(Blackledge in action in the M-1 Challenge)
It came to light yesterday that another spate of British fighters had earned their way into the UFC. Products of the famous Wolfslair academy in the gloomy North West of England, Rob “The Bear” Broughton, Tom Blackledge and Curt Warburton will enter the heavyweight, light-heavyweight and lightweight divisions respectively.
With a solid roster of fighters already battling in the UFC’s Octagon including Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Michael Bisping and Cheick Kongo, the new additions will be able to gather some solace in the fact that their training partners are already experienced in this arena and can share their wisdom.
“There’s the guys already there, us that have just signed and some guys trying out for the TUF series,” Tom Blackledge (10-6) noted of the Wolfslair takeover. “It’s because of the quality coaches and management we’ve got here. It’s a constant thing and we’ve got all the support we need from one another.”
Blackledge has been with the gym for a number of years and has seen it grow from a small number of domestic athletes to an international cast of well-known athletes. The rise of the gym almost mimics that of his own, a slow and turbulent start that has now reaped the rewards.
“We all train together and are constantly there to help each other,” he continued to tell FIGHT!. “The guys getting signed is just a by-product of the quality set-up we have down here.”
Blackledge himself has earned the spot on the UFC roster through years of toil and hard work, culminating with an undefeated season in the M-1 Challenge in which he added two wins to his resume; an emphatic eight-second head kick KO over Spain’s Enoc Solves Torres and a slick rear naked choke submission over Japan’s Tatsuya Mizuno.
His other comrades have made great strides in the past year in order to make the UFC take notice.
Rob Broughton was also a member of England’s M-1 team and recorded an undefeated season himself, going 3-0 with the trinity of victories – a TKO, a submission and a decision. That wasn’t the most impressive moment of the past year for “The Bear”, however, as he cemented his place as the UK’s top heavyweight in the ZT heavyweight tournament. In one night he dispatched UFC vet Neil Wain via guillotine, knocked out Pride FC veteran James Thompson and went to the judges to register a decision over former Britain’s strongest man Oli Thompson in a gruelling fifteen minute battle that proved he has the heart and cardio to last.
The powers that be in the UFC were obviously taking note as that was his last outing before being signed.
Warburton was something of a wildcard. Although his impressive 6-1 records includes a stoppage win over TUF 9 winner Ross Pearson, Broughton and Blackledge held much higher domestic rankings than the North East striker. Back to back victories over Toon Van Thielen and Tom Maguire highlighted his increasingly well-rounded skillset and proved that his short tenure at the Wolfslair had seen him progress rapidly. He will take to the task at hand with vigour and aim to prove that he can compete with some of the world’s best fighters.
Although none of the men have fights lined up imminently, it will be interesting to see how they fare in the most prestigious battleground in MMA. It is a fabulous opportunity for all of the fighters, another achievement for the Wolfslair and a positive step for UK MMA as more and more fighters get signed to the elite level.
To the naysayers, Tom asserted:
“It’s been shown time and time again that we can compete. Just look at the TUF show and guys like Etim, Mike [Bisping], Kelly, Hardy and all these guys. They’re going in there and doing well.
“Fair enough we might not be able to wrestle like they can as they do it from school age, but it’s just one facet of the game. We have good Boxing, Thai boxing and more and more good BJJ over here.”
He was quick to reiterate that the scene and level of the fighters was rising in the UK and, who knows, one of these men may just become your new favourite fighters. Always ready to lay it on the line in exciting fights, there’s no quit in the Brits.