Last Saturday (March 16th) saw the Ultimate Fighting Championships, UFC, return to the English capital since March last year, and it left spectators feeling energised, enthralled and perhaps slightly bemused. Liverpudlian MMA star Darren Till made up half of the main event, as he entered the octagon on a mission to rectify his previous performance and had hoped that the veteran Jorge Masvidal was going to be the one to make it happen. “The Gorilla” Till walked into the o2 arena on the back of his first ever loss to at-the-time Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley, who was only recently dethroned by the Nigerian Kamaru Usman. His opponent, the American Masvidal, was always going to be a formidable challenger boasting a record of 32-13 and a striking skillset that could certainly match that of The Gorilla’s, which the Merseyside fighter soon found out. Till started the fight looking in exceptional form, landing a brutal left hand which sent Masvidal to the canvas and evoked a chorus of roars from the crowd who urged Till to finish the fight there and then. But he was made to rue his mistakes as Masvidal grew into the fight, ending the first round well before finishing the bout in the second with a left hook that if you blinked, you’d miss it. Unfortunately, Till blinked. And that blink must have felt a lifetime, as he struggled to regain consciousness for a minutes on end, and was on the only fighter of the evening to not be able to stand with their wrist grasped whilst the referee raises their counterparts hand. At the time of writing, Till is yet to respond to the surprise defeat, despite the online abuse received from fellow fighters like Ben Askren, and martial arts expert Piers Morgan.
Away from the disappointing main event, it was in fact a very successful night for British fighting. Despite suffering a broken orbital bone, which swelled to the point of closure, fellow Liverpool-born Molly McCann became the first ever English woman to win a UFC bout in the company’s history. In only her second UFC fight, “Meatball” Molly put in a dominant performance against Priscila Cachoeira in their three round fight, starting off the evening for BT Sports viewers in fine form.
Another matchup that had fans licking their lips as they made their way to the infamous arena, is that of Birmingham fighter Leon Edwards and the Icelandic Gunnar Nelson. To the surprise of some, it was actual the latter who was cheered, whilst Edwards made his walk to the octagon with a frenzy of boos emanating from the crowd. There was no clear favourite for this fight, with Nelson, who trains with Conor McGregor’s long time coach John Kavanagh, being known for his typically overbearing style of grappling. Fortunately for Edwards, he had the tools to nullify whatever Nelson tried, before successfully landing a big elbow in the second which dropped Nelson and effectively won the fight for the Englishman.
That wasn’t the end of Edwards’s evening, as himself and the aforementioned Masvidal came to a clash of heads during the American’s post fight interview. Masvidal can be heard saying “Say that to my face”, the timeless witty remark, as he moves away from the interview and towards Edwards, and what followed simply has no place in the sport. Masvidal, who’s grown up from street fighting, stated that Edwards walked towards him with his arms up which to him, indicates the start of an altercation. In videos emerging after, Edwards can’t be seen holding his arms up, but what can be seen is the two slowly coming together and Masvidal throwing a frenzy of bare knuckle punches on the unexpecting Edwards. It managed to disperse relatively quickly, but in the same week that boxer Adrien Broner launched a homophobic rant which involved personal space and guns, it certainly leaves combat sports yet again in a shadow that Dana White has so desperately tried to drag itself out of.