athlete of all time, he struggled to contain himself.

Floyd Mayweather fight time tonight: What time is Floyd Mayweather vs Aaron  Chalmers on? | Boxing | Sport | Express.co.uk

He explained: “He doesn’t really talk much. Floyd was in J’Hon Ingram’s changing room, and I was with Aaron Chalmers. We didn’t go out with them after; they just did their own thing, but we got to see them and say, ‘Hello’. He said, ‘Thanks for being part of the event’. I’m never one to put anybody on a pedestal, but it was Mayweather. Even being in the same room with him is amazing. He has a whole entourage with him. It was crazy.”

While appearing on the card was undoubtedly a tick off the bucket list, the fight served as not just a once-in-a-lifetime experience but an opportunity to clock onto exactly why Mayweather’s business is so successful and what elements of the promotion Kenna can apply to his beloved Cage Legacy.

The Dubliner asserted: “That’s exactly what happened since day one. I had my own MMA gym. My brother and I were training and going to local events at community halls with no lights or production. So, we thought, ‘We could do this’. And that’s how Cage Legacy came about. Every time I’ve been at a big event, I’ve learned stuff, from having extra media backstage, the set-up for the event, the promotion, to the way they run social media. So, being on the Mayweather card helped me an awful lot.”

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With Irish blood coursing through his veins, Kenna couldn’t resist bringing Cage Legacy to an English city that has such a long affinity with the place he calls home.

And to ensure the fans get a night that lives long in the memory, the businessman has gone all out to deliver a monster card, with a main event featuring former Cage Warriors champion and Liverpudlian hero — Lee Chadwick.

Kenna exclaimed: “Lee is taking on Maicon Kobayashi. He’s a Brazilian fighter, who’s coming for the win. He told me from day one, ‘I’m not coming here to make up the numbers. I’m coming here to finish Lee’. And Lee is just as confident; he wants to put on a show in the main event. He’s so excited for a homecoming fight after so many contests outside of his city. I think it’s a massive fight. I can’t wait for it. You’ve got a Brazilian striker vs a great grappler. It should be amazing.”