The European MMA scene debated as to whether it was time for Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett to sign for the UFC following his big win over Johnny Frachey that secured him the Cage Warriors title, last month.
A week later it was announced that Cage Warriors had secured Pimblett “into 2017”, and since then, a number of events have come to the forefront that could see the Liverpudlian become bigger than ever should he come away from them with wins.
Pimblett is set to headline the promotion’s ‘Unplugged’ event that will be broadcast on BT Sports ahead of UFC 205, an event that Cage Warriors CEO Graham Boylan believes could be one of the most significant deals he has struck since taking the helm of the organization in 2010.
“It’s the big warm up act for Madison Square Garden,” said Boylan. “We’ve been working on this for some time, as soon as we knew New York was going to happen, really.
“We thought that if Conor is going to make history by becoming the first two weight world champion in UFC, wouldn’t it be great to have a warm up act featuring Cage Warriors, the place where he first became a two-weight world champion?
“To do this show on the home of MMA in the UK and Ireland, BT Sports, the narrative is just phenomenal.
“We’ve got an in-studio show. There will be nine fights and when the lights go down after Paddy Pimblett fights, UFC 205 will begin. What fan wouldn’t be interested in that?”
Bigger than McGregor
Certainly, Pimblett has established himself as one of the biggest draws outside of the UFC over the last two years. According to Boylan, the Next Generation man is a bigger attraction than Conor McGregor when he was at the height of his powers before transitioning to the UFC in 2013.
“Paddy, at 21-year-of-age, I believe, has a bigger fan base than Conor McGregor had when he was with Cage Warriors.
“Conor was huge when he was with Cage Warriors. He had a huge fan base. But Paddy, with just one belt, has the most phenomenal following we’ve ever seen. He’s got a whole city behind him. When you think back to when Conor was in Cage Warriors and you compare Paddy to him, Paddy is definitely a bigger name than he was.”
Cage Warriors announced another show at the Echo Arena in April and Boylan is aiming to fill the venue to its 11,000 capacity when ‘The Baddy’ returns to town. As far as he is concerned, staying with Cage Warriors will only help Pimblett when it comes to signing a contract with UFC.
“I think we all know that Paddy is going to be in the UFC someday, but when he goes in there, he’s going to be a superstar already. He won’t be going in there to become one because, at 21 years of age, he is already the star of European MMA.
“Believe me he had a lot of options on the table before he signed his new contract. He saw the sense in staying because he knows he can continue to develop and keep getting put on a huge platform.”
Boylan added that Pimblett is “five times” bigger than McGregor during his title run with Cage Warriors.
“Having seen Paddy at this level and Conor at this level, I would say Paddy is bigger than Conor was, at this level.
“Obviously, Conor is the biggest star in the world right now when it comes to MMA, that’s undeniable. I’m talking about comparing Paddy to Conor when he was Cage Warriors champion. Honestly, Paddy is about four or five times bigger than Conor was as a Cage Warriors champion.”
Exit After Echo?
Although Boylan refused to say whether UFC had an offer on the table for ‘The Baddy’ last month, he did stress that “other organizations” were vying for his signature.
“I won’t get specific, but there were a few offers on the table from a number of different organizations and Paddy chose to stay.”
Boylan didn’t confirm that the April show at The Echo would be Pimblett’s last Cage Warriors bow but admitted that it is definitely a possibility.
“I’d never say never. I honestly couldn’t say if the Echo in April will be his last show. We’re looking to sell out the whole arena on this one – we’re aiming for the fill all 11,000 seats in that arena.
“If Paddy wins at the BT studio on the night of UFC 205 and then wins with a sold out crowd in the Echo, that would give him some massive clout going into negotiations. Who knows, he might even want to stay.
“There’s a lot of bargaining chips at play at the moment for Paddy. He’s getting the right advice and when you’re getting the right advice there is nothing stopping you from getting the best deal that you possibly can.
“I can tell you one thing – Paddy isn’t stupid. I’d say he still has the money I paid him for his first Cage Warriors fight.”
A fight that the UK and Irish fan base were crying out for was Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett versus Brendan Loughnane, two fighters that the vast majority of people would agree that are already at a standard worthy of the UFC.
The deal looked likely to be struck at first under the CWFC banner, before a war of words began online between Loughnane and Pimblett.
Loughnane refused to sign the usual “champion’s contract” that is put in place for athletes who are fighting for a CWFC belt, but claimed that he did try to “compromise” with Boylan in an interview with FloCombat.com last week.
Boylan is adamant that there are bigger fights to make domestically despite many hailing a matchup between the two as the biggest fight in British MMA history, the Corkman insisted Loughnane’s failure to sign the contract is what stopped the bout from happening.
“I don’t know if the Loughnane fight is that big,” he remarked. “Brendan is trying to make it that big, but I don’t believe it is the biggest fight you could make domestically in the sport. I think there are other fights you could make that are just as big.
“Brendan is working his ass off to make this as big as he can, but the bottom line is, Brendan is contracted to his own company (Tanko FC). He’s saying he’s contracted to that company and that he can’t go anywhere, but he’s a shareholder in that company and he can do whatever he wants.
“There isn’t an athlete on this planet that will change the terms that are agreed if you’re fighting for the Cage Warriors belt. It didn’t happen for Paul Daley two years ago when he was up for it. Just like we have with Brendan now, that was a very public debate.
“If you want that belt, you fight for it, you win it and you defend it. If you don’t want to defend it, don’t fight for it. Don’t call a champion out if you’re not interested in winning that belt and then defending it. It’s as simple as that.
“We’re not stopping the fight. The fight was offered to them. They were offered the same amount of money that his company offered Paddy when he was out of contract.
“Bear in mind this a promotion that has had one show and has no TV deal in place. When you compare that to Cage Warriors on BT Sport and Fight Pass, who have fights in arenas, there is no comparison. We gave him the date, the title fight, and the arena, but if he doesn’t want to defend the belt it’s not going to happen.
“Paddy wants to defend his title. Brendan first accepted the fight at 145 and then they came back and said they wanted to do it at 155 because the weight was an issue. The goal posts have changed too many times now. They’re making every excuse.”
Loughnane claimed that he had offered to fight and then defend the title if he had beaten Pimblett, but Boylan maintained that the champion’s contract must be signed to allow the All Powers fighter to contest for the title.
“That’s out of the question. We’ve had the same structure in place for 15 years and now he thinks we’re going to change everything just for this fight? What happens if we do that? Every fighter comes in looking for special terms and then the promotion falls apart.
“We’re not going to be held to ransom by every guy who wants to fight for the belt. If that happens the whole reputation of the organization falls apart. It didn’t change for Paul Daley, it didn’t change for Conor McGregor and it won’t change for Brendan Loughnane because he’s selling it on social media.”
Unfortunately, it does seem that the Loughnane fight is off the table for Pimblett. However, Boylan has promised that he is bringing in a fighter from overseas to give ‘The Baddy’ the toughest test of his career for the ‘Unplugged’ event on November 12.
“We’ve got a great opponent for Paddy lined up and I know who Brendan is fighting next on Tanko. We’ll see who is fighting bums when his fight is announced. There is going to be huge interest in Paddy’s fight in November when we announce his opponent.
“The contract is signed, we’ll announce the opponent next week. I may even announce his name on Saturday night. It isn’t a domestic fighter. Again, we’ll see who’s fighting bums when this fight is announced.
“It’s the biggest fight of Paddy’s career.”