Written by Jay Furness
The UFC debuts in Liverpool on May 27th, with hometown favourite Darren “The Gorilla” Till taking on former title challenger Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in the night’s main event.
It is the charisma and popularity of the Liverpudlian that helped draw the UFC to one of England’s most famous fighting cities for the first time, but it is the stylistic matchup with “Wonderboy” that really has the fans salivating.
Till is a punishing Muay Thai stylist, whilst Thompson is an accurate karateka and kickboxer, with both men capable of emphatic knockouts using their very different styles of striking.
It’s geared up as a momentous homecoming for Till, who has never fought on British soil as a professional, and gets to do it in front of the passionate fans of his own city. However, Thompson’s style and quality of opposition mean he is another step up for the Scouser after he successfully dispatched Donald Cerrone last year.
Thompson was on hand at the UFC Fight Night 130 media day, to give his thoughts on Till, the welterweight landscape, and the Northwest city most famous for The Beatles and football.
Can you give us your thoughts on the welterweight division as it stands?
I think it’s one of the most competitive divisions in the UFC. You’ve got a lot of up and coming guys, [Kamaru] Usman who just beat Demian Maia, of course Colby Covington and Rafael Dos Anjos, and you still have a lot of specialists in this division. A lot of wrestlers, a lot of grapplers, strikers like myself and Darren Till inluded. It’s kind of up in the air to be honest with you. Not looking past Darren Till at all – I’m focused on one guy and one guy only for Sunday, that’s what I’m prepared for.
The English fans will love it, a striker vs. striker battle. Are you happy with that?
This is what I like! Most of the other guys in the division I’m facing are wrestlers, so this definitely puts a smile on my face, going out there and facing another striker. I’m ready to put on a show for everybody. Let’s go.
Till has predicted that he will be the first person to knock you out, what do you think about that?
For some reason, I think a lot of people underestimate me. I’ve been fighting since I was 15 years old. He’s not the first person to say that before, and probably won’t be the last, but let him think that. Him saying that makes me think he’s going to come out aggressive. Most of the guys I’ve been facing are aggressive fighters, they tend to end up running into things. He’s a very good counter puncher so I’m ready for that, but wherever the fight goes, I’m prepared.
Do you have a prediction of your own?
I never make predictions, especially not a knockout. I always visualise my hand being raised. If a knockout happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m ready for five, five minute rounds.
How does it feel coming here for the first UFC card in Liverpool against the hometown boy?
I think it’s cool, man. Being the bad guy, coming to Liverpool. When you think of bad guy, you don’t think of myself, but it’s pretty cool to be on the first Liverpool UFC card in history. Let’s make history!
You went and did some promo at Everton FC – how was that?
I know what the UFC is doing, he’s a Liverpool fan obviously, and Liverpool and Everton are rivals, but this is cool. This whole football scene is very new to me, so of course it was cool to go and see the stadium and meet the people that worked there, but I’m definitely rooting for Liverpool this Saturday!
Where do you think a win over Till would put you and what happens next in the welterweight division?
It really depends on who fights Tyron Woodley next, and who wins that. I think if the winner of the interim title shot beat Tyron, then I’d get the next shot. If Tyron wins, I may have to fight one more time before I get another shot. We’ve got some beasts in this division, man.