Following the gate-breaking UFC promotion at London’s O2 Arena in March, industry-leading promoter Dana White has confirmed a return to UK shores later this year, with Liverpool favourites to host.
Anfield stadium boasts a 53,394 capacity for football fixtures, and bolstered by increased seating on the playing area, a Merseyside UFC event under the floodlights has the potential to smash the previous UFC record attendance of 57,127 set at UFC 243 in October 2019.
Yet a UFC label alone won’t suffice to fill Anfield.
Showdowns featuring the cream of Merseyside’s talents and personalities will be necessary to reel in the crowds.
Here’s a fistful of fights featuring locals that would certainly get the turnstiles clicking.
Paddy Pimblett vs Ilia Topuria
Like Paddy, Ilia’s standing soared at The O2 after a vicious right hook KO of Wolverhampton’s Jai Herbert, left him sitting #15 in the lightweight rankings.
In the post-fight interview, Ilia would call out the ‘blonde b****’ Paddy’, fuelling tensions between the prospects.
Paddy, the former Cage Warriors Featherweight Champ, has already downplayed the potential faceoff, insisting he won’t fight ranked opponents until the UFC adds ‘more zeroes’ to his contract.
But with the right paycheck, a clash between himself and the Georgian prospect would provide a moment of truth for the highly touted duo.
Tom Aspinall vs Tai Tuivasa
While current heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou stands in a contract deadlock with the UFC and recovers from ACL and MCL surgeries, #6 ranked Aspinall could be one win away from a potential title challenge.
Third-ranked Tuivasa upset the apple cart by defeating two-time title contender Derrick Brunson in February.
While he demonstrated admirable grit and power punching in that slugfest, Aspinall’s pace and technical proficiency may prove too much for the Aussie.
Nevertheless, ‘Bam Bam’ Tuivasa’s immense personality and trademark post-fight ‘shoey’ celebration might be the box office antidote to Aspinall’s humble demeanour.
Bruv, Tai Tuivasa did a shoey with Dustin Poirier's hot sauce in the mix! 😱 pic.twitter.com/xAwaHzbcmY
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) July 11, 2021
Darren Till vs Jack Hermansson
Darren Till needs a win.
Without victory since November 2019, the one-time title challenger was once thought to be Britain’s hottest MMA prospect.
After a unanimous decision loss to Robert Whittaker and upset second-round defeat to Derrick Brunson, he needs to reaffirm himself amongst the middleweight elite.
Swedish-born Hermansson, who is also coming off a loss, sits one place above Till in the middleweight rankings at #7.
With #3 ranked Italian Marvin Vetorri tied up in a June bout with Whittaker, Till and Hermansson can battle it out for Europe’s best of the rest.
Molly McCann vs Joanne Calderwood
‘Meatball’ McCann is in a very different place from this time last year.
In September, she bested Ji Yeon Kim in a fight for UFC survival, picking up a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus and a new four-fight deal with the industry-leading promoters.
Now, fresh off a KO of the Year contender win at UFC London, the 31-year-old finally has the momentum to penetrate the top 15 in the women’s flyweight division.
Although riding a three-fight losing streak, Scotland’s #10 ranked ‘Jojo’ Calderwood represents a significant jump up for the unranked McCann.
Yet, as those ranked below her are all tied up in scheduled bouts, this battle of the Brits may be the fight to make.
MEATBALL WITH A SPINNING BACK ELBOW KNOCKOUT! 🤯
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) March 19, 2022
Ian Garry vs Nate Diaz
Ok ok, this one may be a little far-fetched.
But as Garry continues to follow the footsteps of fellow Irishman, ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor, what could be more fun than squaring off against his most formidable opponent thus far?
The brash Diaz has already voiced his frustration with the UFC over the lack of fighting opportunities.
Clearly desperate to get into the ring, why not showdown with the welterweight prospect in Ireland’s ‘second capital’?
(Featured image by 21Keys under creative commons licence)