Paddy Pimblett has the co-main event spotlight at UFC 282, and plans to use that showcase positioning to demonstrate his continued evolution as a mixed martial artist.
Liverpool’s Pimblett takes on American Jared Gordon in a lightweight bout that, despite Pimblett’s larger-than-life personality, has highlighted the mutual respect between the pair, who have both spoken openly about their advocacy of mental health awareness.
That respect will remain at the conclusion of their matchup, but the bout itself will pose the sternest test of Pimblett’s skills inside the UFC Octagon so far.
Pimblett, however, isn’t placing too much emphasis on leveling up in opponent. He just sees it as the next bout in line.
“Another fight, lad. I mean, this is just standard,” he told reporters during media day ahead of the event in Las Vegas.
“Every fight’s gonna be the biggest fight of my career. Every one I take, so I just take every one in my stride. This is business as usual.”
The fight will be Pimblett’s fourth since his arrival in the UFC. Three eye-catching victories over Luigi Vendramini, Kazula Vargas and Jordan Leavitt have seen his star power increase exponentially on the world stage. None of it has come as a surprise to the man himself, though.
“Nah, I always saw this in my future. I knew what was coming,” he said.
“I always said I’m gonna be the biggest star in this sport. And none of it takes you by surprise.
“I’ll stop and give anyone my time, as long as the use their manners. I don’t like it when people are rude, that’s it. As long as people say please, and they don’t just headlock me and try to take a selfie, I’ll take time out of my day to speak to anyone because, without those fans, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Despite the test posed by Gordon at UFC 282, Pimblett is able to head into the bout with a healthy respect for his opponent. Exchanges between the pair have been warm and cordial all week – even during the pre-fight press conference, where sparks often fly. But, while Pimblett got into a verbal exchange with another rival, Ilia Topuria, on the stage, things remained classy with his immediate opponent.
“I really like Jared. We’ve got a mutual respect for each other,” Pimblett explained.
“I think he’s an amazing human being. What he’s come back (from) throughout his life. He’s turned his life around. He’s such an inspirational and motivational person. I have got the utmost respect for him. I really have. I think he’s a very nice, genuine dude.
“I saw him yesterday and he come over and give me a hug and shook my hand. He came in, gave me a hug and shook my hand and then he put online ‘he’s got very soft hands,’ and people were giving him s**t over it.
“I didn’t take it like that. I have got very soft hands, and I don’t use moisturizer! I have got soft hands. It’s my knuckles you’ve got to worry about!”
While Pimblett says he has respect for, and from, his opponent, he isn’t convinced that the MMA world as a whole is fully switched on to his skills yet. Despite capturing a championship with Cage Warriors and producing three crowd-pleasing wins in the UFC, “Paddy the Baddy” hasn’t won everyone over with his in-cage abilities yet.
It’s something that clearly rankles with the Englishman, and he hopes to win a few more people over – or prove them wrong – on Saturday night.
“It’s cheeky, lad. People still aren’t taking me for real,” he said.
“No one respects me, and it does piss me off. But I’ve just got to get on with that, lad. People don’t respect the come-up – simple as.
“This fight is going to be my breakout performance. I don’t think I’ve put a good performance in since my debut, and that wasn’t even that good.
“But this is going to be my breakout performance. People are going to see the improvements I’ve made over the past 15 months since I signed with the UFC. You are gonna see.”