More than a few eyebrows were raised when this weekend’s UFC Gdansk main event between Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and Darren Till was announced.
Cerrone, of course, needs little introduction. With a win this weekend, Cowboy will tie Michael Bisping’s record for the most career UFC wins (20). Not only that, he has clocked in six fewer years in the organisation compared to the UFC middleweight champion.
However, it’s another Brit that lies in Cerrone’s crosshairs in Gdansk on Saturday — the undefeated Liverpudlian Darren Till. At just 24 years of age, Till stands on the verge of what would be a colossal victory this weekend against the biggest name he has ever stood opposite but to many people, and indeed his opponent this weekend, Till remains an unknown quantity.
Let us fill in some of the blanks for you: Darren Till is no joke. Among the finest muay thai practitioners in the welterweight division, Till is a methodical, precise striker blessed with impeccable timing for his strikes, as well as an array of thunderous leg kicks and elbows. Born in Liverpool, Till emigrated to Brazil in 2012 shortly after being stabbed twice in the back while at a house party. Realising that a change of scenery was required, the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina was chosen as the destination.
Over the course of the next three and a half years Till fought 12 times as a professional in his adopted homeland, winning each of them and going to a decision just twice. Soon after, the UFC came calling and he made his debut for the organisation at UFC Fight Night 67 in Brazil, defeating Wendell Oliveira bt TKO (elbows) in the second round.
A draw in his next bout against fellow European standout Nicolas Dalby followed in October 2014. After dominating the first two rounds, dropping Dalby with an uppercut towards the end of the first, Till suffered a shoulder injury in the third. Till was forced to fight on the defensive for the remainder of the fight, which allowed openings for Dalby to rally and ultimately rally for a draw.
The injury would keep Till out of action until May of this year.
A pair of impressive decision victories against Jessin Ayari and Bojan Velickovic followed showcasing Till’s ever-improving arsenal, but it’s the challenge which awaits him this weekend which will prove to be the surest test of the Englishman’s mettle.
And Darren Till intends on making his surest statement yet this weekend, at the expense of Donald Cerrone.