By Alistair Hendrie
Cage Warriors lightweight mainstay Paddy Pimblett has endured a change of opponent for his last two contests, but he is pleased that Irish veteran Decky Dalton is replacing Davide Martinez as his rival at Cage Warriors 113 on Friday.
Pimblett, 25, heard the news as Martinez was deemed unable to travel from Italy to England due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“I think Dalton is a better opponent than Martinez,” said “Paddy The Baddy”, chatting exclusively to Fighters Only after one of his final sessions in camp at Next Generation in Liverpool.
“He’s battle-tested and he defeated Kalifa Seydi two weeks ago so he’s going to be fight-ready. I read an interview with Decky recently where he said he wanted to get on a few big arena shows, so he’s obviously jumped at the chance.”
In November 2019, Pimblett’s luck took a turn for the worse as his bout at Cage Warriors 111 crumbled into ashes.
His initial adversary Donovan Desmae pulled out injured ten days before the event, while his replacement, Joe Giannetti, missed weight and scuppered Pimblett’s chances of entering the cage at all.
That said, as Martinez dropped out – with coronavirus throwing all public gatherings into jeopardy – did Pimblett fear he would be left without a dance partner again?
“I did feel it was history repeating itself, you know what I mean? I was annoyed straight away. I was shitting myself watching the coronavirus meetings in parliament but it looks like the event will be allowed to go ahead. I’m glad Dalton is down to fight.”
The Liverpudlian will start as the favourite on Friday, although Dalton poses plenty of threats including aggressive takedowns and two-three-punch counters over the top. Having taken out the likes of Andy Young and Mike Cutting, Dalton has also ran out to spirited losses against Peter Queally and Jonathan Brookins along the way to amassing an 11-4 ledger.
Conversely, Pimblett is a former featherweight titlist with a blistering arsenal of kicks and submissions that make him must-see television, not forgetting his raucous walkouts. Naturally, he’s confident of his chances against Dalton.
“I feel I’m better than him everywhere, whether it’s striking and grappling. Of course I think I’ll have an advantage and I don’t think there’s anywhere he’s better than me. I just want to get weighed in and fight – I can’t wait for it.”
The scouser is motivated and in a good place, emerging stronger from a streak of poor form which dented his aura and left him under a cloud of depression.
In April 2017, Pimblett was bound for a UFC contract before dropping a judges’ verdict – and the featherweight strap – to Nad Narimani. Then, in 2018, after regrouping against Alexis Savvidis, he stuttered to another decision setback against Soren Bak.
“I appreciate the losses now that I look back,” said Pimblett, set to compete for the first time in eighteen months. “With hindsight I know they were a good thing and back then I wasn’t doing anything right. I wasn’t training right and my coaches were always on my case.
“I would be training hard but then going out drinking with my mates. I was working hard but I wasn’t anywhere near as dedicated as I am now.”
Pimblett’s mood darkened when he was away from the cage. “It was just loneliness and I did get low at times. Depression can be a problem in MMA as it’s a rollercoaster of emotions.
“But my team at Next Generation supported me, they’re like my family and of course MMA is a way to forget everything – you get on the mats, start training and you don’t think of anything else anymore. I really don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have MMA – I couldn’t do another sport and I don’t reckon I could hack the 9-5.
“Right now I want to get this coronavirus shit out the way and focus on Dalton. Then it will be time to get in a few weeks of chilled training– just working, not smashing it – and then I’ll be ready to watch Liverpool win the Premier League.”
Check out Alistair Hendrie’s Kindle book, Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women’s MMA in Britain, featuring insight from Rosi Sexton, Joanne Calderwood and more