Paddy Pimblett: Unfinished Business
Winning is everything in sport, but after time away from doing what you love, sometimes the ability to just compete again means more than that.
Take something away from someone, that person then becomes incomplete, and that very much applies to those who make their living with their fists.
After 15 months away Paddy Pimblett gets the chance to make up for lost time this Friday at Cage Warriors 111 in London.
A devastating loss to Soren Bak in Liverpool followed by multiple operations to resolve a broken wrist has kept the former Cage Warriors featherweight champion Pimblett out of action since last September.
The time away hasn’t been kind to Pimblett, fearing his career was over in his early twenties left him badly depressed, but with the wrist finally getting back to somewhere near 100%, Pimblett takes the first tentative steps on the comeback trail this weekend.
With original opponent Donovan Desmae pulling out through injury, Pimblett (14-3) gets a new opponent at relatively short notice.
Joe Giannetti (8-2-1) will welcome Pimblett back to the cage at the Indigo, ironically the day before previous opponent Bak makes his Bellator debut in the same city.
Pimblett always seemed destined to eventually get to the UFC, and seeing the likes of Bak, a fighter he still firmly believes he would have beaten if he wasn’t injured, get signed up by one of the major MMA promotions before him must be incredibly frustrating for the Liverpool favourite.
Pimblett knows he should have cancelled the Bak fight, the wrist recently operated on wasn’t fully healed, and then to add to his woes he broke it again in the fight.
“I should have pulled out, but I am a real fighter, I’m no fake fighter, I don’t pull out.”
After his year from hell, it’s understandable that Pimblett isn’t the same person since we last saw him inside a cage.
“I listen to people more now, instead of thinking I’m always right.”
Molly McCann friend and teammate of Pimblett, totally revamped her whole training process including her diet after she lost on her UFC debut last May. Pimblett a year older and wiser has done exactly the same.
“I’ve got a proper strength and conditioning coach now instead of trying to wing it and do it myself, I’m paying someone now. My diet is sorted now, I’ve never felt more ready, I’ve never looked better in sparring than I have done during this camp. People in the gym are saying I’ve never been in this good a shape.”
Cage Warriors recently released a documentary featuring Pimblett, and the change in body shape for Pimblett is very much noticeable, certainly compared to how he looked physically in the Bak fight.
“I’m a proper man now, before I was just a boy. I couldn’t train properly for the Bak fight because of the injury, I couldn’t grapple or even lift weights.”
Pimblett is one of those fighters that live in the gym, he has little time for anything else in his life, in many ways fighting is his life, he needs it.
“I’m in the gym 10 hours a day, not training for the whole time, but I’m there for that amount of time. It has been an 8 week camp for this fight, but I’m always training, I practically live in the gym.”
We saw Pimblett take the first steps to a full MMA return back at Polaris 11 at the end of August in Manchester. Despite coming up short against the UFC veteran Stevie Ray it planted the seed for his Cage Warriors return this Friday.
When I spoke to Pimblett the day before his grappling bout with Ray, the doubts were very much there, the concerns over his wrist were obvious. But now time has elapsed, those doubts seem to have gone.
“The Polaris bout was 4 just months from surgery, now its 7 months since the operation. It feels a lot stronger than it did then, I have had more physio, more work on the wrist, it feels much stronger than it did even at Polaris, and it will keep getting better and better. I’ve had to adapt my style because of the injury, change bits of my game, but my punching is better now, it’s more the grip in certain positions”
The late change of opponent appears to hold no fears for Pimblett.
“It makes no difference, I’m in great condition, it’s just a different style. He’s more of a name having competed on The Ultimate Fighter and had a fight in the UFC, but I think it is an easier fight than Desmae, no disrespect at all, but I think Desmae would have been a tougher fight. I’m expecting it to be a stand-up fight to begin with, I think he will come out for a scrap. But I don’t think he has much power, and I will surprise everyone with my power. He likes going for chokes, and he will try it against me, but I can see me getting on top and finishing him with strikes and elbows from there. I don’t think he has fought anyone of my calibre or my previous opponents”
To finish the interview I asked Pimblett what is the ideal 2020 would look like.
“I would like to win the lightweight title in Cage Warriors first but if the UFC comes calling again I would probably go. I have turned them down twice before but I am sick of seeing others getting signed, you never know what is around the corner, so I think I would go this time, especially after the year I have just had.”
Pimblett knows now he can’t take anything for granted, a career can be over in the blink of an eye. Talent-wise he should have been in the UFC many years ago, but for different reasons, it hasn’t happened.
But the time away has seen a more mature Pimblett emerge from the despair, he knows for career satisfaction the UFC is where he needs to be, and sooner rather than later.
The last time I spoke to Pimblett, I sensed doubt, not only with his wrist but his whole career, I don’t get that impression now, the old confidence seems to have returned.
Pimblett has a point to prove, very much unfinished business, Friday might be the start, but I don’t see the Pimblett story ending anytime soon.
The UFC will return to the UK in March, it could do a lot worse than have Pimblett on that card.