(Cage Warriors: Right To Fight. This Saturday, May 22nd in Birmingham)
After two years off the charts, legendary UK fight promotion Cage Warriors return with their 37th outing at the Birmingham NEC. There are three world titles on the line and you can expect nothing but well-matched international and top-level domestic bouts. Matchmaker Ian Dean is renowned for putting together some of the most exciting cards in UK MMA history, and everybody can reminisce about the famous “Night of Champions” back in 2005; featuring Antonio Silva vs. Ruben Villareal, Jeff Monson vs. Emmanuel Marc, Michael Bisping vs. Ross Pointon, Dan Hardy vs. Matt Thorpe and Martin Kampmann vs. Damien Riccio amongst the stacked fight card. Back in the fight promoting business, they aren’t looking to do things by half measures and bring another solid line-up to the fore.
Dean told FIGHT!:
“It has been a taxing week for the Cage Warriors team as we have encountered a fair amount of logistical issues but the show is still looking strong and I’m confident we will present another top quality Cage Warriors show on Saturday night which features some of the best talent in and around the UK and Europe.”
The taxing week involved the pull-out of Bellator signee Jim Wallhead’s opponent Mikey Gomez, and the withdrawal of female champion Rosi Sexton. Although understandably frustrated, Dean continued:
“It has been frustrating to see several of the bouts we originally had fall through. We have had to take Rosi Sexton off our card for circumstances that are sadly beyond our control. We can’t really go into detail about that right now but it is a shame to see Rosi pulled from our card. We have tried to get her matched up for nearly a year now but no other domestic show could do it and because Rosi is so difficult to match, we have had little interest from the indy circuit in the USA. However, I hope to see Rosi back in action very soon.”
Sexton herself noted on the Cage Warriors forums that the reasons were “contractual”, but couldn’t go in to further detail. Despite the setbacks, there are still many positives to be taken from the return.
UFC title contender Dan Hardy has vacated the belt at 170lbs, leaving two hungry and undefeated challengers chomping at the bit to get their hands on the prestigious gold. Scotland’s John Quinn has quietly amassed an impressive 8-0 record in his homeland, taking names such as James Mair and Paul Jenkins en route. With seven submissions and one TKO to his credit, he is a proven finisher and will take on the toughest test of his career when he steps in the cage with Pascal “Panzer” Krauss. The German (8-0) has an equally astonishing run and also boasts a 100% finishing ratio, with six submissions and two TKOs. Both will be prepared for the fight of their lives, therefore you can expect a ferocious battle as the burgeoning welterweights will look to stamp their mark on the European scene.
The reigning bantamweight champion, top-ranked European fighter and fellow Dinky Ninja, Paul “Metabolic” McVeigh (16-6) will put his 135lbs crown on the line against Jose Luis Zapater (11-5). Mcveigh was originally slated to take on Frank Sharipov but, again, the bout fell through with Dean managing to recover an opponent.
“This would have been a hammer blow to most shows but we were able to replace Sharipov with the M-1 Challenge veteran Jose Luis Zapater when he did not receive the travel documents he needs to enter the UK in time,” the matchmaker noted. “ Although he is based in the US, he is a citizen of Kyrgyzstan and needs a visa to enter the UK. We worked very hard to get it but it did not arrive in time.”
McVeigh is on the brink of big things and the retention of his title will play a big part in the Irishman’s progression. With a well-rounded game and impressive grappling pedigree, McVeigh will hope to usurp the Spanish M-1 Challenge man. Zapater isn’t making the trip to concede defeat and he is made of stern stuff, regularly fighting above his natural weight and taking on some of Europe’s finest.
EFR’s Greg Loughran (21-13) was scheduled to face the Cage Warriors lightweight champion Alexandre Izidro but a training injury meant that the BJJ black belt was forced out of the contest but, rather than keep his title by default, Izidro opted to put his belt up for grabs and attempt to take the title back when a winner is determined. This means that Kenneth Rosfort (13-2) who was drafted in to fill “Xandinho’s” spot will get his shot at the prize. Loughran told FIGHT!, “I’m really excited to be back fighting in the UK. I hoped to be back earlier [having not fought on these shores since July 2008] but it’s come at the right time.” His bouts with Eddie Alvarez and Edson Berto in America will have given him valuable experience and he’ll be looking to bring that to bear against Rosfort. The heavy-handed Dane won’t let the opportunity slip without a fighter, however, and he rides in with the momentum of a five-fight win streak under his belt, including a KO over TUF star and highly-ranked featherweight Jeff “Ippon” Lawson. Neither man will back down from any exchanges so you can expect fireworks when they stand toe-to-toe inside the cage.
Aside from the title bouts, there is much more to look forward to and when you have names like Daniel “Denzil” Thomas (17-6), Jim Wallhead (18-5)and Pete Irving (10-7-1) written in front of you, you can be sure that the action will be intense.
“Denzil” will face the durable Irishman Ali McClean (4-1-1) in a lightweight encounter. This is another well matched battle that pits two ‘never back down’ attitudes against one another. What McClean may lack in experience when contrasted to Thomas, he makes up for in strength, enthusiasm and gameness. Welshman Thomas brings an impressive win streak along with him, and he won’t be intending to snap that without a suitable war of attrition.
North-East favourite Pete Irving has had his 10th Legion title fight moved on to the Cage Warriors card due to logistics, and he will square off against German native Nordin Asrih (14-4-1). Irving lost in an exciting and technical battle with Wayne Murrie last time out and is aiming for the winner’s circle once again. Asrih is well-rounded with five TKO and eight submission wins to his credit. Irving’s dynamic wrestling and ground game are a handful for any European welterweight though, and it will potentially make for an exciting fifteen minutes of combat.
With bad luck like no other, “Judo” Jim is awaiting an opponent after Mikey Gomez became injured over the weekend, but the Rough House star is still aiming to fight on the card after fervid preparations for a Bellator fight that was halted by volcanic ash clouds. Keen to fight again and stay busy before a return to America, Wallhead noted, “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve had a massive camp with the Bellator fight, because I think it was something like sixteen or eighteen weeks I spent getting ready for it. That fell through so I had four or five days off and eased my way back in gradually, and I’m just ready to fight.”
Of the pullout, Ian Dean said, “Gomez was pulled from the card on Monday evening after suffering a pretty nasty and freakish knee injury on Saturday whilst training. We are working hard with our European partners to secure an opponent for Wallhead to complete our ten-fight card.”
Although champion Rosi Sexton is off the card, you can still also look forward to Bateman vs. McKay, Breese vs. Silva and Moras vs. Martin.
Still confident, Dean finished on a high noted.
“I feel we will do our legacy proud on Saturday night and show the world why Cage Warriors is a legitimate top-tier European show that promotes substance over cheap gimmicks and gives fighters a fantastic place to showcase their skills to the world.”
For more information on the Cage Warriors fight card and to purchase tickets, head to CageWarriors.com.