Remembering UFC Liverpool
By James Lee
As fight week is well underway for arguably the most influential fight of Darren Till’s professional career yet, it is essential to recollect back to another critical moment in his career, when Merseyside played host to the UFC for the first, and only, time in history.
As Liverpool faltered in the Champions League final a night prior, unarmed combat picked up the city’s spirits. Despite being widely noted as a fighting city, the biggest mixed martial arts show had never quite reached the Docks until then.
Scouse fighters Terry Etim, Paul Sass and Paul Kelly all had extended runs in the UFC but never forced an appearance and it took the growing stardom of Darren Till before that.
His breakout four-minute demolition of Donald Cerrone in Gdansk attracted the attention of the martial arts community, but more importantly, the summit of the UFC brass.
Acquiring a predecessor to Michael Bisping’s United Kingdom throne was not something they perhaps foresaw formulating that quickly, but one they gladfully accepted immediately.
As expected, demand was high. The event sold out within minutes; the quickest in Echo Arena history and as Dublin got behind a rising Conor McGregor in 2014, Liverpool replicated that support for their rising star.
As Till walked to the cage to the soft, but substantial sound of Neil Diamond, the joy and celebratory manner in seeing the sport’s premier promotion grace the city was evident.
The fight was not as electric as the crowd, with both men participating in a tense striking match to intrigue the most intricate minds. A fifth-round knockdown by Till provided a spell of excitement, but his continuing forward-pressure was favoured by all three judges.
Ultimately, his undoubted, realistic confidence auspiciously reassured a composed manner against the sport’s most collected individual.
At the time of the event, it was arguably the most anticipated non-pay-per-view card of the year and the eventual victory made for a special night in the history of English combat.
Oddly, the global reach that the UFC has worked to their disadvantage sometimes. The sheer fragmented nature of the fan-base makes specific events based solely around an individual in their home country a rarity. Liverpool was fortunate to witness one two years ago on the Mersey docks.
A career moment like that is priceless for legacy. With that, Darren Till has all the potential to secure his legacy as the most successful Englishman in MMA’s short, but renowned, history. A fight with former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker on Saturday is another step to that.