Sam “The Hurricane” Halliday is a name that has echoed through the UK MMA scene for many years, but in the past 12 months, the name has spread beyond regional shows, becoming commonplace at the upper echelons of MMA.
Sam’s amateur career started back in the days of ‘semi-pro’ rules, with 4oz gloves, but he is now a veteran of 12 professional MMA fights. He’s stayed quiet for most of his career but 2017 has seen him come out of his shell and catapulted into the spotlight of the professional flyweight scene.
A shaky start to the year saw Sam lose to the much bigger Panicos Yusuf by way of TKO in March. A surprise to both his fans and himself was that he was next matched against a highly-promoted fighter in top prospect – Michael D’Aguiar at BAMMA 29.
“I was happy to get the call for BAMMA, I felt as if all the hard work was finally paying off. I’d just started working at my sponsor’s Coleman’s Steakhouse in Bawtry when I got the call. John and Sarah, the owners decided to take a chance on me and helped send me over to California for 2 weeks to train at Team Alpha Male for the fight camp.”
Winning via triangle choke in under 2 minutes of the first round, Sam shocked many of D’Aguire’s hardcore fans. He credits this win to his training at Alpha Male; “The training over there was amazing and I think that’s where this new-found confidence has come from. The BAMMA fight camp was probably my best so far.”
The next call for Sam was from ACB who’s state-side show was moved to Sheffield due to unforeseen circumstances. This time the opponent was Aaron Aby, a top UK flyweight who was coming off a split decision victory against Connor Hignett at ACB 54. A risky decision, but a fight Sam was willing to take even at such short notice.
“We didn’t find out about the fight till about 3-4 weeks before the show so I didn’t have as much preparation going into it. I went over to Tenerife and did a week and a half training at Bulldog Gym and as soon as I was back in Doncaster I began cutting the weight.”
Within seconds of the bell ringing, Sam showed superior stand up skill, rushing Aby and putting the pressure on him, forcing him against the cage. Instead of diving on him, Sam took a couple of steps back and the fight carried on. Aby was then able to take control and get past the strikes to take Sam down.
“I felt comfortable in there with Aaron as I knew I’d be more relaxed in the stand up than he would be and I think I showed that by landing some pretty good shots. When we got to the floor it didn’t go my way in the last transition, when he got into the arm triangle I thought I’d moved the correct way but it didn’t feel right, so I essentially ended up putting myself in a bad position and that was that really.”
Sam isn’t one to dwell on a loss so he set his sights on the next fight – a headline bout at Almighty Fighting Championships 6 in Leeds against fellow Yorkshireman Danny Missin. When asked about Danny as an opponent Sam smiled and said; “I have full confidence that he’ll be there to stand and bang which I’ve been wanting to do in the cage for a while. Looking at my wins you’d expect me to be a BJJ guy but standing up is where I can have some fun, hopefully, me and Danny can put on an all-out war to get the fans cheering.”
Almighty Fighting Championship had previously arranged this fight for their first show back in April 2016 as part of a 4-man flyweight tournament. Danny and Sam Creasy both missed weight the day before the show and Halliday, already the underdog in the tournament was set to face Cage Warriors veteran and highly ranked European fighter Paul Marin. This was a turning point for Sam as he went in and took the fight to Marin. Albeit a loss, this fight put The Hurricane on the map in UK MMA.
“The fight with Paul has changed me a lot, from that fight most of my fights have been against top league opponents, but in my mind, I’ve already fought one the best flyweights in Europe and I did better than anyone could’ve expected.”
The fight started as fast any other Hurricane performance, putting Marin on the back foot and landing some fast and hard shots on the Spaniard. After a few too many for the liking of Marin, he shot for the takedown and Sam managed to reverse him for a few seconds. A bit more action on the feet led to a slip with Sam on his back but Marin found himself trapped in a triangle choke. Marin’s brute strength was shown that night as he lifted Sam and power bombed him to the canvas… twice. This was the beginning of the end for the fight, but the respect Halliday earned from taking this fight was evident among the spectator that night.
Sam’s longtime coach and father, Andy Halliday, agreed that the Marin fight is where Sam gained the respect from other fighters and spectators of UK MMA.
“I like all my fighters to test themselves against the best out there and Sam’s done that since he was an amateur. He may have the loss on the record from that fight but he won a lot of fans that night and since then has been a great fighter with a new mindset and a greater outlook on the game.”
Despite having the intimidating nickname of The Hurricane inside the cage, Sam is known for his gentle personality that not many people would associate with that of a professional fighter. Since last year Sam has become a lot more vocal and confident on his social media channels in the build ups to his fights, something which a couple of years ago he said he wouldn’t do, as he just wanted to fight.
“In the past year I’ve changed a lot as a person, I got engaged at Christmas and have two awesome kids which have helped me to grow up. I have my fiancé and my family to thank for helping me become the person I am now because I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without them.”
His personal life is in a good place but his goals in MMA are far from achieved, an up and down record of a win, loss, win, a loss means Sam hasn’t been able to put a streak together and get the momentum he needs to catapult him into the top tiers of MMA. He hopes a win against Missin will be the start of a rise to the top of what is now one of the most stacked divisions in the UK.
Almighty Fighting Championship 6 is set to take place at Leeds O2 Academy on September 9th, 2017.
Written by Connor Halliday