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Only Dan Hardy and Michael Bisping have challenged for the title

British participation at the elite levels of the UFC could do with some building up - only two Brits have ever challenged for UFC gold before Liverpudlian Darren Till’s tilt at UFC 228 next weekend.

The first was Dan Hardy who showed British pluck and technical naïveté in losing to all-time great GSP.

The second was the most successful MMA export, the now retired Michael Bisping. He shocked the MMA world at UFC 199 when he humiliatingly KO’d American Luke Rockhold to become the first and heretofore only Brit to hold UFC belt.

Darren Till’s quest for glory has a lot riding on it.

Till is one of those trash-talkers who’s quotable rather than worthy of derision, he is very confident and very skilful.

He rose rapidly from obscurity when, abruptly, he was called upon to face stalwart Cerrone at UFC Gdansk in October 2017.

He battered a fan-favourite in a star-making performance, earning accolades for his striking, his aggression, and his pressure game.

Cerrone has never really been considered champ-level though. All-action fighter and favourite, yes, but never truly elite.

When Till fought Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson it was different. Thompson twice fought for the belt and came excruciatingly close to beating Till’s next opponent, American powerhouse Tyron Woodley.

So when Till beat Wonderboy, it merited Till’s place amongst the title challengers.

But, it was a fight not without controversy.

Although there were mitigating circumstances, Till missed weight in a big way – he weighed in 3lb over the limit, and although Wonderboy allowed the fight to go on, it put an asterisk next to the victory.

Till could claim to have won since he got the only knockdown in the 5th, but getting there was a tedious and anticlimactic affair in front of his home fans.

Two counterpunchers waiting for the other to lead, led pretty much nowhere.

What’s more, the champ Woodley also likes to wait for the other fighter to take lead.

On top of that, be is a hugely powerful and technically impeccable wrestler; he has the highest takedown defence in the UFC bar none.

But, Till is something of an anomaly in Brit MMA circles. He has been winning kickboxing tournaments from a young age, as well as spending large portions of his formative years in Brazil, the home of BJJ.

Rumour is rumour until it a fact is proven, but there are whispers that Till’s ground game is not to be sniffed at; if this is the case, perhaps he will be less loth to engage on the feet with Woodley as other strikers have been.

And his striking is indeed better than most in the UFC, certainly more rounded than Woodley’s, who is very powerful and extremely fast but somewhat one-note.

While Till must be considered the underdog – his first real wrestling test will be for the championship, consider that as a feat of forward planning by his team and the UFC- there are enough wrinkles to suggest Till could pull off a shock at UFC 228.


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