Non-Aussies will tell you that the worst thing about fighting down under is getting there.
Not North Inner City Dublin’s Kiefer Crosbie.
“I'll be honest, I got flown over in business class, so I can't really complain,” laughed Crosbie, who makes his UFC debut this weekend against Kevin Jousset. “I had a great trip over. Conor paid and booked us to go in business class, so I had a pod with a bed, and it was actually really enjoyable coming over, if I'm honest.”
Conor, of course, is Crosbie’s longtime friend and teammate, Conor McGregor. It’s a generous, but not surprising, gesture, considering all the two have been through over the years, and as the 33-year-old prepares to walk to the Octagon for the first time, McGregor, and seemingly the entire Irish fight community, is in his corner. That support is not lost on the welterweight newcomer, who has more than paid his dues on his way to this moment.
“I'm from a place called the North Inner City of Dublin, which is a rough area,” Crosbie explains. “It's a rundown area, and there's a lot of badness there, but there's a lot of good people in the area. And still, to this day, it's where I'm from. It's where I was born and reared, and where I come from, you either end up like a drug dealer or a drug user or you end up just working a s**tty job and getting by.”
That wasn’t going to be Crosbie’s path, and let’s face it, with a name like Kiefer Crosbie, he was destined to be a sports star, in a boy band or on the silver screen. And his mum knew it from the day before he was born.
“My mother, the night before I was born, my name was going to be Paul and she watched a movie called Young Guns with Kiefer Sutherland. She was in the hospital ward, and it was on the TV, and she loved the movie and loved the actor, and she was like, ‘What's his name?’ And at the end of the movie, the credits were coming up and she said ‘Kiefer, wow.’ And then under Kiefer, it said Emilio Estevez. And she's like, ‘Emilio, that's also a nice name.’”
Crosbie laughs, knowing that he would have had some interesting interactions growing up in Dublin as Emilio Crosbie. But Kiefer it was, and now he’s in a position to live up to those expectations of stardom that were planted before he even left the hospital.
That’s not to say it was easy. In fact, when McGregor told the world in July of 2014 that the Irish were here to take over, Crosbie was mired in an amateur losing streak while his teammates began to take over the world. He was never discouraged, though, confident that his talent, work ethic and determination would sort things out.
“I was training with the lads for them fights,” Crosbie recalls. “We went away for a camp in Iceland. Me, Conor, Paddy (Holohan), Cathal Pendred, James Gallagher, there was a few of us that went over, and we knuckled down for about six, eight weeks over there. And I was only an amateur at the time, but I was aspiring to be a professional and aspiring to be in the UFC. And me and Conor would have deep talks about sticking to your goals, working hard, keep doing what you're doing, keep showing up, and just keep improving. And eventually it'll be inevitable if you show up.”
Crosbie kept showing up. He turned pro in 2016, ran off four finishes, and when the UFC didn’t make a phone call, he had some tough decisions to make.
“Back then, I was broke as f**k,” he said. “I had no money. And my daughter was getting a bit older and stuff, and when I turned professional, I got to 4-0 and I got that shot in Bellator, and it was more of desperation that I took that contract because I was so poor. I had no money, and I couldn't feed the family. I couldn't pay the bills. And I was like, s**t, man, I don’t know what to do here. I was in limbo. I'm on the social welfare, I'm getting 144 Euros a week. I'm trying to train, I'm trying to feed the family. It was close to impossible and my mother is giving me money for petrol to get to the gym. I literally had no money coming in. And when that came, out of desperation, I jumped on it and I was like, you know what? I've got to take the money here. The dream is always the UFC, but the goal is to take care of my family. My family always comes first. That's the way I look at it as a man, I have to take care of my kids. And the way I took it back then, I was like, I have to put my dream on the sidelines for a minute here and feed the family. So that's kind of where the route was a little bit different for me. And the path was a little bit longer.”
Nearly five years longer. Crosbie fought for Bellator from 2018 to 2021. But after a win in the CFC Malta promotion in July of last year, he got the big fight he dreamed of – a clash in the Rise Fighting Championship against former UFC standout Alex Oliveira. And in that April bout, it took him less than five minutes to stop “Cowboy.” Kiefer Crosbie had made a statement.
“When I seen the match there, I was like, man, this is a fight I need. I need to beat someone like this to get my name on this map to solidify my chance to get to the UFC,” he said. “And I knew it was going to be a hard fight, and I knew it was a tough test, but I knew I could beat him. So again, it's always good me saying, oh, I can beat these people, but you have to do it. You have to get these opportunities. And when I got it and the fight went the way it went, I showed my true colors, I showed I’m a warrior, and I went in there and I put him away in one round. I stood toe-to-toe with a guy that many people wouldn't stand toe-to-toe with. And I beat him and I knocked him out in one round. So yeah, I thought Monday morning Dana was going to be ringing me personally saying, Hey, welcome to the UFC. But it didn't really work like that.”
It would have been the Hollywood ending, but let’s just say that was the end of Chapter One, with the sequel coming on Saturday night, starring Kiefer Crosbie in his first UFC fight. That’s fine with him.
“I just need to get into that Octagon, represent me and who I am, everyone from the inner city of Dublin, from Ireland, and just get my hand raised and prove to myself and everybody that you can do this if you put your mind to it. This is my Mount Everest, in a way. And if I get to that peak, get in there, get that hand raised and do a great job, I'll inspire so many people that were like me back in the day, just a little nobody, a waster, a guy that was ruled out by many. And it's just such a big accomplishment for me. It's deeper than just a win. It's so much deeper than that. And it's going to mean everything to me. So I'm going to leave everything in there and I'm going to do my best, and do everything I can to win.”
For himself. For his family. For his team. For North Inner City Dublin.
“I’m still a man of the people,” Crosbie said. “I’m not too big for my boots, and I don't look down on others. I'm still the same person that's from the flats in Dublin. And I carry that with pride. So I think I'm very relatable in that way, and that's why people get behind me and support me. And Irish people are very good at supporting their own. We get behind each other, and I think people just love to see that. I felt that since I turned professional back in the day and people were really rooting for me to do well and for staying true to who I was. And now here I am at my UFC debut and I'm still the same old Kiefer. I haven't changed much. The only thing that has changed is my skillsets and my mindset, but I'm still the same person. I think people love that and they relate to that. And that's why I have so much support that I'm so grateful for.”
UFC 293: Adesanya vs Strickland took place live from Qudos Arena in Sydney, Australia on September 9, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!