By Robert Horne
Despite an expanse of British MMA talent at the top of their game still fighting in the UK, the ultimate goal for most of these fighters is to make it abroad, and show their talents on the ‘top’ platform over in America, namely in the UFC. Many have found the transition to the major leagues an arduous task.
There has yet to be a British UFC Champion, with only Dan Hardy thus far getting a title shot; losing a decision in a one sided contest against Georges St. Pierre.
Other fighters of notable mention are Michael Bisping and Paul Daley.
Both fighters have made headway in their respective weight categories, only to fall short for various reasons.
Daley was dropped from the UFC following a cheap shot aimed at Josh Koscheck following their bout at UFC 113. UFC president Dana White vowed to never allow ‘Semtex’ to fight for the UFC again.
Paul went on to fight for various other organisations before finding a new home within the Strikeforce organisation, fighting Nick Diaz for the promotion’s welterweight title; ultimately falling short at the final hurdle. Despite his best efforts, any future with the UFC still seems a distant dream whilst the hostility between Daley and White remains.
Michael Bisping is perhaps the UK’s most recognised and coveted asset.
After establishing a successful career this side of the pond, including stints as both Cage Warriors’ and Cage Rage’s light heavyweight champion, ‘The Count’ moved onto the UFC via season 3 of reality series, The Ultimate Fighter.
The Clitheroe fighter currently boasts a record of 22-4, with all four of his losses coming against world class opponents in Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva and most recently Chael Sonnen in a number one contender’s bout for the UFC Middleweight title.
Looking forward, Bisping’s next fight is against the dangerous Tim Boetsch and a win could see him thrown into the contender bracket once again, and when the 185-pounder says, ‘I want to be champion, I want to be the best,’ there can be no debating the Brits desire to hold UFC gold.
A factor that has always besmirched the name of UK fighters is an apparent inability to, or lack of, grappling experience.
In contrast to this, British fighters are always seen to have superior stand-up to the majority of their overseas opponents.
A fighter which could be seen in this category is up and coming Light-Heavyweight Jimi Manuwa.
Yet to make an appearance outside of England, ‘The Poster Boy’ has an unblemished record with eleven straight wins. Ten of these wins have come via knockout or technical knockout with one coming via submission.
With three fights outstanding on his current deal with the BAMMA organisation, it is surly only time before the UFC come calling; and not for the first time.
Manuwa has twice turned down a move to fight in the UFC to concentrate on developing his skills as a mixed martial artist.
With an already brimming talent pool of light heavyweights’ within the UFC, biding his time may work out in Manuwa’s favour.
Lightweight fighter Terry Etim already has ten UFC bouts to account for, and at the age of 26, is still yet to hit his prime.
With a multitude of skills, Etim is touted as a potential future champion, despite his recent devastating knockout defeat to Edson Barboza. A rarity among top British contenders, Etim has twelve of his fifteen victories with submissions, although the Liverpudlian still possesses destructive striking.
Avoiding injuries could be central to Etim’s possible bright future, and a good run now would also see him held in contention for a shot at the lightweight title.
The final fighter on the list, and currently the closest Brit to getting a shot at UFC gold is Brad Pickett.
Pickett is a bantamweight fighter and made his way into the UFC via the merger with the WEC.
Subsequent to his latest UFC victory, President Dana White had to say; ‘Brad Pickett looked awesome tonight. I couldn’t be happier.
‘I love Brad’s personality, I love his style, I love the way the guy fights, I love the way the guy carries himself. I’m a Pickett fan.’
This praise, combined with two fight of the night performances from his previous two fights, (albeit one of them coming in a loss) could lead Pickett to be the next British fighter to be given a title shot.
With an upcoming series of The Ultimate Fighter on the cards, with England (or the UK) facing Australia, Pickett has been cited as a potential coach for the UK team.
With this, it is likely that Pickett will face the opposing coach, with the victor gaining a shot at the UFC Bantamweight title.
There are several standout candidates. It’s possible that a fighter could emerge from our shores to rival the emergence of fighters such as Jon Jones;’ it is just a waiting game to see where and when the first British UFC champion will materialise from.