MMA fighter Parke spared suspended sentence to chase dream US bout
A top mixed martial arts fighter with four convictions for driving without insurance has been spared a suspended jail sentence - so he can chase his dreams of emulating Conor McGregor.
Norman Parke - who fights under the title of Stormin' Norman - was in court yesterday in connection with a number of driving matters and being disorderly.
Parke (30), of Heronshaw, Bushmills, was told by District Judge Liam McNally that if he imposed a suspended jail term it would mean he would not be able to follow in the footsteps of McGregor and fight somewhere like Las Vegas, because such a serious conviction could ban him from the US.
Instead, the judge at Coleraine Magistrates Court said he was going to give him a chance to show he can avoid driving without insurance.
But he warned Parke: "If you appear before me again for any insurance offence or driving while disqualified then I will impose immediate custody".
Parke was previously convicted of a number of charges.
He was sentenced in Coleraine yesterday on charges including driving without insurance, failing to provide a specimen of breath, taking a vehicle without authority and being an unaccompanied L driver.
He was also sentenced for failing to display a learner driver plate and disorderly behaviour.
He was given a 15 month driving ban, a conditional discharge and fined £900 - including £100 for the disorderly matter.
A prosecutor said at 1.20am on June 6 last year, police received a report of a fight outside the Anchor Bar in Portstewart and a woman said she saw two males making off in a Suzuki vehicle.
Parke later told police he and his cousin had been out and that he had taken "a few drinks" and there had been an altercation.
The prosecuting lawyer said Parke had a learner driving licence and had not obtained the permission of the owner of the vehicle - his grandmother - to drive it. He was also uninsured.
Defence solicitor Denise Gillan said her client missed a previous court hearing because he was "engaged in other activities".
Referring to the night in question, she said Parke and his cousin were at a nightclub and there was an altercation.
She said it appeared it started between two groups of women and Parke's cousin then became "embroiled with" the boyfriend of one of the women.
Added Ms Gillan: "My client was trying to get him away from the melee. Having said that, he accepts there were words exchanged".
She said Parke had travelled in his grandmother's car and had intended to keep it parked overnight in Portstewart but he "wanted to get the cousin off-side" after drinking what, she claimed, was two and half pints.
The solicitor said the defendant had a record and got into trouble in Bushmills as a teenager, before turning to mixed martial arts. She said there had been much publicity recently about McGregor's fight with Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas, adding that her client was in the world rankings and "probably the top contender in Northern Ireland".
Ms Gillan said Parke has a title fight coming up in Dublin.
She said he had "made something of his life" and was well-thought of in his profession.
The judge said he normally imposes suspended sentences on people with a fourth insurance conviction and that would mean he "wouldn't be following in Mr McGregor's footsteps and be fighting in Las Vegas because he wouldn't get in (to the US)".