Cage Warriors lightweight champion George Hardwick delivered another crowd-pleasing performance to retain his 155-pound title, then set his sights on a potential UFC debut on home soil.

Hardwick finished the tricky Yann Liasse inside the opening round to cement his status as Cage Warriors’ premier 155-pounder and, after his victory, he explained how he had to bide his time and dig into his box of tricks to defeat the tricky southpaw from Luxembourg.

“Honestly, before this fight the tools he possesses – a southpaw, his ability to defend himself, he’s not being finished at amateur or professional and he’s got a lot of finishes himself. I thought that was going to shut down a lot of my game,” he admitted.

“I love the cross-counter. I love countering people’s jabs. I love liver shots, I love the calf kick. These don’t open up so much against a southpaw and I really had to scratch my head and get inventive to kind of find the right shot, keep myself safe in the right way, and give him some surprises.

“And I think honestly, it was the first head shot that I landed. I’m gonna have to watch it back. I think it was the first solid headshot that I landed that dropped him to the mat. And that took me by surprise. I was thinking, ‘Have I jumped on the guillotine and lost my opportunity? He’s not tapped yet, I need to get up and keep hitting him and keep the pressure on.’”

Hardwick also admitted that, even though he had to get a little creative to defeat Liasse, he still hasn’t fully showcased his arsenal of talents, with plenty more still in the locker for future fights.

“I think me and (brother) Harry both had these ideas. Like I just mentioned, stylistically – long, southpaw, hard to land the liver shot. Maybe I landed one liver shot that was kind of a bit scruffy.

“I wasn’t landing those clean shots and like, I’ve got to use these different weapons in my arsenal that I’ve used in the gym countlessly, but I haven’t used in a fight, and that’s different. But now I’ve brought them out just a little bit in the fight. I still haven’t even scratched the surface yet. I still have weapon upon weapon upon weapon that I have to show in the fights, but they’ll come. They’ll come.”

Hardwick now stands at 12-1 for his career, with his only defeat coming on the scorecards in his Cage Warriors debut against Madars Fleminas back in 2019. Since then, he’s racked up eight consecutive victories, with seven of them coming inside the distance. His last six fights have produced finishes, with his last four coming via knockout.

It’s a stellar run of form that Hardwick has enjoyed every step of the way.

“I absolutely love each fight experience with Cage Warriors. Back from the night where I had my Cage Warriors return against Dean Trueman and Harry fought Jean N’Doye in a war. That was one of the best nights of my life. And now again, it’s one of the best nights of my life.

“I can’t describe the experience and it’s been so brilliant fighting. You know my first-ever fight was against (Madars) Fleminas – Happy birthday to Fleminas, and well done on getting the win. Awesome training with Fleminas in this fight camp – but that was my first Cage Warriors fight. That was a hard three-round war. Monday morning, I get back in the gym and I’m just working on my boxing and working on what I need to work on. And it’s just been a non-stop streak since then.

“It’s brilliant working from the fight with Trueman where it was an empty arena, first time fighting former Cage Warriors champion, to now – a packed out main event, screaming and hollering, ‘Heartbreak’ blasting out in its full Pat Benatar beauty around a bigger, packed venue. Just loved it.”

Hardwick entered the arena to his signature walkout track, Pat Benetar’s “Heartbreak,” then celebrated his win by busting out a few dance moves, both inside and outside the cage.

And, while he constantly picks holes in his MMA game, he’s happy to remain totally confident in his dancing abilities, no matter what anyone else might say.

“See, fighting is what I do as a profession, so I have to be massively critical of it, because if I’m not, I’ll get chinned!” he said.

“Dancing is like… Well, I’m not a dancer, so I can say I’m as good as I can possibly be. I can say I’m brilliant at it.

“I don’t have to criticize my own dancing. I don’t get chinned if I have bad dancing. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m James Brown 2.0!”

Hardwick’s fans will be hoping they get to see plenty more of his unique dancing style in future fights, and Hardwick said he hopes that those upcoming bouts will come inside the UFC Octagon.

“You know, there’s been rumblings about a UFC (in London) in July, and that would be a perfect timeframe for me,” he said.

“No injuries, I’m getting back in the gym on Monday. You know, I think it’s time to get Dana a chicken parmesan.”

Photos: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors