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Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 22 January, 2019

Till aiming to play his part in a potentially memorable weekend of sport for Liverpool

The rising UFC welterweight headlines the organisation’s debut event in his hometown on Sunday night.

UFC Fight Night: Ultimate Media Day UFC welterweight Darren Till. Source: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

AFTER ENJOYING A breakout year in 2017, mixed martial artist Darren Till (16-0-1) will look to complete his transition from promising prospect to legitimate contender this weekend.

On Sunday evening, the UFC will host an event in Liverpool for the first time. The sold-out card at the Echo Arena will be headlined by the meeting of former welterweight title challenger Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson (14-2-1) and Till, the hometown hero.

With Liverpool taking on Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Kiev on Saturday, this coming weekend has the potential to be memorable on Merseyside for a couple of reasons.

“I will watch the Champions League [final] on Saturday,” Till said in an interview with MMAnytt. “I’ll be buzzing. I’ll be on a high whatever happens, if we win or lose. Then Sunday is my night.”

UFC Fight Night: Dalby v Till Darren Till (right) and Nicolas Dalby fought to a draw in Dublin in 2015. Source: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

The UFC haven’t been hesitant in hyping up Till’s potential to conquer their 170-pound division since he upset the odds last October by picking up the most significant result of his career.

In the main event of a Fight Night card in Poland, Till dismantled popular veteran Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone en route to first-round TKO win.

The undefeated Liverpudlian has been victorious in four of the five bouts he has competed in under the UFC’s banner. His only failure to win occurred in Dublin in October 2015, when he fought to a majority draw against Nicolas Dalby.

Having trained in Muay Thai since the age of 12, Till’s MMA career began when he moved to Brazil in 2012 after being stabbed twice in the back during a fight in a nightclub.

Source: UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championship/YouTube

While the 25-year-old southpaw has looked impressive in the octagon, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson undoubtedly represents the toughest challenge of his career thus far.

In Thompson, Till will face a like-minded fighter in terms of style and approach. The 35-year-old American hails from a kickboxing and karate background, so the takedown count is unlikely to be high when the pair meet in Sunday’s headliner at UFC Fight Night 130.

Till believes the fight will mark the next step on his journey to becoming the UFC welterweight champion, something Thompson was unable to do in two previous attempts. After a draw with reigning title-holder Tyron Woodley in November 2016, he came up short in the rematch via majority decision five months later.

“To be totally honest, I consider myself the number one in the world,” said Till, who was sidelined with injury throughout 2016. “I feel like I’ve got the hopes of the MMA world in Liverpool on my shoulders. I feel like I’m going to be the guy to take it to new levels.”

UFC Fight Night: Cerrone v Till Till needed just over four minutes to put away Donald Cerrone. Source: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

With an interim title bout between Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington scheduled for UFC 225 on 9 June, the welterweight division is beginning to take shape again.

However, should Darren Till manage to emerge victorious in Liverpool on Saturday night, don’t be surprised to hear Tyron Woodley’s name mentioned in the aftermath.

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Paul Dollery

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