Paddy Pimblett weighing in for Cage Warriors 75. Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors
The Liverpool Lip

Rising star Paddy Pimblett is proving that appearances can be deceiving

The highly-regarded 21-year-old Englishman doesn’t plan on being one for the future any longer.

PADDY PIMBLETT’S GOALS have been written down on a piece of paper since he was asked to set out his aspirations while completing a personal training course when he was 17.

Become a two-weight champion in the UFC.

That they corresponded with Conor McGregor’s was merely a coincidence, insists Pimblett. His eyes were on the top before McGregor ever arrived there.

Pimblett is aiming to take the path that McGregor made famous — from Cage Warriors featherweight contender to UFC superstar. Just don’t make the mistake of suggesting that McGregor has set an example for the young Liverpudlian.

“I’m not following him at all,” Pimblett barks. “He can leg it. I’ve wanted to be a two-weight world champion in the UFC since long before he was talking about it. That’s my ultimate goal. No one has set any example for me. I’m my own man.”

There are certainly similarities, however, most notably when it comes to confidence. Pimblett is certain that he’s destined for the summit of mixed martial arts and he’s not shy in expressing that belief. Given how impressive his most recent performances have been, he could be forgiven for coming across a little cocky.

He only turned 21 earlier this year but Pimblett has already accumulated a professional record of 10-1. He’ll look for his eleventh win — and seventh in succession — when he takes on fellow prospect Teddy Violet (10-2) at Cage Warriors 77 at the Camden Centre in London on Friday night (live on UFC Fight Pass from 9pm).

12976899_1190766794276819_398560200844449234_o Paddy Pimblett in control against Ashleigh Grimshaw. Dolly Clew / Cage Warriors Dolly Clew / Cage Warriors / Cage Warriors

A turning point for Pimblett came at the same venue back in April. By the time he took on Ashleigh Grimshaw at Cage Warriors 75, Pimblett had already been earmarked as a fighter with a potentially promising future. However, there was quite a widespread consensus that the 34-year-old Londoner — one of the most experienced campaigners on the UK circuit — could prove to be a challenge too steep for his fledgling opponent.

Pimblett’s response was emphatic. He dominated Grimshaw for all three rounds en route to the most important win of his young career. It was as significant a statement as it’s possible for a British featherweight on the outskirts of the UFC to make.

“Everyone in the gym knew I was going to win that fight,” says Pimblett. “We all knew he had nothing for me. It was just a case of me proving that to everyone else. I knew he couldn’t beat me, just like I know Teddy Violet can’t either.”

The performance was worthy of UFC recognition, but with MMA’s leading organisation currently releasing more fighters than they’re signing, Pimblett has yet to receive a call from president Dana White or his matchmakers Sean Shelby and Joe Silva.

Pimblett: “When I beat Teddy Violet, that should be enough to get me in. If Dana, Sean Shelby and Joe Silva don’t know who I am then, Jesus Christ, I don’t know what more I can do.”

CW56 Pimblett made his Cage Warriors debut at the age of 18 with a win against Florian Calin. Dolly Clew / Cage Warriors Dolly Clew / Cage Warriors / Cage Warriors

Unlike some of his peers in MMA, Pimblett hasn’t opted to play the long game in the hope that a spot on the UFC roster will eventually open up. He intends to continue adding green tabs to his record until an opportunity comes his way. And at his age, time is on his side.

“This is what I do. I like to fight and I like to go on holiday. That’s it,” Pimblett explains.

Although his striking has shown signs of improvement and maturity in his most recent outings, it’s in the grappling department where Pimblett distinguishes himself. A brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and standing at five-foot-ten-inches, he utilises his elastic frame to engineer a varied and adventurous submission offence.

Half of his wins have arrived via tapout, the most spectacular of which was arguably a first-round triangle-armbar finish of Conrad Hayes in May 2014. But Pimblett is adamant that he doesn’t need his fights to hit the mat in order to find his way to victory.

“Everyone thinks I’m just a grappler, and that’s great because they’ll get a fright when they get in there and stand with me,” Pimblett says. “I’ve got the lot. They’re not going to want to know about it on the feet, so then when they try to take me down they’re going to get subbed.”

Cage Warriors TV / YouTube

Another advantage Pimblett possesses is the fact that he bucks the trend for what an MMA fighter is seemingly supposed to look like. But appearances can be deceiving, as he continues to prove on fight night.

Pimblett may resemble a bass player in a teenage indie band that you might see on the Late Late Toy Show, or — as he’s often told — Jay from The Inbetweeners. But unlike Jay, there’s substance to Pimblett’s bountiful boasts.

“People have always underestimated me because I look like a 12-year-old but they know all about the reality of it after they’ve fought me,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter if I look like I’m 12 or 40. I’m still going to be the best in the world.”

While Conor McGregor was still on the books at Cage Warriors, he was ridiculed for even uttering Jose Aldo’s name. Pimblett has been met with a similar reaction as he continues to namecheck McGregor as the man he’s ultimately gunning for, but he’s convinced that — just as McGregor proved himself against Aldo — he’ll soon be trading blows with the best featherweight in the world.

“I know I’m capable of beating him. And I know I’m going to do it. I can see that big UFC strap around my waist within the next three years. If I fight McGregor I know I’m subbing him inside three rounds,” Pimblett insists.

CW75 London Pimblett is interviewed by Jens Pulver after his Cage Warriors 75 win against Ashleigh Grimshaw. Dolly Clew / Cage Warriors Dolly Clew / Cage Warriors / Cage Warriors

“Everyone goes on about his power. He caught Jose Aldo just a few seconds in. That’s not really a fight, to me. He just caught him with a shot. That happens. Conor McGregor couldn’t knock me out. It’s that simple. He hasn’t got the desire or the power to knock me out.”

Pimblett adds: “McGregor has proved that he will quit. He’s a quitter. That’s why he tapped against Nate Diaz. I’ve lost one fight and I went to sleep in a submission. That’s called being a warrior. That’s called having heart. He goes on like he’s this big warrior. He’s not. He’s a quitter.”

Paddy Pimblett’s target is the very top. If he doesn’t complete the journey, a shortage of confidence certainly won’t be to blame.

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