Liverpool’s Darren Till talks a lot. He says what he is going to do and then invariably goes out there and does it. His confidence is infectious. His striking is dangerous. His record is spotless. He is able to talk the talk because, so far, at a certain level, he has been able to then walk the walk.
On Saturday night (October 21) in Poland, his ability to make this walk, and back up his talk, will be tested in a way it has yet to be tested. He’s no longer predicting the fate of Wendell de Oliveira, Nicolas Dalby, Jessin Ayari or Bojan Veličković, you see. No, this is far worse. This is far riskier and potentially humiliating if he gets it wrong.
Darren Till is telling Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone what’s going to happen when they meet in Gdansk. Yes, Donald Cerrone, he of the eight-fight unbeaten run, the former UFC lightweight title challenger. Till, in boldly forecasting Cerrone’s next loss, his third in a row, is saying he’s capable of doing what the following were unable to do: Edson Barboza, Benson Henderson, Eddie Alvarez, Myles Jury, Jim Miller, Alex Oliveira and Patrick Côté. And the rest.
Till is telling us he’s not only a prospect worth keeping an on. He’s telling us he’s going to be UFC welterweight champion. He’s telling us he’s going to be the greatest fighter of all-time.
Cerrone sighs. He’s heard it all before. The likes of Jury and Barboza were the same, albeit less cocksure and vocal. They, too, were highly-touted before Cerrone put their ambitions in check. Till knows this. It’s why his confidence is tinged with respect.
“He’s a great striker,” Till says. “He’s without a doubt one of the best strikers in the UFC. I’m a fan. I respect him. I admire him. But it ain’t going to change anything about Saturday night. I’m still going in there to beat him.
“My striking is a level above everyone. They are all on a level and I’m just on that level above. Not one of them can stand with me. I’m too slick and too clever.”
Cerrone does more than sigh and roll his eyes when the next so-called phenom comes along and looks to add his name to their resume en route, they believe, to a UFC title shot. He also refuses to watch tape of the opponent. Disregards them completely, it would seem.
“If that’s what he’s saying, let him say it,” is Till’s response to ‘Cowboy’s claim that he hasn’t watched the Liverpudlian in action. “It all comes down to Saturday night. He doesn’t have to watch tapes. It’s not going to do him any good anyway. It’s inevitable what I’m coming to the cage to do on Saturday night. There’s not enough time for him to strategise and game plan. He needs fifty years to do that. He hasn’t got fifty years.”
For Till, 14-0-1, this will be his first UFC main event slot, as well as his first scheduled five-rounder. In typically brash fashion, though, he evades these key points as if they are punches – slow, looping, telegraphed punches – coming his way.
“If it’s not broken, you don’t need to fix it,” he says. “It never was broken. We just upped the rounds a bit more in terms of intensity and kept it simple. There was nothing to change. We’ve been training for five rounds for years now. I’m still going to train for five rounds after this because I know I’m going to be champion.”
*** Watch UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: COWBOY vs. TILL live on BT Sport from 8pm BST on Saturday October 21st or catch the Prelims exclusively on UFC Fight Pass from 4.30pm BST ***