Darren Till has lit up as the next big thing within the UFC welterweight division. Darren Till is a monster at 175lb and fittingly has embraced the nickname ‘The Gorilla’. Till demolished former Lightweight Championship contender Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFC Fight Night Gdansk back in October. A fight that really lifted Till status. Earning him public praise from UFC president Dana White’s on his personal social media.
With the accolade from White, it was apparent across the MMA community the momentum that was building behind Till. His Instagram followers exploded overnight, he was sought after for interviews and he quickly became the man on everybody’s lips. As a Darren Till fan and as a fellow scouser, I began to ponder the question, could the UFC come to Liverpool?
The UFC is the ultimate MMA brand. All athlete’s want to fight under the bright lights of the UFC. Whilst all fans want to experience a UFC event. More significantly you want to attend an event you are emotionally invested in. As a fellow scouser, he appeals to me on various levels. He is charming, charismatic and entertaining on the microphone. A man who is deeply passionate about his two loves Liverpool and Brazil.
Yet besides all these attributes which make Till so appealing to fans, he is also an absolute animal. A killer inside the octagon. He claims he is the best striker within all of the UFC, a strong statement, but a statement which he believes 100%. Darren Till is a superstar in the making. His hard-earned stature landed him the main event spot at UFC Fight Night Liverpool on May 27th, 2018.
When the news broke I was electrified. The UFC had in the last few years done their regular visits to London, Michael Bisping had defended his middleweight crown against Dan Henderson in Manchester and there was even a show up in Glasgow headlined between Gunnar Nelson VS Santiago Ponzinibbio.
These cards had some outstanding fights on them. However, nothing to really grasp at me on an emotional level. But UFC Fight Night Liverpool headlined by Darren Till? The UFC was coming to us, to our city, and the headline act was one of our own. It was the event and the headline act the people of Liverpool were craving for.
The excitement around the city has been incredible. People who were unaware of Till had become aware. People who have no interest in MMA have become casual fans and created a growing fanbase for both Till and MMA. Its the question on the lips around the city, ‘how do you think Till will get on?’.
I was in attendance for Cage Warrior’s 90, and sat at cage side was none other than Darren Till. During an interval, I watched from my seat as Till was crowded by fans. With a smile on his face, he jumped over the barricade which was separating himself from the fans. He personally spoke to every fan, posed for pictures and embraced each person who approached him. You could hear throughout the crowd ‘oh my god there is Darren Till!’.
Darren Till’s popularity had exploded in Liverpool. When the tickets went on sale for Fight Night Liverpool, they were sold out in seconds, just as Till had predicted. Suddenly having a ticket to UFC Fight Night Liverpool was the equivalent to having a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
It has created a real buzz around the city. Then all of a sudden, the buzz got bigger.
Liverpool Football Club reached the Champions League Final. A showdown against Real Madrid on the May 26th, 2018 was confirmed. On the same weekend, the city of Liverpool has one of their football teams competing for the biggest prize in football, whilst Darren Till headlines the Echo Arena for the UFC for the first time ever.
The MMA scene in Liverpool has been growing rapidly over the last couple of years. Creating superstars through the regional scenes such as Paddy Pimblett, Chris Fishgold and Molly McCann. But none have reached the level of stardom such as Till. I believe UFC Fight Night Liverpool can not just match but surpass the atmosphere the Irish created at Fight Night Dublin: McGregor VS Brandao. A night which proved that Connor McGregor was the next big thing in mix martial arts. Darren Till, much like McGregor did in Dublin, can prove in his hometown that he is the next big thing within the UFC.
Fight Night Liverpool means a lot for Darren Till, but it also means a lot to the people of Liverpool. He is a superstar in our eyes already. Now we want the world to see him in the same light. He believes he is a future champion. Whilst furthermore he believes he is destined to become the greatest of all time. If he believes then so shall we.
Till has excited us, and without a doubt will be influencing the next generation of fighters to come out of Liverpool. He has also given the fans an opportunity to show hows scousers support their own, the atmosphere we can create, and the passion we have as a city. With the opportunity coming on the biggest platform of them all.