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Ex-loyalist drugs trafficker George Courtney quits MMA after just four fights

The Ballymena-based criminal only took up the sport professionally in 2019

George Courtney

Steven MooreSunday World

Ex-loyalist drug trafficker George Courtney ‘hash’ given up the fight and quit the brutal world of Pro-MMA after just four bouts.

The 41-year-old convicted dope dealer had his farewell fight last week in the Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena, we can reveal.

Courtney – who we revealed tied the knot earlier this year with his ‘gangster’s daughter’s’ bride – won his final pro-fight leaving him with a record of two wins, two losses and no draws.

He’d been involved in boxing and then MMA for years at an amateur level.

The Ballymena-based criminal only took up the sport professionally in 2019 but the pandemic blighted any hope of breaking into the sport properly.

Courtney famously had more success with another ring when he publicly proposed to his fiancé at the side of a hot-tub in a luxury spa.

Sources close to Courtney say he’s decided to hang up the MMA gloves because of his age and the fact he’s just been married.

“He was a decent fighter but he came to the pro-side of the sport too late,” said a source involved in MMA in Ballymena.

“When he had his first big fight in Dublin he had hoped to make a few extra quid out of the sport but Covid put the brakes on his career.

“Now he’s married and maybe thinking of adding to his family he’s decided MMA is not for him anymore. MMA is not a sport for anyone who isn’t able to dedicate everything to it and George has got used to the good life.”

His wife Ashleigh – daughter of ex-UDA gunman and loan shark Mel Matthews – also appears to be planning to take things easier after she put all her riding gear up for sale.

The nail technician, who said ‘I Do’ to George at Gracehill Moravian Church in June, recently put up for sale her riding boots, helmet and jodhpurs, which she says she only wore once or twice, for just £60.

George Courtney

Last week, George bowed out of the gruelling martial art sport after beating England’s Vinnie Baldwin at the Tullyglass Hotel.

According to a local report Courtney was the main event but “had to contend with Baldwin coming out fast and strong in the hope of getting his opponent on the back foot. But experienced campaigner Courtney weathered the storm and put Baldwin to ground.

“He then controlled the positions before getting a solid low mount position and trapping one of Baldwin’s arms leaving him unable to defend himself from a barrage of body and head punches.

“Such was the onslaught that the Referee was forced to step in and stop the fight 1 minute and 36 seconds into the opening round.”

Courtney and his then fiancé, nail salon boss Ashleigh Holly-Matthews, turned their social media profiles to private after she posted pictures of his hot-tub wedding proposal and we ‘splashed’ them across this paper two years ago.

Courtney organised and paid for the elaborate engagement party at the luxury Galgorm Resort and Spa in August 2020.

His wife is the daughter of notorious loyalist loan shark thug Mel Matthews, who was also in the pictures posted on social media at the time.

Former UDA man Matthews was jailed for 10 years in 1977 for shooting a UDR man during a botched gun robbery in east Belfast.

Four years ago we revealed how MMA fighter Courtney had become a ‘shy’ loyalist after he went to the tattoo fixers to get a Red Hand Commando crest on his chest covered up as he was due to fight in Dublin.

His father-in-law Mel happened to be a leading figure in the Red Hand Commando.

Loyalist dope dealer Courtney and pals jet away on seven-star Dubai luxury holiday

Courtney’s fight motto was tellingly: “Every saint has a past every sinner has a future”.

The baby-faced drug smuggler used to be very close to West Belfast UDA and ran drugs for them for years.

He even ran a legal taxi firm with a senior UDA leader’s wife before he fell out with the UDA chief but he was making so much money selling drugs that he built up a property empire – buying houses in England.

But just like his future father-in-law he was hit with a confiscation order and lost two properties he’d bought in Liverpool.

In 2014 at Antrim Crown Court Courtney admitted possessing criminal property, converting criminal property and making multiple false mortgage applications.

Earlier this year we revealed how George Courtney and his new bride left the scene of their church wedding in a classic white Ford Mustang – the bride proudly holding aloft her wedding bouquet in the wind of the convertible.

But we also revealed there were some pre-marital jitters after cops raided Courtney’s home just a few nights before the big day.

Courtney continues to flash his cash despite working as a so-called builder. Earlier this year we revealed how Courtney was effectively doing snagging jobs on building sites – basically patching up other’s minor faults.

Earlier this year we revealed how Courtney had jetted out for a luxury holiday to a ‘seven star’ resort hotel in Dubai with just a select few mates in what is believed to have been his ‘away day’ stag do.

Courtney got six years in prison in 2011 after he and an associate were caught with £500,000 of cannabis.

He faced up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine for illegally importing the Class B drugs when he appeared at Newry Crown Court to face a string of drugs charges.

He got nine months concurrent to the six years for possessing the drugs with intent to supply.


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