Donald Cerrone agreed to fight Darren Till because 'rankings don't (expletive) matter anyway'

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GDANSK, Poland – Donald Cerrone knows he has a lot more to lose than gain in his UFC Fight Night 118 headliner with Darren Till, but he doesn’t seem to care.

An established fan-favorite like Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC) agreeing to fight an unheralded opponent like Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC) is an increasingly rare occurrence in the modern UFC. Top fighters are largely concerned about facing someone who has a ranking next to their name; they aren’t as willing to take the risk of fighting lesser-known opposition compared to when official rankings didn’t exist in the sport.

Cerrone, who meets Till in Saturday’s welterweight main event on the UFC Fight Pass-streamed card at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, isn’t one to fret over such things. His enjoyment of the sport trumps the politics of enhancing or weakening his position in the division, and he said that’s for the best, because fighters who dwell on their place in the rankings don’t appear much better off.

“The rankings don’t matter,” Cerrone told MMAjunkie. “I feel like in the last year the rankings don’t (expletive) matter anyway, right? ‘Cowboy’ takes a fight with somebody (unranked), and they’re like, ‘What the (expletive)?’ But someone who has the title can fight anybody they want, and it’s like, ‘Ah, that’s just a good fight.’ Come on, man. It seems like the last year the rankings aren’t mattering. I just needed an opponent.”

Cerrone, No. 10 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, said he would’ve embraced a matchup with a ranked foe, but bringing those fights to fruition is apparently a lot easier said than done. An unranked opponent like Till jumps at the opportunity to fight Cerrone because it could completely change the trajectory of his career, but athletes already established near the top of the sport aren’t as willing.

According to “Cowboy,” there were several offers extended to elite members of the 170-pound division. No one was biting at the chance to compete against him, though, and as someone who truly embodies the “anyone, any time, anywhere” mentality, that’s how he ended up in the showdown with Till.

“The MMA audience is so stupid,” Cerrone said. “They just think because a guy says, ‘I’ll fight anybody,’ that means they’ll do it. No, that’s not true. They said they’ll fight anybody in public, and then when they get the call and their manager sits down with them and they’re like, ‘They offered us ‘Cowboy’ and their manager says, ‘Stylistically I don’t know if that’s a good matchup for you right now, you’re coming off a loss’ and blah, blah blah.

“Then they say they didn’t turn it down, but their management turned it down and it’s not them doing it, ‘I didn’t turn it down.’ To me that drives me (expletive) through the wall.”

Cerrone, 34, said his trouble getting an opponent makes him respect Till, 24, for stepping up to the plate. Although the Brit has infinitely more to gain than lose in the matchup, he’s also putting a lot of stock into his own ability to take a giant step up in competition and beat someone of Cerrone’s caliber.

Fighting is a game of taking chances, though, and as someone who has taken many during his own career, Cerrone said he appreciates Till following suit.

“For Darren to say, ‘You know what, I’ve only had a couple fights, I’ll fight a (expletive) legend, let’s go.’ Dude, right on, bro,” Cerrone said. “I was that son-of-a-(expletive) kid. I remember taking those fights. My hat’s off to the kid. The steam’s running on him. Good opportunity for him. But people say no all the time. It’s (expletive) asinine to me. Career-wise, is this a smart fight moving forward in my direction in the rankings? Probably not. This does me nothing. It does something for Darren if he wins. He could do some serious leap-frogging, but for me, nothing. Why be the guy that says I’ll fight anyone, anywhere, anytime – oh, except for him? If I say that I have to live by it.”

Ultimately Cerrone is just happy to return to the octagon, regardless of who is standing on the other side. He enters UFC Fight Night 118 on a losing skid for the first time in his career, and his hope is to fix that on Saturday, especially because he had to travel a long way from Albuquerque, N.M.

Cerrone has never fought outside North America in his 35 appearances to date under the UFC or WEC banners. That will change for the fight with Till, but Cerrone’s approach won’t. Gdansk is a long way from home, but Cerrone said his true home is inside the cage.

“It’s crazy sleeping in a hotel room,” Cerrone said. “The UFC, when I was trying to get a fight, they had a lineup of all the little places they offered me, there was no Europe on there. I was like, ‘What about the Poland card?’ And (UFC matchmaker) Sean (Shelby) was like, ‘Wait, you’ll go overseas?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, why not?’ He’s like, ‘It’s on Fight Pass.’ I said, ‘I don’t care, man. You guys really don’t understand. It doesn’t matter. I’ll fight the first fight of the night. It doesn’t have to be main event, Poland, pay-per-view. I don’t care.’

“It makes no difference to me. This is what I love to do. I enjoy this whole process, being over here, being in Poland, walking around, checking everything out. Then I get to fight and do what I love. Are you kidding me? Come on.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Donald Cerrone welcomes gatekeeper label, but can Darren Till 'get past the gate?'

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GDANSK, Poland – Donald Cerrone relishes the narrative his UFC Fight Night 118 headliner with Darren Till could be a changing of the guard in the UFC welterweight division.

Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC), who meets Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC) in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Pass-streamed card at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, is aware of all the storylines. From the perception that an up-and-comer will make a name at his expense to the fact “Cowboy” could be falling off by fighting someone outside the rankings after back-to-back losses, Cerrone has heard all the chatter.

He simply doesn’t care.

Anyone who’s followed Cerrone’s career knows there’s almost nothing he won’t take it stride. So, the “old school vs. new school” outlook on the matchmaking certainly isn’t going to come as a bother for arguably the most laid back fighter in the sport. Cerrone said Till deserves all the credit if he successfully uses his name as a building block, but he just doesn’t see it happening.

“Can you pass that test? It’s a good training exercise for Darren,” Cerrone today told MMAjunkie. “Welcome to the big leagues. Some people say, ”Cowboy’ is the gatekeeper.’ (Expletive) it: Can he get past the gate? We’ll see.

“It’s not like those things hurt my feelings. I know who I am, and it’s fine. I’ve been in this game a long time. This is my 34th Zuffa walk. I’ve been in the top 10 almost my entire career. That’s a pretty cool thing I can say. I’m here, I’m (expletive) going out and having fun, and I can’t (expletive) wait.”

There’s no doubt Cerrone, No. 10 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, has the most to lose in the fight. He may be on the first losing skid of his career, but his defeats came to former UFC champ and No. 3-ranked Robbie Lawler and No. 8 Jorge Masvidal.

Although Till holds a solid unbeaten record over 16 fights, Cerrone is a massive step up in competition. Till’s self-confidence in the lead-up to UFC Fight Night 118 is evident on the surface, but Cerrone said it’s going to be something entirely different when he steps in the octagon on fight night.

“He’s a new up-and-comer,” Cerrone said. “Everyone’s like, ‘You’re overlooking him.’ At what point do I look past somebody? You mean the six weeks I’m training my ass for this fight? People are so strange. I train hard. I train the same always. I stay ready. Fighting is what I love to do. It doesn’t always go my way. Right now I’m two in the wrong. The Robbie fight, to me, that could have gone either way. People weren’t like, ‘Oh, you went out there and let us down.’ I fought the best in the world and (expletive) loved it.

“I’m glad Darren took the fight. He’s coming hard, I’m sure. This is the biggest moment of his life. Lights, camera, action, man. This is a big deal. Five rounds, a big fight. You went from the undercard to the big card. I’ve been there. This is just another day for me. But for him, this is a big test. Are you going to be able to show up? Is five rounds too much for you? Is it too much up (in the head)? Physically I’m sure you’re fine, but (mentally) it’s a big deal.”

Cerrone, 34, and Till, 24, appear to be somewhat cut from the same cloth in that they’re true fighters to the core. They’re passionate about fighting as frequently as possible regardless of who’s on the other side, and Cerrone said he respects that approach.

When the fight was first booked, Cerrone said admitted knew absolutely nothing about Till. That hasn’t necessarily changed over the course of a six-week training camp; Cerrone famously dislikes watching film of his opponents. He said he’s learned everything he needs from his coaching staff at Jackson Wink MMA, though, and that allows him to be comfortable in his preparation going into UFC Fight Night 118.

“It wasn’t any disrespect from me,” Cerrone said. “I wasn’t trying to like prod at the kid. I just didn’t know who he was. Honestly, I watch zero fights. It has nothing to do with me not training. My coaches, it’s their job. You guys study and let me train. I just don’t enjoy it. I don’t sit there. There’s some people that love that. They sit at home. I would rather go looking at castles and walking around. Last night I was watching YouTube videos on how people build and design castles. I guess I could have been watching Darren Till, but I wasn’t.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Darren Till's simple plan? Be the 'greatest fighter that ever fought in MMA'

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GDANSK, Poland – When you ask fighters how they feel on the cusp of potentially career-defining moments, there’s one particular descriptor that seems downright inescapable: excited.

But as Darren Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC) prepares to headline his first UFC card, against WEC and octagon vet Donald Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC), that’s not the word that he would use.

“I’m not excited,” Till told MMAjunkie ahead of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 118 event. “I’m not getting into my emotions right now. I’ve been saying this for the past few weeks: I just live in the moment. I’m seeing my face on the poster, but it hasn’t hit me yet. That that is me and that I’m fighting Cerrone.

“I’m just living every moment. I’m not taking anything for granted because opportunities like these only come around every so often, especially after I only got four fights in the UFC. It takes guys 10 fight-plus to get main events. So I’m honored. I really am.”

UFC Fight Night 118 takes place at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, and the entire card streams on UFC Fight Pass.

Till’s unique choice of words falls right in line with his UFC trajectory. As the welterweight himself pointed out, it’s not common for a fighter to earn such a big opportunity after an exciting, but timid four-fight UFC run – especially with a draw among those results.

Not only that: Despite being unbeaten, Till came out of relative obscurity to debut in the UFC – which he did as an underdog, back in 2015. But the charismatic Liverpool native, who’d had all of his previous pro MMA bouts in his temporary home of Brazil, seems to have a knack for making the opportunities count.

After taking a decision over Bojan Velickovic in a UFC Fight Night 115 barnburner in September, Till’s poise on the mic also stood out. And then the striking specialist famously turned a bar chat with matchmaker Sean Shelby into his biggest career opportunity yet.

Till hasn’t exactly been shy about his high aspirations. He’s not in this simply to build a career and, hopefully, make some money in the process. In fact, he’s not even in this to simply be a UFC champion.

“I want to be remembered as the greatest fighter that ever fought in MMA,” Till said.

But even with all of his ambition and remarkable self-confidence, Till carries some self-awareness with him. Which is why he took no ounce of offense when “Cowboy” Cerrone talked about not knowing who he was before agreeing to the welterweight scrap.

“Why should he know who I am? He’s got no reason to,” Till said. “Everyone thinks that I took disrespect to that. No, I didn’t. The guy has got no right in knowing who I am. Obviously, he knows who I am now.”

In fact, when it comes to Cerrone, the 24-year-old Till holds no grudges or no ill ill. The two, the Brit said, have run into each other in the hotel lobby a few times already and have exchanged nothing but friendly nods in a week that’s all about “good vibes.”

That is, until it isn’t.

“I came up watching him when he was fighting in the WEC (and) all of his UFC fights,” Till said. “I’m a fan. But I am still going to knock him out on Saturday. I respect him. After the fight he can have a Budweiser with me. But I will go in there to knock him straight out. That’s what I will do.”

Till, who’s clearly not one for modest plans, sees himself going on to be one of MMA’s biggest game-changers – joining the likes of former 205-pound champ Chuck Liddell, ex-middleweight-kingpin Anderson Silva and current lightweight titleholder Conor McGregor.

Saturday’s headliner, Till said, will be his “historic” moment, the one that reveals all of his greatness to the world. But even his grandiose plans are grounded in reality. While he fully expects a title shot to come some time in the future, he disagrees with those who think that a win over Cerrone could get him there already.

“I don’t want a title after this fight,” Till said. “I don’t believe I’ve earned that fight. I will never disrespect the champion that way. I want to (expletive) that champion up anyway. But I’m not going to disrespect that guy. That guy has racked years and years to get where he is now.

“And I just beat Cerrone, and it’s like, the guy thinks he deserves a title shot? No. I’ve got a good head on me. And I know after Cerrone I need to beat maybe one or two more people until I get that title.”

Upon getting those top-10 foes that should get him in line for the belt, though, Till has very little doubt as to what would happen.

“There’s no one in there that can beat me,” Till said. “They’re all bums.”

In fact, why stop at the top 10 of his own division?

“I am just the best fighter out there,” Till said. “There’s not a guy who’s better than me, on my level. In my mind, there’s not a guy who can beat me. I really truly believe that when I say it. Guys, they come out to say they’re the best and this and that. You can see, when they say it, they don’t believe it.

“When I say something, I believe it totally. I don’t look at someone – I don’t look at (170-pound champion Tyron) Woodley. I don’t even look at light heavyweights that are better than me. I believe I’m better than every single one of them.”

To hear more from Till, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie rankings, Oct. 17: Will UFC-Gdansk cause a welterweight shake-up?

The UFC heads to Poland this week, kicking off a run of nine straight weekends with fight cards, and much could change in divisional landscapes over that time.

It starts in the welterweight class this week, with an unexpected headliner between perennial contender Donald Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC) and undefeated English upstart Darren Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC).

Cerrone has been a fixture for years in the rankings, first in the lightweight division and, more recently, at 170 pounds. Meanwhile, Till considers himself the future of the welterweight division but has yet to break into the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings.

The two meet on Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night 118, which takes place at Ergo Arena in Gdansk and streams on UFC Fight Pass.

Could the division have an entirely new look after this weekend? Check out that weight class and more in the latest update to our lists.

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'UFC on the Fly': Behind the scenes with UFC-Gdansk headliner Darren Till

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England’s Darren Till has been considered one of the UFC’s best prospects since he came to the promotion in 2015.

On Saturday, he could take a major step toward fulfilling his promise as the next best thing at welterweight. Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC) takes on veteran Donald Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC) in the UFC Fight Night 118 headliner – his first UFC main event.

UFC Fight Night 118 takes place Saturday at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, and the entire card streams on UFC Fight Pass.

The latest edition of “UFC on the Fly” catches up Till ahead of his main event against Cerrone, who is a slight favorite in the fight. Check out the full video above.

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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MMAjunkie reader predictions: Make your picks for UFC Fight Night 118 in Poland

We want your predictions for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 118 event in Poland.

Our staff picks feature includes the consensus picks from MMAjunkie readers. Simply cast your vote for each bout below, and we’ll use the official tallies that are registered by Thursday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT).

Those MMAjunkie MMA reader consensus picks will be part of the UFC Fight Night 118 staff picks we release Friday ahead of the event. UFC Fight Night 118 takes place at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, and the entire card streams on UFC Fight Pass.

Donald Cerrone vs. Darren Till

Records: Donald Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC), Darren Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC)
Past five: Cerrone 3-2, Till 4-0-1
Division: Welterweight
Rankings: Cerrone No. 10
Odds (as of 10/15/17): Cerrone -150, Till +120

Take Our Poll
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Jodie Esquibel vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Records: Jodie Esquibel (6-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC)
Past five: Esquibel 3-2, Kowalkiewicz 3-2
Division: Women’s strawweight
Rankings: Kowalkiewicz No. 4
Odds (as of 10/15/17): Kowalkiewicz -465, Esquibel +345

Take Our Poll
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Jan Blachowicz vs. Devin Clark

Records: Jan Blachowicz (19-7 MMA, 2-4 UFC), Devin Clark (8-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC)
Past five: Blachowicz 1-4, Clark 4-1
Division: Light heavyweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 10/15/17): Clark -150, Blachowicz +120

Take Our Poll
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Oskar Piechota vs. Jonathan Wilson

Records: Oskar Piechota (9-0-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC), Jonathan Wilson (7-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC)
Past five: Piechota 5-0, Wilson 3-2
Division: Middleweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 10/15/17): Piechota -200, Wilson +160

Take Our Poll
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For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Here's the official UFC-Gdansk poster with 'Cowboy' and Darren Till

Dann StuppCheck out the official poster for UFC Fight Night 118, which marks just the second time the UFC has visited Poland.

UFC Fight Night 118 takes place Oct. 21 at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, and the entire card streams on UFC Fight Pass. It’s the first event in Poland since UFC Fight Night 64 took place in Krakow in 2015.

Here’s the recently released poster for the latest card, which features welterweight headliners Donald Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC) andDarren Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC), as well as co-headliners Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) and Jodie Esquibel (6-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC):

How do you rate UFC Fight Night 118’s poster? Give it a grade:

Take Our Poll
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The full UFC Fight Night 118 lineup includes:

MAIN CARD (3 p.m. ET, UFC Fight Pass)

  • Donald Cerrone vs. Darren Till
  • Jodie Esquibel vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
  • Jan Blachowicz vs. Devin Clark
  • Oskar Piechota vs. Jonathan Wilson

PRELIMINARY CARD (11:45 a.m. ET, UFC Fight Pass)

  • Marcin Held vs. Teemu Packalen
  • Dmitrii Smoliakov vs. Adam Wieczorek
  • Brian Kelleher vs. Damian Stasiak
  • Ramazan Emeev vs. Trevor Smith
  • Andre Fili vs. Artem Lobov
  • Warlley Alves vs. Jim Wallhead
  • Aspen Ladd vs. Lina Lansberg
  • Felipe Arantes vs. Josh Emmett

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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UFC Fight Night 118 lineup set with 12 bouts on UFC Fight Pass in Gdansk, Poland

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The fight card is set for the UFC’s return to Poland later this month for UFC Fight Night 118.

UFC Fight Night 118 takes place Oct. 21 at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland. The event streams live on UFC Fight Pass.

In the main event, former lightweight title challenger and current welterweight Donald Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC) tries to hand Darren Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC) his first professional setback. It will be Cerrone’s first time fighting outside North America since 2007.

In the co-main event, Jodie Esquibel (6-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) takes on former women’s strawweight title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC). Kowalkiewicz, from Poland, will be looking to snap a two-fight skid – the only losses of her career, which started with a setback to champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Rounding out the four-fight main card, Jan Blachowicz (19-7 MMA, 2-4 UFC) fights in front of his home Polish fans when he takes on Devin Clark (8-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) at light heavyweight. And Poland’s Oskar Piechota (9-0-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) makes his promotional debut in a middleweight fight against Jonathan Wilson (7-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC).

The featured fight on the eight-bout preliminary card also is a key one for Polish fans. Former Bellator standout Marcin Held (22-7 MMA, 0-3 UFC) is winless at 0-3 since signing with the UFC. He’ll take on Teemu Packalen (8-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) at lightweight.

The full UFC Fight Night 118 lineup includes:

MAIN CARD (3 p.m. ET, UFC Fight Pass)

  • Donald Cerrone vs. Darren Till
  • Jodie Esquibel vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
  • Jan Blachowicz vs. Devin Clark
  • Oskar Piechota vs. Jonathan Wilson

PRELIMINARY CARD (11:45 a.m. ET, UFC Fight Pass)

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Darren Till unloads on Brendan Schaub for criticizing UFC headliner vs. Donald Cerrone

UFC welterweight Darren Till has a lot of people to prove wrong.

Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC) is on the verge of the biggest fight of his UFC career and already he’s on the defensive. Although he professes not to care what social media says about his UFC Fight Night 118 headliner against Donald Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC), Till is awfully fired up at those who question it.

“You’ve got people like Brendan Schaub … saying he doesn’t know me, he’s disrespecting me and whatever, saying ‘Cowboy’ shouldn’t be taking this fight, but why shouldn’t I be taking the fight? Let’s get it straight, I’m unbeaten here,” Till said on the “Obviously Fight Talk” podcast. “I’m unbeaten. Nobody’s been able to beat me.

“So what do I do? Do I just stay on the prelims, do I? Fighting no one. Can’t I move up? Is this what the world’s come to? I can’t move up? I can’t fight these big guys? Is this what it is? A big gap? I’ll (expletive) show them what’s going to be a big gap on fight night when I crack him on the chin.”

Schaub, a former UFC heavyweight and co-host of “The Fighter and the Kid” podcast, indicated Cerrone should be a bit more selective about matchups, taking on marquee fighters to rebuild toward a title shot. Cerrone, one of the most active combatants the UFC has ever seen, has lost two straight fights at welterweight, where he hoped to win a title after falling short on multiple occasions at lightweight.

Schaub might not have meant to disrespect Till, who’s 3-0-1 in the octagon and recently outpointed Bojan Velickovic in an impressive performance. Till took it that way nonetheless.

“They can say what they want,” Till said. “At the end of the day, if ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone came into Muay Thai we’d consider him an amateur. So what does that say? He wouldn’t be considered no top-level striker in Muay Thai, let me tell you that right now. So what’s the difference? He’s a lightweight.

“I just don’t see how he’s going to take me down. He is a black belt, a respected black belt, but I don’t see him tapping me. And, you know, on the feet I just don’t see what he’s going to do to me. I don’t see where he can bother me. I just don’t see it.”

Before he entered the UFC, Cerrone was, in fact, a professional kickboxer. Although accurate records are almost impossible to come by, his advertised kickboxing record was 28-0-1. He also won titles as an amateur and professional.

When he transitioned to MMA, Cerrone showed he was not just a striker. His first seven wins were either the result of armbars or triangle chokes. But Till wouldn’t be the first to underestimate his opponent, no matter how many times Cerrone has snuck in a fight-ending punch, kick, or submission.

“There’s no disrespect between me and Donald,” he said. “I just want to beat him up. I just want to batter him. That’s what I want to do, and he wants to do the same to me. But just because he doesn’t know me I’m going to get all disrespectful?

“Listen, I don’t care what people say, I don’t care about social media. None of that gets to me. I do look at it, and I do laugh. I just don’t give a (expletive) what anyone says. I really don’t.”

It certainly sounds like the opposite. But leave Till to prove none of that matters when they step into the cage.

“I’ll be going in to take his chin clean off. So, you know, let these people talk, let Brendan Schaub go on his podcast and talk,” Till said. “Hasn’t he got better things to talk about? He should be worrying about the (expletive) 10 knockouts he’s had in his career.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Darren Till guarantees win: 'I'm going to build my name off Donald Cerrone'

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Cursing the cancellation of a contest long since giddily penciled in to their calendar has become all too commonplace for the average MMA fan, but occasionally the improvised matchmaking that follows presents fighters with an opportunity for which they’ve been desperately waiting.

Just ask Nate Diaz, who stepped in on short notice for then-lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos to face Conor McGregor at UFC 196 and went on to earn a career-best victory and purse. In spite of losing, their rematch at UFC 202 certainly did Diaz’s bank balance no harm, either.

Darren Till

And then there’s UFC welterweight Darren Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC). Just over a week ago, the Liverpool native was backstage at Ahoy Rotterdam in the Netherlands, toasting his bruising unanimous decision victory over Bojan Velickovic at UFC Fight Night 115, when an unexpected offer came his way via Sean Shelby, the UFC’s Senior Vice President of Talent Relations.

“After the fight, me and Sean Shelby were in the bar having a drink, and he was saying that they were struggling to find a main event for Gdansk,” Till told MMAjunkie. “He asked me if I wanted to fight in main event and I said, ‘Of course. I’ll fight anyone so get that fight on.’ Within a matter of days, it was sorted, and I knew it was going to be ‘Cowboy.’”

The “Cowboy” in question is, of course, Donald Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC), who ranks among the promotion’s most prolific and exciting fighters, and just days after extending his undefeated record against the comparatively unknown Velickovic, Till had signed on to face him in the five-round main event of UFC Fight Night 118 on Oct. 21 at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland.

The showcase is to be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass, and it will be the first time during his stint with the company that Till features atop of the bill. The 24-year-old took little issue with Cerrone admitting to having never heard of him but is quite sure the former UFC lightweight title challenger will be enlightened soon enough.

“It’s been good getting a bit of attention,” Till said. “And he said he doesn’t know me, which is fine because it’s not disrespect. On Instagram, Jackson-Wink put up ‘Donald Cerrone versus who,’ but I’m sure they’re researching me now and thinking, ‘We have to take this kid seriously.’

“At the end of the day, Donald Cerrone is a 34-year-old man who is on his way out and drinks every day. I’m a 210-pound gorilla, and they should be scared because I’m not scared, and I’m going to go in there and knock him out.”

A non-traditional path

The truth is, if Till’s name is unfamiliar to his North American contemporaries, that’s hardly surprising. For starters, he’s never fought there, and a shoulder injury recently kept the muay Thai specialist out of action for the better part of two years.

Such prolonged absences invariably slow the momentum of fighters still making their name, even one as dynamic as Till, whose journey to this juncture has proven anything but straightforward.

He returned to the octagon in May with a unanimous decision win over Jessin Ayari at UFC Fight Night 109 in Stockholm, but had weighed in at 176-pounds and was forced to forgo a significant chunk of his first payday in what felt like an age. However, his performance was a comprehensive masterclass.

Nicolas Dalby and Darren Till

Before that, Till had last fought in a “Fight of Night”-awarded draw with Nicolas Dalby at Dublin’s 3Arena in October 2015 – the lone blemish on his record – and the lack of income in the interim was particularly arduous for the father of one.

“It really was a bad injury, and it required surgery, which is why I was out for so long,” Till said. “I had to be really careful with my money so not to fall into hard times. It was a difficult two years, but life isn’t always about highs – there has to be lows as well.

“The guy (Ayari) took 30 percent of my purse, and that’s no bother. My body just wasn’t used to that cut anymore, so that’s why it happened, but I’ve come back and made championship weight, so I’ve just proved everybody wrong.”

Unlike most prospects from the U.K. and Ireland, Till did not come to the UFC’s attention through shows such as Cage Warriors and BAMMA because his formative years as a mixed martial artist were spent in Brazil.

At just 19, and on the advice of his coach at Team Kaobon, Colin Heron, he travelled the 6,187 miles from Liverpool to Balneario Camboriu in southern Brazil. The circumstances that precipitated the bold move were of the gravest kind.

“I got stabbed twice in the back,” Till explained. “It was just one of them things – I was at a party and a fight happened. I went in to have a fight with the guys who were fighting my mate and some guy came up behind me and stabbed me twice. You have people like that in this life but, as I say, it was just another obstacle in life that I had to recover from.”

In 2012, Heron sent him to the Astra Fight Team, under head coach Marcelo Brigadeiro, but Till would arrive without a word of Portuguese, little knowledge of the grappling arts, no reputation to speak of, and just enough money to get situated in an apartment. Needless to say, before he departed, his friends and family were more than a little skeptical.

“Sometimes, when you tell people about your plans and dreams, they don’t actually start to believe in you until you go and do it,” Till said. “I’d always tell my friends and family that I was going to be this and that, and they’d listen to me, but I don’t think they ever believed it. But right now, let me tell you something, they believe it.

“I haven’t been in school since I was 14 – my job has always been fighting. At the start in Brazil it was horrible, with a different culture and people speaking a different language, but I gritted my teeth and got on with life. I started speaking the language and swore to be the best fighter in Brazil.”

Till began muay Thai at 12 and from then only envisioned combat sports as a possible professional future. He had won the K-1 European title, but coming to Brazil as an MMA novice meant almost starting from scratch, and all the while attempting to assimilate to a profoundly different way of life.

“I (had) just done a little bit of grappling and wrestling at Team Kaobom,” Till said. “My striking was always there but, to be fair, I wasn’t very good with the grappling. But with a lot of dedication, belief and talent, I can happily say that I was tapping black belts while I was there.

“The first two months were difficult. I didn’t really know what I was doing or where I was going, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to pan out. But I settled, got myself together, and it was fun, and now I consider Brazil a second home.”

He went 3-0 as an amateur before turning pro and, aside from his debut, not one of Till’s first 12 pro bouts went the distance.

The striking standout explained that the main difference between regional circuits in Brazil and Europe is that a fighter could compete on a weekly basis in the South American nation, such is the frequency shows are staged there. In 2013 alone, Till fought eight times.

As is so often the case, the call for his UFC debut came in May 2015 on extremely short notice, but Till accepted the bout with Wendell de Oliveira without a moment’s hesitation. At UFC Fight Night 67 in Goiania, Brazil, the Englishman disposed of de Oliveira with a vicious, elbow-laden second-round knockout.

The victory was accompanied by great elation and an even greater desire to succeed, which was significantly heightened given Till’s daughter had been born during his stay in his adopted homeland.

“Ever since I got that first win, I’ve known that I’m going to be one of the pinnacle fighters in the UFC,” Till said. “I left the arena that night very emotional not just for me but my daughter. It’s all just obstacles for us. In this life, you can either quit or carry on. Anything that’s thrown at me, it doesn’t matter because I’ll overcome it.”

A promise, and a guarantee

Speaking to Till, it’s abundantly clear that he doesn’t so much welcome adversity, but readily gleans any lessons to be had when it occurs. To him, each travail provides the chance to demonstrate his resolve.

Last Christmas, he made his most harrowing decision yet. He returned to Liverpool so as to reunite with Colin Heron and make the necessary improvements he believed only their partnership could yield, but that required saying goodbye to his beloved daughter.

“I’ll go back to her again and, it might sound boring, but it’s another obstacle,” Till said. “It’s not easy being away from my daughter because I love her and she’s my little bit of daylight. This is all for her and me and her mother, because I want us all to have a good life.

“When I see myself getting paid good money by the UFC and I know my daughter is watching me on the TV, it’s all worth it in the end, to be away from her for that much time. It’s a big sacrifice, but it’s worth it.”

Till’s rapport with Heron, who founded Team Kaobon, goes far beyond that of master and student. The former holds the latter in such high esteem that the admiration is palpable.

“Since I’ve been back with Colin, I’ve had two great wins so I definitely made the right choice. Colin is not just a coach; he’s like a father, life mentor and everything he says should be guarded in a safe because it’s all words of wisdom. I just love being around Colin.

“I know that Colin knows what’s needed, so I just do what he tells me to because I trust him 100 percent. The relationship I have with him is like no other. It was all thanks to Colin. I owe Colin my life and he means everything to me.”

Team Kaobon has fostered the talents of other UFC veterans such Paul Kelly, Paul Sass, Paul Taylor and Terry Etim, the only fighter Till has ever remotely idolized.

Despite their shared muay Thai background, the Liverpudlian never watched Cerrone from afar and dreamed of emulating him. There’s a healthy respect, but nothing more. Till is also acutely aware his foe is contemplating three consecutive losses for the first time in an 11-year career. The youngster smells blood in the water.

Darren Till

“He’s got to come in and win because he’s on a losing streak, but I’ve got to come in and prove who I am,” Till said. “This is for me to now build my name, and I’m going to build my name off Donald Cerrone.

“I’m over the moon, and I can’t stop thinking about the opportunity the UFC have given me. I’m grateful to Donald, too, because this is a risky fight for him, so you’ve got to take your hat off to him because he’ll fight anyone at any time. It’s still a bad move and he shouldn’t have taken the fight against me, because I’m a gorilla.”

As you’d expect from a person with such unflappable self-belief, Till is no way perturbed by the prospect of closing out a show or, for that matter, potentially fighting 25 minutes. The sole focus is on taking his biggest scalp yet.

“Whether it’s five rounds, the main event or pressure, I don’t care,” Till said. “If you can’t handle them things then you shouldn’t bother fighting and you may as well quit. I honestly don’t care – I’m just going in there to beat Donald Cerrone.

“I’m straight back into camp, no messing about. I’ve had a week off just to get over a few little injuries, but we start again this week. I’m coming to destroy Donald Cerrone in one round, and that’s what’s going to happen.”

In today’s UFC, it’s almost impossible to predict just where a convincing win over a man of Cerrone’s pedigree would land Till – title shots have been granted for far less. What is not up for debate, however, is Till’s surety that after Oct. 21, no one will ever again hear his name and wonder who he is.

“These types of sacrifices and commitments have got to be made, because I just don’t want to be an everyday UFC fighter,” Till said. “As I’ve said, I want to be the greatest, and that comes with responsibility and sacrifice. You’ve just got to do it, and it’s a long road but achievable.

“There’s no other outcome to this fight than my hand being raised – let me guarantee that to everyone.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie