UFC Veteran Fighter Jailed for Drug Trafficking

By McCarton Ackerman 06/19/13

Paul Kelly is sentenced to 13 years for helping run a major heroin ring in Liverpool, England.

Kelly's fighting career is likely over. Photo via

A former UFC cage fighter who earned more than $150,000 per year on the mixed martial arts (MMA) circuit has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for drug trafficking. Paul Kelly, 28, was arrested in Liverpool, England along with his childhood friend Christopher St John McGirr, after police surveillance caught McGirr dealing drugsPolice later found more than $150,000 worth of heroin in their courier's car seat and it was revealed that the two had been running a major heroin ring. Several others were arrested in the process: their schoolfriend Paul Rogers, accused of trafficking heroin, and John Preston, a Scottish drug dealer who bought wholesale cannabis and cocaine from McGirr. Prosecutor David McLoughlin told the Liverpool Crown Court that McGirr and Kelly "were not soft enough to get their hands dirty and sought out others to do the dirty work for them." Before sentencing, Judge Mark Brown accused Kelly of utilizing his international contacts in cage fighting to build trafficking connections. "You are an individual who has traveled widely in the course of MMA and as such would have contacts abroad," said Brown. Kelly is best known for his nine fight stint in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the largest mixed martial arts promotion company in the world. The Judge told him: "you decided to Class A drugs when your contract with UFC was terminated. You obviously enjoyed the high life and saw selling heroin as an easy way to make money.” Kelly will be 41 when he is released from prison, which means his fighting career is effectively over.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.