Darren Till has nursed a sore head for much of the past week since his breakthrough UFC performance, but the damage was his own doing. Britain’s biggest MMA prospect has painted the town red, leaving him feeling rougher than his most recent fight did.
“I’ve enjoyed myself fully,” laughed Till who, aged 24, has suddenly emerged as the talent to lead the UFC’s growth on these shores for years to come after a stunning knockout of long-time contender Donald Cerrone.
The fight, at first glance, seemed a steep mountain to climb for the comparatively inexperienced Till, but his performance has caused shockwaves throughout the sport. Plenty of reason to toast his achievement, it appears.
“There’s definitely more people recognising me which is a good feeling. People see the fruits of my labour.”
He has enjoyed late-night chats from his newest fans, but the memories are blurry: “I thought you knew something that I didn’t! I’ve been sat in the club at 2am and people have been buying me drinks. But I don’t take things for granted, and I don’t take the past week for granted.”
Till’s victory tour of his home city of Liverpool is the result of over a decade of bumps and bruises, and four years living abroad. His trainer Colin Heron, who has guided multiple Liverpool-based fighters into the UFC but none with a signature win like Till’s, sent him to live in Brazil when he became involved with the wrong crowd back home. He now refers to himself as an “English Brazilian” after the MMA-obsessed nation took him under its wing. His first 13 fights took place in South America, including his UFC debut when he addressed the Brazilian crowd in perfect local tongue.
He is now unbeaten in 17 fights, a hefty accomplishment in the world of MMA, having dispatched the far more established Cerrone. His experienced opponent stood to equal the all-time record for UFC wins, to put Till’s accomplishment into perspective.
“I notice body language every time. They crumble when they see me because I’ve got crazy energy around me, and people can’t deal with that. I’ve always had it. I’ve always believed that I’m the best.
“He stood in front of me, the first time [we met], weighing me up. Then he stood in front of me in the cage and realised I’m not just talk. I’m a confident young lad and I believe in my potential.
“I had Cerrone [beaten] 10 years ago. I visualised all this 10 years ago. There is no Donald Cerrone, there is no champion. They are all just bodies. I visualised all these moments years ago.
“He just couldn’t cope with unidentified pressure, as I call it. Even when I wasn’t hitting him, I was stalking him and making him feel like he had nowhere to go. I saw his hands twitching and shaking. He didn’t know what I was going to do. I was relaxed, hands down.
“That style comes from hours and hours in the gym, going over strategy, and how to lure people into a false sense of security.
“I am an intelligent fighter. It doesn’t matter how strong and powerful you are. Take Floyd Mayweather, for example. I am Darren Till – the most intelligent MMA fighter on Planet Earth. [Everyone else] is forgetting that the sweet science of fighting is all about intelligence.”
He has shot into the welterweight rankings at No 8 which “isn’t good enough”, he claims, because: “I’m better than all of them, they’re not on my level. I see them all as bodies that will fall in front of me.”
Till’s emergence will likely open the UFC’s door to Liverpool, a fight-mad city that the organisation has never visited. He insisted that he will be Britain’s second world champion by the end of 2018.
But for now, the celebrations continue, and deservedly so. “Most definitely, I’m going out again tonight,” he chuckled excitedly.