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UFC London 2022: The five Brits you need to know, including Tom Aspinall, Paddy Pimblett and Arnold Allen
With 11 British fighters competing across an unbelievable card at UFC London 2022, we’ve picked out some of the names you need to know ahead of a must-see event, exclusively live on BT Sport this Saturday.
The UFC returns to London for the first time in three years this Saturday night with an extraordinary card coming your way from the iconic O2 Arena.
As ever, we’ll have every second of the prelims and main card exclusively live across the BT Sport network – and you don’t want to miss any of it with no fewer than 11 hometown fighters representing the British Isles on a historic night of fights.
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From title contenders to rising stars, there is no shortage of storylines across the card this weekend so we’ve picked out five of the British names you need to know ahead of UFC London.
For our complete guide on how to watch UFC London 2022: Volkov vs Aspinall, including the full fight card information and broadcast times, click here.
Tom Aspinall – Who is he?
MMA record: 11-2
Tom Aspinall is a talented heavyweight tipped by many as a potential future UFC champion – including BT Sport’s very own Michael Bisping.
The Southport star has made the perfect start to life in the UFC during his first four fights, claiming four straight finishes in his quartet of wins to date, racking up a hat-trick of performance bonuses in the process.
Having subsequently rocketed into the rankings at No 11, Aspinall has now been granted the biggest fight of his career against a perennial contender of the heavyweight division that could see him knocking on the door of the top five – if he can beat Alexander Volkov.
Aspinall is regarded as a well-rounded fighter; the Team Kaobon man has not needed to turn to his grappling too heavily in his 11 minutes of Octagon time so far due to his striking supremacy, but as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he will be more than comfortable should the fight hit the canvas.
A lifelong combat sports practitioner, Aspinall has competed once as a professional boxer – even training alongside Tyson Fury for several years before switching codes full-time to mixed martial arts.
Like Fury, Aspinall is deceptively quick for his size – as noted by welterweight champion Kamaru Usman during an exclusive chat with BTSport.com this week – and carries fight-ending power in both hands.
Paddy Pimblett – Who is he?
MMA record: 17-3
Liverpool’s Paddy Pimblett might be one of Britain’s most exciting UFC hopefuls in years.
The charismatic Scouser made his name – and built a colossal following – fighting under the Cage Warriors promotion for almost eight years.
Pimblett conquered the featherweight title under the Cage Warriors promotion and challenged for the lightweight crown shortly before making the long-awaited switch to the UFC.
His arrival in the promotion has been a while in the making with Pimblett turning down multiple offers to join the UFC in times gone by, not believing himself to be quite ready enough to make a run at the biggest prize of all.
But last year, Pimblett finally relented and granted British MMA fans the show they had been looking forward to for years on his UFC debut.
Lighting up an absolute barnburner of a scrap against Luigi Vendramini, Pimblett delivered on his promise to make the MMA world sit up and take notice as he lived dangerously before battering his way to a famous victory on debut in Las Vegas.
Despite being known primarily as a grappler, on that night Pimblett displayed some serious power and durability before rocking the mic with typical bravado to declare: “I’m a Scouser, we don’t get knocked out!”
A born showman as much outside the Octagon as inside, Pimblett’s walkouts have become the stuff of legend over the last few years, becoming almost as significant as his fights themselves.
Marching out to his trademark mash-up of Lethal Industry by Tiësto and Heads Will Roll by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “The Baddy” will have 20,000 fans inside The O2 Arena absolutely rocking once again this weekend.
Arnold Allen – Who is he?
MMA record: 17-1
Arnold “Almighty” Allen might be the most talented British fighter you’ve not heard of – yet.
The 28-year-old is currently on one of the featherweight division’s hottest win streaks with eight straight victories – but over the years, Allen has struggled to maintain a consistent level of activity in order to demand the spotlight.
His co-main-event showdown against Dan Hooker on Saturday night will be just his ninth fight in the UFC since joining the promotion seven years ago – but it likely presents the man from Ipswich with his biggest opportunity yet to announce himself truly to his featherweight rivals.
Another talented all-rounder who came through the Cage Warriors scene, Allen is solid in almost every aspect of the fight game, with a similar number of knockouts and submissions on his impressive 17-1 ledger.
Allen was once a team-mate of Georges St-Pierre at the legendary Tristar Gym in Montreal, Canada, training for several of his early UFC fights under revered coach Firas Zahabi.
Now back closer to home with the BKK Fighters stable in the UK, Allen is hoping to build on the momentum he has been slowly building over the years with a win against a recognised name that would finally propel him to the edge of title contention in the 145lb division.
Molly McCann – Who is she?
MMA record: 11-4
Truly one of the pioneers of female mixed martial arts in this country, “Meatball” Molly McCann is one of the UK’s most popular fighters.
She became the first English woman ever win in the UFC with a gutsy decision victory against Priscila Cachoeira during the UFC’s last visit to London in 2019.
Since then, she’s had a few ups and downs, winning two and losing two, before picking up a momentum-shifting victory that saw her pocket a performance bonus against Ji Yeon Kim last September.
McCann won the Cage Warriors flyweight world title before joining the UFC, heading into the promotion with a reputation as a game, hard-hitting bulldog.
In the years since making her UFC debut in 2018, McCann has continued to evolve into a more well-rounded fighter, becoming a jiu-jitsu purple belt and making good strides in her ground game all the while.
The popular Scouser, who is a die-hard Evertonian, trains alongside Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett at the Next Generation MMA gym in Liverpool.
Six years ago, McCann came out as gay, revealing that finding her place in the world of MMA had helped give her the confidence to be proud of her sexuality.
McCann continues to inspire the next generation of British female fighters and has aspirations of cracking the lofty heights of the flyweight rankings to put herself within sight of a title shot.
She is the subject of the latest instalment of the award-winning BT Sport Films series in a must-see feature-length documentary called “Meatball Molly”, available to subscribers on catch-up now.
Paul Craig – who is he?
Division: Light heavyweight
MMA record: 15-4-1
Scotland’s Paul Craig is another Brit seemingly on the cusp of UFC title contention – a remarkable career resurrection for a man who, before 2019, had never won successive fights in the UFC.
However, since tapping Vinicius Moreira in September of that year, Craig has gone unbeaten, beating the likes of former champion Shogun Rua and rising star Jamahal Hill on his way to No 11 in the 205lb rankings.
The charismatic Scotsman almost guarantees entertainment when he steps into the cage, with only one of his 20 career bouts going to the judges’ scorecards.
Craig is a ferocious grappler with a dazzling arsenal of jiu-jitsu weaponry and looks to take the fight to the ground whenever he is able.
Arguably his career-best win came in London four years ago when he secured a dramatic comeback victory against light-heavyweight bogeyman Magomed Ankalaev in the dying moments of the third round.
That win may have saved Craig’s UFC career at the time, pocketing the second of six career performance bonuses in the process.
Craig had been set to face former light-heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson in London, but when that fight failed to materialise, the Scottish Hit Squad charge agreed to face Ukraine’s Nikita Krylov.
Prior to joining the UFC, Craig won the BAMMA Light Heavyweight world title and the Airdrie man also has a British heavyweight jiu-jitsu title to his name.
Craig has previously promised to bow out of mixed martial arts before his 35th birthday – in less than a year’s time – but during a chat with BT Sport’s Nick Peet this week, he suggested he could fight on for another two years if he remains in contention for the 205lb title.