Paddy Pimblett is on a fast track to the UFC and ‘The Baddy’ wants to mix it up with the Octagon’s featherweight heroes straight away

To make it to the top in mixed martial arts it’s imperative to fashion yourself into a bankable star. An athlete must be dynamic, dominant and technically deft inside the cage to climb the rankings, but to truly cash in, they have to be able to sell themselves. They’ve got to talk the talk and walk the walk. Fighters who are as accomplished at dropping verbal bombs as they are ground ‘n’ pound are like precious stones, but there’s one featherweight gem from Liverpool ready to shine on the biggest stage.

Not only does Paddy Pimblett say he’s the number-one featherweight in the UK, he insists he’s the best 145lb’er in the world. “I am a future UFC champion. I am,” insists the Next Generation submission whizz. “But I’m no ‘Scouse Conor McGregor’, as people are saying. He’s the Irish Paddy Pimblett. Because once I get there he’s going to get forgotten about. People will be asking, ‘Conor who?’ when I get into the UFC.”

That’s a huge statement from a 21-year-old who, in his own words, looks like a 12-year-old. Yet ask all but one of his 11 past opponents whether ‘The Baddy’ has got the skills to conquer in the Octagon.

“I’d like to go now,” Pimblett adds. “I watch all UFC events and think, ‘I’d demoralize you.’ I watch UFC featherweights and I wonder how they even got into the UFC. Some of them are a joke. Everyone’s getting excited about Yair Rodriguez, but I watched his fight at UFC 197 against Andre Fili and, believe me, they would both get smoked. I’d annihilate both of them. Fast.”

There are only a handful of names on the Octagon’s 145lb roster that Pimblett has any respect for – its top three fighters in fact. Yet even they aren’t exempt from being called out by the confident youngster. “The McGregors, Aldos, Edgars, that’s it. There’s a lot of dead wood in the UFC. Every weight class is mostly fighters making up the numbers. There are a lot of guys who shouldn’t be there.

“If I got the run McGregor had I would have the same number of bonuses and the same wins as him too. And I include (Chad) Mendes in that statement. Put me in with Mendes now and I’ll beat him. In fact, put me in with McGregor and I’ll beat him too.

“This is the thing, whenever I get matched with anyone, they don’t like it once they’re in there with me. I’m not like anyone they’ve ever trained with in their lives. Everyone gets a shock – nobody fights like me.”

Pimblett started training MMA aged 15, after watching UFC 103. Seeing Vitor Belfort KO Rich Franklin spurred him to go for a run at 5am with the sound of Bruce Buffer announcing him into the Octagon ringing in his ears. A week later he walked into Paul Rimmer’s Next Generation gym and started training four times a week, changing his entire lifestyle almost overnight to suit the sport and its demands. He’d found his calling.

Today he insists he’s unbeatable – and says he’s got a submission loss to Cameron Else, from his fifth pro fight in October 2013, to thank for it. “At that stage in my career, I needed a loss. I needed to get my head sorted out to get myself training properly again,” he confesses to FO.

“I took him for granted. I was young, I thought I was unbeatable and I thought I didn’t have to train hard to beat him. It was a lesson. And since that loss I have not and will not ever underestimate anybody ever again.”

He certainly couldn’t afford to look past ATT veteran Ashleigh Grimshaw on Cage Warriors’ comeback show in April, who on paper was Pimblett’s toughest test to date. In the co-main event slot, UK MMA was divided on who would emerge with the ‘W’, but Paddy dominated from the first bell to the last. “It was easy,” adds the youngster, “but it was the scalp that showed the world I’m ready for the next step.”

A Hard Day’s Fight – Fab Four tribute

Pimblett’s known for his distinctive golden main, which he says is an homage to Liverpool’s favorite sons: “People like to call them ket-wigs, but I hate that phrase and I prefer to think of it as my tribute to The Beatles. When I get to the big show I’ll be letting all the Yanks know that I’m the fifth Beatle. The world is going to know me soon enough, just like they knew them four.”

* Paddy Pimblett co-headlines tomorrow’s Cage Warriors 78 card in his hometown of Liverpool, UK. The event will be broadcast live domestically on BT Sport and worldwide on UFC Fight Pass.

This interview first appeared in the June UK issue of Fighters Only magazine.