Win, lose or draw on Sunday, Craig White feels he will be legitimised against Neil Magny

Eight weeks ago, Craig White was in his biggest bout yet. A bout that, should he leave victorious, would grant him a well-earned shot at the Cage Warriors welterweight title. After stopping Alex Montagnani in the second round with a rear-naked choke, Craig had indeed found his way into title contention this summer. His opponent remained unknown, but preparation began.

“I genuinely have no idea who the opponent was going to be,” White informed. “I was looking and hoping it was going to be Nicolas Dalby until he lost recently. I personally thought he won the fight and only lost the second round as he got dropped, but had that gone any differently and had he won, you could well have seen him here instead of me. It could have been anyone, really.”

Twelve days ago, news broke that an injury had forced Gunnar Nelson out of the co-main event UFC Liverpool. The opposition, top contender Neil Magny, needed an opponent. While the search for a replacement began, Craig White was at his day job, working in finance, doing his daily tasks. After his run of form recently and stature for being a wild, challenging competitor who’s able to trouble any combatant, the Thunder Cat received the call-up.

“My work have been very supportive of me,” Craig told. “I only started working there in February and they’ve been behind me the whole way since. They’ve sponsored me and come to watch my fights, so I can’t fault them at all.

“The minute I got the call, I asked my boss for a private word in the office, told him what is potentially going on and asked what could be done for me to take it. They couldn’t do much for last week, but they made it possible to get this week off work to cover this. With loads of people off work on holiday and with work it’s quite difficult to manage that. I’m really grateful they made it possible.

“I manage my work quite well, though. I feel it gives me the break I need between training sessions because you can only train so many times in a day and if you do too much around a job, you’ll be mentally tired too. I find my work mentally stimulating and plus, I need to make money somehow.

“A bonus would be nice, too. If you know what my fights are like it could be likely, but you know I’m not here for the money. I’m here because it’s a great opportunity to show the world what I can do.”

Taking this fight with such a quick turnaround can have its qualms for some fighters; fitness, weight and overall health being key factors. The angle of having so much more to gain from a bout like this doesn’t enter the mind space of the ‘Thunder Cat.’ The British welterweight simply views this as making the most of his momentum and taking an opportunity that doesn’t come around every day.

“In the sport, you have the highest of highs and lowest of lows,” Craig explained. “There’s always something to lose and something to gain no matter your position. He could still gain a lot from beating me. I may have taken this on twelve days notice, nobody knows who I am. If he beats me, it’s another win on his record, keeps him up there and stops the momentum I’ve got and obviously vice versa.

“You’re obviously always going to get the naysayer harping on about taking it on short notice. For me, I’m hungry. I’m game. Everybody’s going to have an opinion on it, but I’m focusing on getting the win.”

As aforementioned, Craig was ready to begin his rally for the Cage Warriors 170-pound strap. Admittedly, had this opportunity not come his way, the Devon-native is well aware he was still quite a few fights away from the major league. His plan was that of following the many great Cage Warriors veterans who came before him.

“I expected to get the Cage Warriors title, defend it once or twice and hope for the call-up in similar fashion to previous champions like Nathaniel Wood and Cathal Pendred,” Craig revealed. “I had fully focused on Cage Warriors gold being next, as I should have been doing anyway. That was going to be the biggest opportunity of my career thus far and for my gym.

“Now I’ve bypassed that goal swapped it for this, which obviously is no bad trade-off. A win over Magny takes me right into the top fifteen, too, so I know what I have to do.”

One factor that has been on show since the fight’s announcement is the level of respect the duo have shown between them. In the age of trash talk, Craig is appreciating the lack of animosity in the lead-up to the biggest fight yet.

“I hope I’m known as a humble fighter,” Craig expressed. “I want to be known as a good sportsman. I’m never going to diss anyone. I’m never going to call someone out online as I’m not that way inclined. I’ve been doing martial arts since I was eleven-years-old. It’s a sport founded on respect so I’m true to that and fighting somebody like Neil who seems to share those same attributes is very refreshing. I wish it was something the UFC saw more of and I hope it can catch on, but I’m sure it won’t.”

Stepping into the Octagon in your UFC debut versus a man as experienced as Neil Magny is no easy task. White’s consistency to be the underdog is what of the many things that has seen his spirit get him so far. For a man with who’s nickname may be the Thunder Cat, the welterweight feels that moniker could possibly become the ‘dark horse’ come Sunday evening.

“If you speak to many people from the past year, they’ll tell you I’ve been known as the ultimate underdog for quite some time,” White informed. “I’m here to win. I’m here to put on a performance and the better the opposition, the better I perform and I’ve shown this many times prior.

“I want to show the best Craig White ever. Hopefully, they’ll get that performance on Sunday. I’m motivated to show just how good I am in a performance of a lifetime. Win lose or draw, everyone will know I’m legitimate after this.”