FIGHT DAY: THE RISE OF DARREN TILL

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By: Lorenzo Marquez (@iirenzo)

The UFC hasn’t eclipsed one million pay-per-view buys since December 2016, and only three factors are at play in this drought. Allow me to arbitrarily examine the previous fourteen UFC main events. In this fourteen  event stretch from late 2016 to current time, the UFC has accrued roughly 4.5 million pay-per-view buys. The fourteen cards prior to this date racked up roughly 9.6 million pay-per-view buys.

The three entities factoring into this decline are known to most — Conor McGregor, Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey. These are the three biggest stars the sport has ever seen, and all of them seemed to vacate the sport simultaneously. Megastar and part-time boxer Conor McGregor’s future remains nebulous in the UFC as the inveterate shit-talker opted to shot put a dolly into the bus of formidable opponent and lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, in Brooklyn on April 5th. Conor was rumored to be in Brooklyn that weekend to announce his next fight, but the MMA Gods said yeet.

Unbeaten light heavyweight and fan-favorite Jon Jones awaits a decision from The United States Anti Doping Agency that will likely take the form of a multi-year suspension from the UFC. Jones’ B sample tested positive for trace amounts of the steroid Turinabol immediately after UFC 214 . Many have theorized that Jones may have somehow accidentally cheated for the second time, referring to the miniscule amount of Turinabol he tested positive for, suggesting that Jones fed his cocaine addiction with white that was cut with cheap creatine that may have contained this banned substance. All of this fuckery after testing positive for clomiphene and Letrozol in 2016 — substances linked to gas station dick pills.

Lastly, Ronda Rousey never returned to super-human form after the devastating defeat she suffered in late 2016 to Holm. Rousey recently made the wise decision to sign with the W.W.E. and leave her mixed martial arts career behind.

Seven fights surpassed one million pay-per-view buys in this short UFC renaissance era spanning fourteen  main events, and all but one featured one of these three stars. With all three M.I.A.,the dark ages roll on for the UFC. While we haven’t seen a decline in overall talent on the UFC roster, the company hasn’t been able to find the next transcendent figure to be the face of the company in their absence.

 

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They’ve come somewhat close, though. The absolute unit and heavyweight contender, Francis Ngannou, captivated the sports world with his stunningly violent knockout of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218.  He then squandered his shot at the belt by refusing to work on his grappling in the months leading up to his title-fight with Stipe Miocic at UFC 220. Fighters have neglected the ground game in the past and managed to triumph, only Ngannou was facing a champion whose wrestling prowess is unmatched in the division and the entire UFC. That fight went exactly as you might think it would and the legend of Francis Ngannou was put on hold.

The aforementioned Khabib Nurmogomedov is a Russian wrestling phenom who is  unbeaten at 26-0 in the lightweight division, and regularly abuses opponents on the ground in highlight fashion with his violent takedowns. Most see his clash with McGregor as inevitable at 155 pounds after the bus incident; Many experts even grant the edge to Khabib stylistically. Yet, with no fight currently made with the Irishman, and Khabib only struggling to bring in anything resembling major pay-per-view money for the company, he is unlikely to rise to stardom anytime in the immediate future.

The UFC desperately needs a star that can draw the casual fan again. Enter: Darren Till. The young and recently unknown Muay Thai fighter caught the attention of every UFC loyalist when he did the improbable and eviscerated veteran fan-favorite Donald, “Cowboy,” Cerrone with ease in just over 2 minutes at UFC Fight Night: Poland last last year. Till shattered Cowboy’s nose and put the 170 pound division on notice with his elite striking ability. Cowboy is on the back nine of his fighting career without question, but the MMA world was uniformly impressed with how quickly and effortlessly Till picked apart his revered opponent, who everyone had favored in the bout. 

 The twenty-five year old Liverpool native is undefeated at 16-0-1, and while diehard UFC fans are growing tired of the hype surrounding Till in the interim between the Cowboy fight and this one, the potential draw for Darren Till is hard to miss because of his undeniable confidence in and out of the octagon. Upsets like this aren’t necessarily rare in the UFC, but Till genuinely has swagger and an aura of confidence not seen since the ancient McGregor. Watch his post fight interview here to catch a glimpse.

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Darren Till is a southpaw who has shown great power, technical striking ability and range fighting at 170 pounds, allegedly walking around at 205 pounds normally. The beauty of it all is the fact that he is fighting for all to see on Fox Sports 1 for FREE today, May 27th at 1 PM pacific. His opponent? Stephen, “Wonderboy,” Thompson, the number one welterweight fighter in the UFC, who many, including Georges St. Pierre, have pegged as the most talented striker on the entire roster. This high praise from the GOAT is warranted, as Thompson’s only defeat was at the hands of current 170 pound champion, Tyron Woodley, in a horrifyingly boring chess match between the elite strikers. Don’t expect tomorrow’s clash to fall short of gripping, though. Till is clear about his intentions of knocking out Wonderboy in the second round. 

Although, many have certainly grown less fond of Till after he missed weight by 3.5 pounds Saturday. Upon an agreement with Wonderboy, Till will have to fight under 188 pounds today, which will force him to be roughly 5% dehydrated. This is a big advantage for Wonderboy, although, the fight could have been called off entirely so Till is still lucky for this opportunity after blundering like this. I still believe Till can pull through and don’t plan on making excuses for him if he loses here today.

 

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Wonderboy will still have his hands full with the young buck on Sunday. Till’s confidence was forged on two continents. Till was a troubled teen training Muay Thai in Liverpool in his late teens when he was stabbed at a local nightclub. The knife missed an artery by an inch that would’ve resulted in him bleeding to death if struck. His coach decided the young fighter had been moving with the wrong crowd for long enough, and sent him packing to Brazil to continue his Muay Thai training. He returned four years later as a fluent speaker of Portuguese with maturity and ambitions to dominate the MMA world.

Till has gotten off to a great start and has his sights set on the biggest opportunity of his career, the number one welterweight in the world — Wonderboy Thompson. This could be the chance for Till to catapult himself into the eyes of the mainstream UFC fan, and while this task is improbable (and this article likely belongs on a UFC circle jerk subreddit), this storyline certainly warrants the attention of the casual UFC fan looking for the next big star in MMA who’s must see television at the presser and in the octagon.