(Warburton and the Wolfslair crew, courtesy of Brian Roberts Photography)
Amongst a slew of other recent UK-based UFC signings, the humble North East native Curt Warburton crept quietly into the world’s most successful MMA promotion. Big men Rob Broughton and Karlos Vemola made their way into the heavyweight division, TUF coach Tom Blackledge looks set to make his mark in the light-heavyweight ranks and, along with undefeated scouser Paul Sass, Warburton will enter at 155lbs.
“I was pretty gobsmacked when my management at the Wolfslair told me,” Curt announced of his four-fight deal. “I think they were trying for the next WEC but the card was already filling up. Then they came in with these contracts for me, Rob and Tom and we all had to sign. I was thinking ‘Oh my god, this is a dream come true’ and it still hasn’t really sunk in a few days later.”
With an impressive 6-1 record that includes a stoppage victory over TUF 9 winner Ross Pearson back in late 2007, Curt was keen to get back in action having last competed in October of 2009.
“I’d been wanting to fight as soon as possible since my last one [a decision win over Irishman Tom Maguire],” Warburton revealed, stating how he was disappointed with his performance. “My management told me to wait and said they had something in the pipeline, but after the fight at Strike and Submit I felt I wanted to get back in there.
“I did a new weight cut,” he offered in way of explanation for the victory. “I normally get back up to around 76-77kg but this time I carried on up to 80kg and after a minute in the cage I felt so heavy. I’m usually a stand-up fighter but I just wanted to lay on him, and it’s the only time in my career I’ve done that. I had no energy and felt like I couldn’t get up.”
He ground out the decision, but admitted to being sick post-fight, and not being in a fit state. Learning from his mistakes however, Warburton is glad that the experience happened before signing for a big show as he believes the added knowledge will be in his favour when he has to step in the Octagon:
“I normally get down to 75kg by dieting and cut the rest, but now I reckon I’m going to get to 74kg and be that little bit lighter. I’m pretty strong for the weight but I’d rather be that little bit lighter and sharp.”
Referencing Frankie Edgar’s win over BJ Penn where the smaller Edgar used speed and movement to his advantage, Warburton added,
“A lot of people are going to want to take me down – these people that are doing big cuts. They look bigger but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re stronger. I’ll be lighter and better on my movement which will help my movement.”
Continuing to address the critics that believe British fighters have no wrestling ability, Warburton begged to differ, stating, “To be honest, I don’t think I could wrestle with a lot of these guys, but I don’t think there’s anyone better at takedown defence than us. Fair enough not offensively, but defensively. We’ve got these Iranian wrestlers over and they saying how hard we are to take down. I’m concentrating really hard on my technique and really trying to pick up my skills in the time until I’ve got to fight.”
With his heart set on a career at the highest level, there is no denying that a return to the normal grind is not something Curt wants to do. Full-time professionals are always struggling to make ends meet until that huge opportunity presents itself and fighting on domestic shows doesn’t do much to pay the bills.
“It’s hard being a fighter, with no money. You can perform and train a bit better when you’ve got money to spend and you do not have to worry about paying bills or when your next cheque is coming. I used to train and work full-time and it’s hard, working long days and then trying to train after. It’s no good. Luckily, my old work decided to sponsor me for a year so I could give this a go and try and make it and they said ‘if it doesn’t happen after then, you’ll still have job’. That’s great of them but hopefully now I’ve got my future a bit more secure.”
Although no UFC contract is totally secure and performances and wins are the only thing to keep you from getting cut, Curt is aware of this and even more so with the amount of Brits recently signed to the organisation. He noted that the need to impress was immediate, something he intends to do every time he fights.
“I like fighting in an exciting way, it’s good for the fans and helps you build a good fanbase. I’d rather stand-up and hopefully I can show that in the UFC.”
With nothing concrete, Curt is setting his sights towards a late 2010 debut. The ever-improving striker has a great team behind him at the Wolfslair and, with an estimated six-month wait until a possible fight card in London, Curt has plenty of time to tune up. One thing is for sure; when the time comes, he’ll be ready.