UFC Liverpool: Darren Till’s Homecoming
By James Lee
Late Monday night it was announced that Darren Till will step up to middleweight to fight top contender Kelvin Gastelum at Madison Square Garden on November 2nd.
The fight at UFC 244 signifies another tough ask for the English fighter considering his two-fight losing stretch, but mass attention followed the announcement, proving that Till still has a big name in the sport at either welterweight or middleweight.
His stardom began in Rotterdam, continued in Gdansk but fully came into fruition in the UFC’s debut in Liverpool. Stardom that has not left and will probably never leave.
The opportunity for him to fight in front of his home people is arguably what has made him a top name in the sport still.
The event on May 27th last year still has long-lasting memorability considering the long period of history of combat sports in Liverpool and it being the first.
Terry Etim, Paul Sass and Paul Kelly all had extended runs in the UFC in prior years, but couldn’t force an event in their home city. It took Darren Till to take the UFC to Liverpool and that is the reason that he is still the biggest star from the UK despite his losses.
At the time of the event, it was arguably the most anticipated non-pay-per-view card of the year with tickets selling out within minutes for the in-demand event. The eventual victory for Darren Till in front of his home crowd made for a special night in English combat sports history.
Very few fighters will ever feel the love he did that night. The whole event was based around him and every fan in the arena felt every moment in the twenty-five minute bout. Just as Dublin got behind a rising Conor McGregor, Liverpool replicated that support for Till.
The walkout was electrifying.Till strolled to the cage to Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ and the Echo Arena sang him out in one of the best walkouts in UFC history.
The fight wasn’t as electric as the walkout, with both men participating in a striking match. Till dropped Thompson in the fifth which just saw him do enough to earn a decision.
The American was the favourite with his experience, but the undefeated Till had the confidence and skills to stop Thompson from fighting the way he wanted.
Aside from Till, the event displayed a multitude of talent from the UK.
Arnold Allen returned to the UFC cage and turned around a tough night against Danish fighter Mads Burnell. Allen was being dominated before he pulled off a shock submission in the third round to continue his UFC unbeaten run that has now seen him go on to beat Gilbert Melendez and become ranked #12 in the featherweight division.
Two English middleweights also found success with Darren Stewart and Tom Breese finishing their fights in front of the home crowd. Molly McCann was unsuccessful in her UFC debut last May but has since gone on to find success at flyweight.
The night was historic. The UFC’s first time in Liverpool and not the last. A special night for Till and one that has carried his name to stardom still as he approaches his middleweight debut in New York. A tough ask awaits but so does a huge reward.
That night in Liverpool was the start of stardom but certainly wasn’t the end.