British-based MMA promotion Cage Warriors celebrated its 20th
anniversary this past weekend with a stacked card at the O2 Arena in
The organization has been the starting point for some of the biggest stars in MMA history such as Conor McGregor, Michael Bisping, and Joanna Jędrzejczyk.
Dan Hardy was the first-ever Englishman to compete for UFC gold when he faced Georges St-Pierre at UFC 211 in March 2010 but before he made his name in the UK with Cage Warriors.
After two decades of epic shows, crazy fights and top tier talent, ‘The Outlaw’ has explained why Cage Warriors has enjoyed such longevity in a sport that has notoriously seen countless promotions rise and fall while they have stayed consistent.
“Cage Warriors are a mainstay of the UK MMA scene and you’d be hard pressed to find another promotion who has done as much for the UK,” Hardy told talkSPORT.
The 40-year-old joined the UK MMA outlet in 2004 and has been amazed by how far they have come since then.
He credits the current Cage Warriors owner and his matchmaker with taking things to the next level.
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“I remember signing with Cage Warriors because it was the pinnacle of the UK scene. I wanted the belt. It was a really important belt for me to win. The champions were always strong and the links to the UFC were always good,” Hardy said.
“Graham Boylan is doing a really good job with it right now. I think the production value and the way the shows are ran are far more professional than it’s ever been.
“They are a little more ruthless with their matchmaking than a lot of other organisations. Again, it comes down to Ian Dean. I had a lot of wins on Cage Warriors but I also had a few losses as well.”
The British MMA legend believes Cage Warriors have been able to
consistently create stars and elite-level fighters because they refuse to give anyone gimme fights.
“There was no building of careers. Like, Fighters don’t get looked after, they get challenged at the right pace. A lot of time when fighters arrive at the UFC they are already well prepared,” Hardy continued.
“By the time I arrived at the UFC, I had experienced everything I needed to at Cage Warriors. It prepared me for a four-fight title run.
“If you look at McGregor, by the time he arrived in the UFC he was already a very, very composed striker. Bisping was already a fierce fighter.”
Hardy believes that there is currently a ton of talented fighters on the Cage Warriors roster who are capable of joining the UFC and becoming the next Bisping or McGregor.
“You’ve got to look at the ones coming out of Next Generation, there’s quite a few. Luke Riley is one that stands out. He’s got a real swagger and can stir a crowd. You can definitely tell that he’s got a good fan following, which is definitely a part of it,” he said.
“The other one is Nathan Fletcher [who] very much follows the suit of a Next Generation fighter. He drags them down, takes their back, climbs up them and chokes them out.
“A very humble, quietly spoken fighter who is very likeable. By the time he’s had a couple more fights and has really established himself in his own game, I definitely think he’s going to be one to watch.”
“Elsewhere in the country, GB Top Team are doing great things. I think Will Currie is one to watch as well, his fights have been impressive, and I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him.
After another bumper weekend for British MMA with UFC London and Cage Warriors 141, Hardy believes this is the best time to be a fight fan and things are only going to get better in the years to come.
“We are spoiled for choice at the moment,” he said. “UK MMA is at its highest of all time in my opinion. There are so many gyms packed out, amateur events are full with 20 or 30 fights on the cards, it’s a good time.”
With the UFC, Bellator, PFL, and Cage Warriors all investing heavily in the British market the next 20 years could see MMA become a mainstream sport in this country.