Ireland’s Jonathan Dargan, 49, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail roughly four years after the death of 56-year-old Patrick Mullally, whom Dargan was charged with killing with a lone punch in a chance encounter.
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According to Irish media reports, which also cited trial evidence, Mullally and associate Shane Cunningham were out late to celebrate Mullally’s recent retirement from Guinness. The two passed by a drunken Dargan and his girlfriend, who were reportedly in the midst of an argument.
Mullally and Cunningham aimed to intervene, which the trial’s presiding judge labeled “the honourable thing.” A witness cited at trial, a passing cyclist, told jurors that when he had stopped by the couple, Dargan had told him to “(expletive) off and mind his own business” and that “he’d kill him or stamp on his head on the ground.”
Vincent Henegan, a lawyer defending Dargan, purportedly told the court that Dargan “was not a person who drank regularly but on the night he was very intoxicated, having consumed cocktails and double vodka drinks. Counsel said alcohol was not an excuse or a defence but it was a factor in the events.”
After Mullally and Cunningham approached, Dargan threw a series of what were described as “fairly powerful” punches, heard the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Mullally was said to have raised his arms to defend himself, but at least one punch found its mark, reportedly fracturing his jaw and cheekbone and dropping him to the ground, where he hit his head once more.
The aforementioned cyclist told jurors that Dargan screamed “bang, bang” as he hurled punches at the men.
Mullally suffered from brain trauma and had a subdural hemorrhage from the strike. He died the next day.
In the days after the incident, Dargan was quoted by The Independent as saying, “I’m so sorry. It was an accident. I’m devastated and heartbroken for that man and his family. All I can say is I’m crushed… If I could take back everything that happened that night I would, but all I can do is beg his family for their forgiveness. It was a genuine mistake.”
Dargan, who was employed as a doorman at the Lillie’s Bordello nightclub, would go on to claim that he acted in self-defense, with the Irish Times reporting that he claimed to have “felt in fear” of Mullally and Cunningham.
The Times cited Judge Pauline Codd as believing that Dargan was “a man who was in control of the situation and not somebody in fear. She said the jury had rejected Dargan’s defence and that CCTV evidence also showed this not to be the case.”
One aspect that led to Codd’s conclusion was Dargan’s status as a professional mixed martial artist and an established Taekwondo instructor.
A 1-3 professional fighter, Dargan began competing in mixed martial arts late in life after turning 40. He captured a heavyweight title in Dublin’s seemingly defunct Battle ZONE FC promotion in 2013, which he lost by first-round submission in his subsequent outing.
Despite his losing record, Dargan rose to prominence as a coach at Straight Blast Gym (SBG) Ireland. There, Dargan was instrumental in the striking program taught to SBG’s top fighters, including bare-knuckle boxing star and UFC veteran Artem Lobov, Bellator veterans Peter Queally, Richard Kiely, and Will Fleury, UFC veteran-turned-politician Paddy Holohan, and former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor.
SBG Ireland’s head coach, John Kavanagh, spoke highly of Dargan in a profile of the then-41-year-old for VICE’s Fightland, which painted Dargan as the architect of McGregor’s high-flying offensive arsenal.
“It’s great having Johnny around… He’s a hero to all the guys. He won’t mind me saying that he’s on the slightly wrong side of 40 but he still gets in and does all the sessions with the guys. He can push anyone in the gym and he is still the fastest man that I’ve ever seen,” Kavanagh said.
Also in that article – which is now available on the UFC.com domain – Kavanagh added, “I have never seen anyone that can move as fast as Johnny Dargan. He’s got some freak genetics. I’d love for a scientist to measure his output, because it’s absolutely bizarre what that man can do.”
Judge Codd stated that she believed Dargan’s intimate knowledge of mixed martial arts and his experience as a fighter meant that he would have known his strength and the potency of his punches. Likewise, she said that to throw those punches against a “defenceless and intoxicated man” was an “aggravating factor.”
In the wake of Dargan’s March 2016 alleged assault on Mullally that resulted in the latter’s death, one might assume that SBG and its affiliated fighters would have cut ties with Dargan. However, apparent social media posts – some purportedly deleted, some remaining published at press time – indicate otherwise.
A person wishing to remain anonymous shared several images appearing to show Dargan alongside various MMA fighters affiliated with SBG, all of which were purportedly posted after March 5, 2016. The posts appear to have originated from accounts belonging to Kiely, Queally, Fleury, McGregor, and even Dargan himself.
In the images, Dargan is referred to as “The Dragon,” an “Irish legend,” and in the post believed to be McGregor’s, “my TKD coach.”
Even more shockingly, it appears Dargan was actually booked to fight professionally months after killing Mullally.
Dargan was slated to fight 0-2 pro Darragh Kennedy under the BAMMA banner in September of 2016, but the fight was called off after Kennedy reportedly failed to pass his pre-fight medicals. The booking remains immortalized on fight databases such as Tapology and in news reports previewing the event.
Judge Codd suspended the final six months of Dargan’s six-year sentence, leaving the former MMA coach with a five-and-a-half-year prison term.
Mary Mullally, the sister of Dargan’s victim, thanked those involved in the trial for “getting Paddy justice.”
The Times quoted Mullally as saying, “We’ll be forever grateful… Four years later, we’re still absolutely devastated by the loss of our beloved Paddy. His life revolved around being a devoted dad, caring brother, fun uncle and a cherished friend.
“We as a family miss him every day but there is also a huge group of friends who are grieving alongside us. No matter what happened today, sadly we’re left with a life sentence.”
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.