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Darren Till: Living The Dream

Tony Moran

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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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Dana White

Dana White gives update on Conor McGregor and the lightweight division

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The top end of the UFC’s lightweight division is thriving. Dustin Poirer defeated former division champion Anthony Pettis, in dominant fashion. Tony Ferguson won the lightweight division’s interim title by carving Kevin Lee from his back. Safe to say, no everyday person would ever want to see Khabib Nurmagomedov down a damp and dark alley. Don’t forget, the gutsy performance of Eddie Alvarez stealing Justin Gaethje’s undefeated record away.  The division is thriving like gas attempting to escape a shaken champagne bottle.

On Friday, UFC President, Dana White, spoke to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, about a number of topics. One, which came up fairly quickly; Conor McGregor and his stranglehold on the lightweight belt. The pair began talking about recent performances inside the octagon when the illustrious name of, Khabib Nurmagomedov, came up. White claimed, “Conor always finds a way to win. When he hits you, you go…”. Then speaking of the potential bout between Nurmagomedov and McGregor, “I love that matchup but, Tony Ferguson is the interim champion. Conor and I haven’t really figured out when he’s coming back and what’s going on…”. He continued, “I don’t think Conor wants to fight until August, but if he waits until August or September, that’s around two years since the belt has been defended and that can’t happen”.

Iole followed up by asking, due to circumstances, does McGregor owe it to the sport to defend his title? The UFC president agreed, “And to the other fighters. Not only to the sport but, to the other fighters. This is a game of time… when you’re a professional athlete, time is your enemy and we can’t let this thing go on forever and not give other guys the opportunity. Tony Ferguson has been around for a long time and has earned his dues, Khabib has earned his dues… Conor has done very well, he’s made a lot of money, and if he decides that he doesn’t want to fight again for another however long that’s up to him… but, the belt has to move on… we gotta figure some stuff out here in the next couple months”.

It only makes sense that the UFC wants progression in the one-hundred and fifty-five lb. division. Even without their massive revenue generator, the division must move on. Athletes like Nurmagomedov may be relatively unknown outside the MMA community in the United States but, his official Instagram page holds 3.2 million followers.  While Tony Ferguson may not hold online notoriety, he does have an exciting style. A style that could win a good many of fans, the more exposure he receives.

For White, one of these two men must fight for the division’s championship title. When asked about what is next, he stated, “As long as Conor is willing to fight by March, we could do Khabib versus Tony and then the winner fights Conor… or Conor doesn’t wanna fight and wants to sit out till next fall. Then we would have to make Khabib vs. Tony for the title”.

Time can be the only truth serum in this particular situation. The UFC brass has spoken of forcing McGregor to vacate his lightweight title for some time. Yet, nothing has happened. On the other hand, it would be more than surprising to see the division’s belt sit on the shelf for another year. Considering it all, including the status of contenders and depth of the division, the bottleneck created by one man never ceases to amaze.

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Exclusive: Neil Magny: “It’s going to come down to fighting tooth and nail”

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On Saturday, December 30th, Neil Magny steps back into the Octagon as he takes on the returning Carlos Condit. Magny’s had a rough past couple of months as the 6’3 welterweight has alternated wins and losses as well as fighting a lot less than usual. Magny was known as one of the most active fighters on the UFC roster until injuries started to take away from his time in the cage.

Welcoming Magny back to the cage is a man who is also making his return after a long layoff, Carlos Condit. Fans and even Magny have been waiting a long time for the fight to come together.

I love this fight, this a fight I’ve been chasing for nearly two years now,” Magny told MMA Latest. “The fight’s going to be happening this Saturday and I’m excited for it.”

Condit hasn’t competed since he lost to Demian Maia back in August 2016. The Jackson-Wink product lost via first round rear-naked choke, the loss prompted a semi-retirement that left everyone unsure if he would ever return. The time spent away from the cage could potentially bring upon the universally hated “ring-rust”.

Not at all,” Magny said as he shot down any talks of ring-rust. “I mean, if anything, I would be more affected by ring rust than he is. I mean, I’m a guy who likes to compete all throughout the years. This is the least amount of fights I’ve had in a year- in awhile- I don’t think the ring rust will be a factor at all and I can’t let that allow me to think that this fight will be easier because of that.”

With Condit’s return being the big story in this fight, it’s easy to think Magny’s been swept under the rug. The fan-favorite has been loved for his tendency to turn every fight into a brawl and putting everything on the line. The hype and excitement haven’t lead Magny to believe he’s being overlooked.

Not all,” Magny says with a shrug. “I don’t feel like I’m being overlooked in this fight at all. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of hype around Condit going into this fight. But yeah I don’t consider it a bad thing at all. I know I’m focused on what I need to do and I spend most of my time focusing on that rather than the other possibilities or what media attention is drawn to that kind of thing.”

Condit’s tendency to turn his fights into brawls is something Magny’s comfortable with, as technique and advantages tend to fly out the window. The Colorado native is honest about where his strengths are.

This is a fight where it’s going to be a fight and turn into a brawl and were going to fight tooth and nail,” Magny said. “Going into this fight I don’t have the grappling advantage, the submission advantage, I don’t have the significant striking advantage. So anywhere this fight goes it’s not going to be one guy just outclassing the other guy. I know it’s going to come down to fighting tooth and nail or anything that will win this fight. So that’s something that I’m looking forward to the most- going out there and allowing this fight to go down successfully.”

Magny’s rough patch continued in his last fight when he lost to former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos by submission. While a good chunk of fighters have a tendency to dwell on losses, Magny’s moved on and, more importantly, he’s learned from his mistakes.

I could backtrack and pick the fight apart and find a thousand things I did wrong and things I could’ve done differently,” Magny begin to explain. “But at the end of the day, it is what it is. There’s nothing I can do to change the outcome of the fight, all I can do is make sure I’m as prepared as I can be for this fight. That’s what I’ve been spending my time focusing on as well as covering every angle going into this fight mentally, physically, and emotionally. Everything I need to do to be successful in this fight I’ll do it.”

Although Magny’s moved on from the loss, that hasn’t stopped him from making changes in his lead up to fights.

Since my last fight one of the main things I changed in my training camp was the use of a sports physiatrist,” Magny said. “I noticed for these last four fights I got myself into tough positions all three have been lackluster fights that I wasn’t too proud of. Coming into this fight we’ll be sure to work on all angles and we’ll see if the talks and working with a sports physiologist will make a difference. I have no idea but the thing about it is that I want to be as prepared as possible.”

Welterweight contender Kamaru Usman claimed that Magny was going to fight him, that is until Magny accepted the fight with Condit.

No, nothing was ever set for Usman and I to ever fight,” Magny said. “I was in a position where I was coming off a loss and it didn’t matter who I fought next. I was just eager to get that nasty taste out of my mouth from the last fight. So he’s done his usual call me out on Twitter call me out on Instagram wherever he could I was just like ‘meh whatever, if you really want to fight me I’m available, I’m interested in doing it right away’ so why not take the matchup sooner and get the taste out of my mouth.”

Although the fight with Usman isn’t happening, the fight with Condit definitely is. So what does Magny predict?

I see me going out there and just winning any way I see,” Magny said. “Whether its a decision where we go back and forth and go all out war, or me getting the TKO, submission, or knockout. I mean, I’m just looking forward to going out there and getting my hand raised.”

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UFC 219’s Dan Hooker: Fighting in Perth Would Be an “Ideal Situation.”

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New Zealander Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker is somewhat of a UFC veteran these days. On the 30th December Hooker will make his eighth UFC appearance, facing Marc Diakiese at UFC 219 in Las Vegas.

The card is a marquee event with some of the biggest names in the sport competing, but Hooker isn’t letting the magnitude of the event affect his preparation.

“It’s something you can look back on tell people you fought on a big card in Las Vegas, so it’s a milestone,” the Kiwi explained. “But when you’re focused on it you have to take every fight as just another fight. You can’t let the moment overwhelm you, or distract you.”

Hooker admitted to not knowing much about his opponent, Englishman, Diakiese, when the fight was announced. “I hadn’t seen him fight before we got matched, but he’s a big name in the UK so I’m looking forward to it”

Twenty-seven year old Hooker is just happy to fight. He had planned on fighting in Sydney this past November. “I had an infection in my knee which ruled me out of Sydney. I’m glad they can get me on [a card] before the end of the year.”

The Kiwi last fought at home on the UFC Auckland card in June, defeating veteran Ross Pearson with a devastating knee that KO’d his foe in round two. A fight that proved he belonged with the best in the world.

“It’s where I believe my skills are at. I’m showing everyone else what I know I’m capable of,” he said of the fight. “I think I’m capable of much more so I’m looking forward to getting back in there and doing it all again.”

The Pearson bout was Hooker’s first in the UFC’s lightweight division, having fought his first six bouts at featherweight, ten pounds below at 145 pounds. Hooker now intends to make 155 his home, and isn’t concerned about size difference.

“I’m not going back to 145, 155 is where it’s at. I’m more likely to go up than down,” Hooker said. “I just feel my skills have caught up, even if someone is carrying more size than me, I can beat them with my skill.”

There has been scrutiny in recent times due to weight cutting in the sport and new rules have been implemented by the UFC and various commissions to make to process safer. But not much is different, according to Hooker.

“It hasn’t changed anything. The bigger guys are still here and still cutting the same amount of weight.” Hooker also expressed his concern that more divisions would do more harm than good.

“You might get the opposite effect where guys are coming down even further, thinking its not ten pounds of weight, it’s only five pounds. Everyone needs to move up a weight class and fight at their natural weight. Lifestyle wise and longevity wise it’s going to pay off.”

A big reason why 155 is where it’s at is because of Conor McGregor. McGregor is currently the champion in Hooker’s division, yet he has been inactive for over a year and shows no signs in returning any time soon. Hooker isn’t holding his breath on the prospect of the Irishman fighting again.

“I’m not getting off the couch with a 100 million dollars in the bank, I’ll tell you that. I’ve never seen a fat lion running around chasing antelope in the desert, it just doesn’t happen,” Hooker joked.

While Hooker doesn’t see the UFC stripping McGregor anytime soon, he’s indifferent about the use of interim belts in the UFC. Tony Ferguson is the current interim champion in the lightweight division and Hooker thinks he should be next in line.

“The UFC have offered Tony [Ferguson] to defend his interim title. Defending an interim title is where I draw the line. It should be your golden ticket to a title shot, or don’t hand it out”

Interim titles aside, the stage is set for the New Zealander at UFC 219 in front of a large global audience. He aims to make his way up the lightweight ladder towards a prestigious top 15 spot on the roster.

Hooker is one of a few New Zealand based fighters making a run in the UFC. Shane Young made his debut this year, as did Luke Jumeau. Both often train alongside Hooker at City Kickboxing in Auckland. Hooker also suggested that the undefeated striker, Israel Adesanya will be next Kiwi fighter to join the UFC roster.

“The New Zealand market has quite a big talent pool and we’re able to get multiple New Zealand fighters in the UFC. It’s a really good sign.”

As for 2018, Hooker isn’t looking too far ahead as the nature of the sport of MMA means an injury can be just around the corner. If Hooker does come out unscathed – and victorious – then he has a plan in mind.

“I’d like to fight as soon as possible. I’d like to catch up to the Aussies and New Zealanders who got to fight in Sydney and will be fighting in Perth. If I can catch up in Perth then that would be the ideal situation.”

The Perth card would certainly make sense for Hooker. A win against Diakiese would give him his first win streak of his UFC career and set him up for even bigger fights in 2018. For now, Hooker is focused on his English opponent and ending his year on a high.

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