The FightPost Interviews: Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett
Most of us during our lives will experience misfortune, a run of bad luck at various times is normal for us all. But for Paddy Pimblett the last 16 months has been literally a journey to hell and back.
But Pimblett is indeed back, or will be if the coronavirus doesn’t delay his much-anticipated return to action at Cage Warriors 113 in London on March 20th. At the time of writing the event is still going ahead, and Pimblett is now on his third scheduled opponent as he bids to get his career up and running again.
Irish lightweight Decky Dalton has accepted the call on just over a weeks notice to take on Pimblett. A late opponent will leave Pimblett with some trepidation, after his planned return scheduled for last November was aborted the day before the fight, when his then scheduled opponent badly missed weight when he accepted a fight with Pimblett at short-notice.
The American Joe Giannetti weighed in at more than seven pounds over the lightweight limit and the fight was scrapped, leaving Pimblett frustrated his return had been delayed yet again:
“I got the shock of my life when he got on the scales. I had no idea, it was just crazy, it was an absolute joke. I could have fought someone else, but we picked him because he had a better record.”
Pimblett had an early introduction to MMA, and at just 15 Pimblett was hooked:
“Some friends of mine recommended it, so I watched a few shows and then watched an event live, and then I went for a jog at 5am the very next morning. I never thought it would end up being a career, but it has.”
Pimblett had his first amateur fight at just 16, and turned professional a year later. The first amateur fight saw a taste of what was to come:
“I out-wrestled and grappled a 24-year-old guy. I was probably a little nervous, but I wasn’t flapping or anything, I knew I’d get the job done and I did.”
The following years saw a meteoric rise and eventually saw Pimblett lift the Cage Warriors featherweight title, which he says is his career-high so far, before losing it to Nad Narimani in a shocking upset in 2017. Pimblett looked a potential superstar before that shock defeat in front of his own fans in Liverpool.
Pimblett has only fought twice since, going 1-1 including losing a fight to Soren Bak for the Cage Warriors lightweight title in September 2018, the last time we saw Pimblett compete. The Liverpool fighter ignored advice from all around him to pull out of the Bak fight after he suffered a broken wrist prior, and the recently operated on wrist was damaged further in that fight.
A downward spiral followed, fearing his career was over, Pimblett accepted he had to change. The early career was marred by not preparing for his fights properly, and he told me his biggest regret in his career is:
Pimblett was renowned for enduring savage weight cuts, boiling his body down to the featherweight limit, not helped by his then party lifestyle:
“I was going out drinking with my mates, up to a week out from the fight. I wasn’t really focussing on MMA like I should have been, I was doing daft things I shouldn’t have been doing, not preparing properly for my fights.”
But the time away with injury has seen Pimblett realise what MMA means to him. Gone are the days when he would party prior to a fight. With much to prove, Pimblett prepared like never before for his aborted fight with Giannetti, and he has applied the same sort of dedication for his fight on March 20th.
Pimblett recently turned 25, and should still have his peak years ahead of him. The Liverpool favourite has achieved plenty, despite his at times lack of discipline, so the question is what can he do now he is 100% focussed on his craft. After turning down UFC advances twice before, Pimblett knows that is where he needs to be:
“If I get a quick finish in London I think I get signed, and I want on that Dublin card, plenty of people are tagging me to be on it. If not, I will fight in London and win the belt in Cage Warriors. If the UFC comes calling, this time I will go.”
If Pimblett needs any inspiration, he can find it in his own gym with Molly McCann. Just over a year ago, McCann was on the brink of being cut from the UFC after a debut loss. But now McCann is on a 3-fight win streak and is ranked in the UFC flyweight division, and fights at UFC London just 24 hours after Pimblett launches his comeback.
“It’s great how Molly has turned it around for herself and showed everyone how good our gym really is, and she is flying the flag for us.”
When I spoke to Pimblett late last summer the day before a grappling match at Polaris, I sensed real doubt in his voice. Weary about his first taste of action since the Bak fight, will the wrist hold up, as he even a future in the sport. But the wrist, while never ever going to be what it was, is getting better, and something he has adjusted and adapted to.
The change in focus and mindset was needed, Pimblett has now given himself the best possible chance of further success and not leaving the sport with a case what if.