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Darren Till: Living The Dream

Tony Moran



This article is long overdue and was totally inspired by the man in question. At a young age, he’s already dazzled a worldwide UFC audience, not only his fighting but with his fluent Portuguese with which he addresses Brazilian fight fans, without the need of a translator. Not bad for a scouser eh!?

Darren Till is a fellow Liverpudlian, a fellow fighter and a fellow, who has taken his explosive and hurtful standup skills (namely Muay-Thai) and blended them with top level grappling skills. to become one of the new shining lights, in the UFC.

It may come as a surprise to those not aware, that before living the dream, Darren had lived what many others would consider a nightmare.

Now when I say I was inspired to write this article, it is poignant to say, it was in no small part fuelled by the fact, it was the early hours in Liverpool’s clubland and where I was chatting about Darren to a friend and colleague Julius; only a hundred yards from another club, where Daren had nearly lost his life, due to a stabbing, less than 3 years previously.

Talk about a potential future movie script, the story I will go on to explain to you, will definitely leave you on the edge of your seat and cheering for the lead role.

February the 23rd 2013, was the start and build up to this life-affirming encounter, that saw Darren go on an 11 fight pro win streak.

Previous to this, Darren had only had 3 amateur MMA contests in a period, just shy of 2 years, fighting in his hometown of Liverpool, representing Kaobon MMA.

I saw two of these fights live and as expected, Darren’s stand up skills, blended with his newfound grappling ability proved too much for his opponents at this level, to have any chance of dealing with. That said, 3 amateur fights in 2 years is not a great number of fights in a sport, demanding of much bigger records to evidence the necessary ability to fuel the way forward towards the big time.

I first met Darren in a gym my friends ran, when he was a mid to late teenager. I came across him a few times over the next few years and always heard the same thing from coaches and fighters alike, in that he was a rare talent, not only in a technical sense but in the way only most fighters can dream to be with a killer instinct that he is happy to trust.

Darren was a Muay Thai competitor and had been coached by my coach and friend, Simon Audley, when he was a boy and teenager.

I am unable to find an accurate record of Darren’s Muay Thai fight stat’s, but I have it on good authority via Simon, that he lost only a few and never in a bad way. According to Simon, the losses were debatable and he fought and won against fighters, much older than he on a number of occasions.

When reaching his teens like many fight prodigies his priorities changed. He stopped competing in Muay Thai, floated around and was given advice and guidance from another friend and coach I know well, in Alex Foreman.

So that fateful night, in a Liverpool City Centre nightclub, despite being a real life and death situation for Darren was the blessing and catalyst for what transpired just over two years later in Brazil.

I have heard the story first hand. A disagreement and physical altercation happened in the early hours and whilst Darren was focused on one attacker, another was penetrating him deeply with a knife and without his awareness.

As is often the case in these situations, adrenaline fuels the action and the pain or entry of a blade for many, is not realised until later.

Darren was in survival mode so I have been told. The security staff realising he was spewing a lot of blood were trying but failing to calm him down and it seemed he thought he was being attacked from all sides.

It took a number of staff to subdue him and one unsung hero of the security staff, who had seen action in Iraq as a soldier and medic, to plug his wound with his fingers.

The situation was so reflective of his past experiences, for this noble security staff, that he suffered from a post-traumatic related condition, after the event.

I do not know this particular member of security staff personally, as it was before I joined this team. But put aside all of your stereotypes, because I am a proud part, of a group of men and women you would want watching over you, your partner or your loved ones If circumstances ever went out of your favour on a night out in clubland.

There are so many places and past instances in my City alone where less courageous people, despite their positions to protect the public, would either take advantage or take no interest in an event where innocents were at risk or harm.

So it is fitting I suppose, that I write this story you read because at every level I can give clear, honest and real reflection, of the truth and emotion involved, in so many intersecting lives.

I am unsure of what transpired after these events, but I heard on the grapevine that soon after Darren was sent off for recuperation and distance from this terrible encounter in Brazil.

Once healed fully, he embarked on a new life as a pro-MMA fighter in Brazil, meeting a partner out there, having a child and learning the language. Fundamentally, Darren has carved a new life for himself through the greatest adversity, of what truly could have been the end of his life as he knew it.

I have seen this new life progressing via Facebook and have sent him messages along the way to offer my support as I see it as a magnificent story of success against the odds.

Darren, after his first UFC win and stoppage, spoke fluent Portuguese to the fans of Brazil in what was a beautiful, poignant moment. It was like something out of a movie script, that he and those who had supported him, coached him and dare I say it, saved his life that night, had written.

Personally, I believe Darren could well be the first UK UFC champion. Not because his talent is more or less, than other great fighters I know from these shores, but because he will be fuelled and driven, by the unique circumstances he has experienced.

This is a special story, that reflect many within the fight game, of triumph through adversity, that only go to create even more respect, for men that already receive so much for their courage.

Furthermore, he is the kind of fighter, other fighters, irrespective of their team and personal bias, would likely feel support for because he is one of those rare breeds of receiving the accolade, of being a fighters fighter.

I am keen to see where this story ends but irrespective I applaud Darren for what I know to be true. He will give all of himself, in realising his dream.

Fighters from the streets, sometimes need a monumental experience, either good or bad, to offer a glimpse into what they have been gifted in this life.

Darren has had his glimpse and he has grasped it with both hands, feet, shins and elbows, to make him one of the current hot properties in the UFC. Let us wish him well and remember his story as a remarkable one.

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Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186



Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.

Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”

Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”

With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”

For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”

Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”

Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”

Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”

With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”

Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”

Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”

Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

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Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”



Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:

Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”

Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.

Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”

Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.

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Michael Page Not Focusing on Opponent Ahead of Boxing Debut

Harry Davies



MMA Latest spoke to Bellator’s Michael ‘Venom’ Page, as he makes his boxing debut this Friday at the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night.

Page (12-0 MMA) is renowned for his entertaining fight style inside the cage, with most of his knockout and submission victories ending up in highlight reels online, that almost always go viral.

‘MVP’ was supposed to make his boxing debut on the undercard of David Haye vs Tony Bellew in March of this year, but due to ongoing negotiations with Bellator, his debut was delayed. Shortly after Page signed with Haye’s promotion “Hayemaker Ringstar.”

Q: So, Michael, we’re about five days out now from your big boxing debut, and still we have no name of an opponent? Can you break the big news, who will you be fighting next week?

I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name right now! I know I’ve got an opponent, but I haven’t even looked at him because it has changed so many times. I don’t like to pay too much attention to it, because it’s added stress. For me it’s just a case of turning up, and firing punches at whoever is across the ring.

Q: Is this fight 10 or 12 rounds? Given a standard boxing fight is a lot longer than your typical 15-minute MMA bout, has there been an emphasis on cardiovascular work in your training camp?

Depending on the opponent, I think it’s 6-rounds. The preparation has been different, I’m having to stress out my shoulders and core a lot. The kicking distance as well is very different, getting used to having people a bit closer. I’m getting used to the corners of the ring, I’ve done it before but not to this extent so I am familiar of it, but my body wasn’t really used to it.

Q: So, is this kind of like a one fight deal for Haye’s Ringstar promotion? Regardless of this fight’s outcome, will you return to MMA?

Not at all, I’m taking it seriously. Otherwise, I would have just had a super fight against a big name like McGregor did. This is why I can’t just jump into a 12 round fight, I need to adjust my body and get it prepared for boxing.

There’s no future plans yet, I’d like to have an MMA fight again before the end of this year, as I haven’t fought this whole year, but another opportunity for boxing may come up and I might get a chance to jump on that, so it depends.

Q: Were you frustrated that Bellator booked Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin, and if you could send a message to Daley right now what would it be?

I have no interest in him anymore. It feels so pathetic and unnecessary now. I don’t think he deserved that fight with Larkin right after the shocking display he put on in Wembley against Rory MacDonald. But good on him he beat Larkin, however he calls me out immediately after then goes on to say he’s past that fight, it just doesn’t make sense.

Credit – michaelpagemvp – Instagram

Q: A statement we hear a lot is “MVP is the only guy outside the UFC that I want in the UFC” People criticise the talent in Bellator and say you’re fighting nobodies, what do you say back to them?

The amount of times you hear “you shouldn’t fight this person, you should have fought that person.” Everyone’s got an idea of what the correct steps someone should make are, but at the end of the day it’s their career. People are so fickle and easy to forget. If you are a fan of somebody, just be a fan of them regardless of win or loss.

Q: I’ve got to ask about how things are with Bellator, because from the outside looking in it’s quite unclear. How is it relationship at the moment?

Yeah I get on with most of the guys, it’s like a small family. I’ve still got a couple of fights left with them, they’re growing very well, the only problem is I feel like they’re focusing a bit too much on ex UFC fighters. For me it says you’re classing yourself as second best. Bellator generate some amazing superstars and young talent, they should continue to promote them.

You can watch ‘MVP’ make his boxing debut this Friday night, as the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night will air at 21:00PM on Dave.

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