“In fourteen bouts, he stands perfect – thirteen victories, no defeats, one draw. Fighting out of Santa Catarina, Brazil, here is the undefeated Darren Till!”
It’s that bit Darren Till likes. The bit about being undefeated. The bit about being perfect.
When it’s spelled out to him like that by a UFC announcer it acts as a reminder that he’s doing okay. More than okay, this 24-year-old from Liverpool, on paper at least, is doing better than the majority of the UFC roster.
“I do really like it when the UFC announce me as undefeated,” Till told Fighters Only on Wednesday (August 30). “I’m one of the very few in the UFC. I know it doesn’t mean anything, but I’ve actually got the second best record in the UFC after Khabib (Nurmagomedov), which makes me proud.
“But I’ve been around a long time and I’ve lost fights in Muay-Thai and boxing. So I know how to lose. If one day I lose, and I don’t think I ever will, I’ll just take it on the chin like the champion I am. People can’t say, ‘Oh, if he loses, let’s see how he comes back.’ That doesn’t apply to me because I’ve already f**king lost. I know what defeat feels like.”
Defeats come in all shapes and sizes, of course. They can be close and later contested. They can be emphatic and require a lay-off, a period of recovery. They can be sudden or prolonged. They can be inevitable or surprising.
They can also occur outside the cage, outside of competition.
Certainly, in the case of Darren Till, many of the feelings and emotions associated with defeat – the pain, the frustration, the desperation – are familiar to him because of personal problems rather than opponent problems.
Now, though, with an 18-month Octagon hiatus having come to an end in May, Darren Till is back. He’s active again. He’s winning again. He’s still undefeated.
“I felt good,” he said of a decision win against Jessin Ayari at UFC Fight Night 109. “It was good getting back into the vibes of fighting. I love fight week. I like all the media obligations and training the week of the fight. I love just being relaxed in a nice hotel. It was good getting back into that routine and feeling the nerves again ahead of a fight. It was an exciting time.”
Till fights again this Saturday (September 2) in Rotterdam, Holland. It will be his second fight in just over three months. Talk about making up for lost time.
“I’m a guy who lives by my routine,” he said. “I like being in the routine of getting up, going to the gym, coming back home, resting, going to the gym again. That’s basically been my life for the past fourteen years. It’s been good to get that quick turnaround and be straight back in the gym after that fight in May.”
Just because a fighter goes missing from our television screens and fight card lineups for a notable length of time doesn’t mean they have joined the masses of couch-dwellers and given up on exercise altogether. Nor does it mean they will have regressed when they inevitably return.
That said, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell were right: ain’t nothing like the real thing.
“Pressure is a big factor,” Till said. “In a sparring session there is no pressure to perform. You can have a bad sparring session. It doesn’t matter. You go in there, you know who you’re sparring and there’s a respect thing there. When you’re fighting in the UFC, though, there are millions of people watching and you’re fighting a guy you don’t know who ultimately wants to hurt you the same way you want to hurt him. That’s a big thing to weigh on the human mind. I’ve tried to explain it to my family but it’s difficult. Being a fighter is a physical and mental struggle. It’s hard work.
“Even people who fight sometimes aren’t cut out for it. It’s only a select few that have the mental and physical side sorted. You get guys that look good in the gym but can’t perform on the night and you get guys who look s**t in the gym and then perform under the lights.”
Back beneath the lights this weekend, Till will look to keep his zero intact with a win against Bojan Veličković, a Serbian buoyed by a third-round knockout of Nico Musoke the night Till made his return to the Octagon. That night in Sweden it was Veličković who stole the show, to the tune of a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus, but Till is adamant that won’t happen again.
“I always steal the show,” he said. “People see my fighting style and they remember me. Whether I get a knockout or it goes three rounds, people really appreciate what I bring to the Octagon. It doesn’t matter who is on the card, I’m always the show-stealer.”
As for the opponent, Till sees in Veličković a faceless, nameless body whose downfall will bolster his win column.
“I’ve watched him in training and I watched him have a good fight in Sweden,” he said. “It was a bit scrappy but he got the knockout – props to him.
“I think he’s an intelligent fighter who knows how to grind out wins in MMA fights, which is important. I think he’s going to be training for my skill-set. He’s a clever guy. I think that’s his strong point.
“I would say I’m a stronger wrestler than him, defensively and offensively, and I would say my striking is levels above his and everyone else’s. I think on the ground it’s all about who makes a mistake first. But that won’t be me. I won’t be making any mistakes. I’ll be on top and trying to hurt him. When I’m on the bottom, I’ll be wary of the submission and trying to get back to my feet.
“I’ll go in there and it will just be another Darren Till fight. It’s not going to be a Bojan night. He’ll come with his game plan and be well-trained, but he’s going to fall short.”
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