Last August, 26-year-old welterweight contender Darren Till (17-1-1) sat front and center at the UFC’s 25th Anniversary Press Conference. He sat to the left of UFC President Dana White and just a few inches from then 170-pound champion Tyron Woodley. The two were set to do battle for Woodley’s belt just a short time later at UFC 228 in September.
Surrounded by a variety of stars and high-level fighters, Till remained calm, cool and collected. His confidence, however, was on full display. At the time, he deserved to be nothing but confident. The rising British star held an undefeated record and was riding a four-fight win streak.
When asked why he was the guy to dethrone Woodley, who had defended his title four-straight times up until that point, the brash and outspoken Liverpool native had a simple answer.
“Because I’m the best welterweight in the division”, Till replied.
He promised Woodley that “every dog has its day” and labeled “The Chosen One” as the “old lion”.
At the time, many believed him. In regards to his physical traits, Till is massive for the welterweight division. In addition, he’s a well-rounded Muay Thai striker with legitimate knockout power.
But, that’s not all. When he speaks, he portrays a sense of self-belief unlike that possessed by many others. He truly believed that he was going to beat Woodley and he convinced many others that he would as well.
Woodley vs. Till
When the fight came, however, Till was wildly unsuccessful. According to UFC.com, Till threw a total of 14 strikes, landing only two of them. In addition, he didn’t land a single significant strike.
Ultimately, Till was extremely gun shy. He simply wasn’t able to get anything off and in the end, Woodley made him pay.
In the second round, the challenger rushed in and was cracked with a perfectly-timed counter right hand from Woodley. “The Chosen One” then landed in top control where he began to unleash a brutal barrage of elbows before locking in a fight-ending d’arce choke.
Just like he did on the feet, Till looked lost on the ground, putting the finishing touches on a forgettable performance for the promising young fighter. Following the fight, he made no excuses. He simply stated; Woodley was “the better man” and that he was “gutted” by his performance.
In the aftermath of that loss, Till has taken some time off. The Brit hasn’t competed since. There were rumors indicating that he would be moving up to 185 pounds, but those plans have been put on hold for now.
Till vs. Masvidal
Till will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 147. He’s set to take on fellow top-10 welterweight Jorge Masvidal in the main event of the UFC London card.
Given the outcome of his last fight in addition to the state of the welterweight division, this fight is an incredibly important one for Till and a pivotal chance for him to bounce back.
What’s At Stake For Darren Till
Firstly, much of Till’s success thus far has been based on his personality and talk. Obviously, he’s been successful inside of the cage for the most part, but he’s been brash, outspoken and engaging outside of it as well.
This has not only gotten fans and observers to believe in him, but it’s also helped to draw interest to his fights. If he puts together a similar performance to the one he did against Woodley, however, that talk will no longer mean much.
Instead, he’ll likely be labeled as just another hype train who couldn’t perform under the bright lights and in the biggest moments.
The State of the Division
In addition, it’s important to remember that Woodley was defeated by Kamaru Usman earlier this month at UFC 235. With Woodley no longer in possession of the title, the division is wide open.
Colby Covington is expected to get the next crack at Usman. Ben Askren recently inserted himself into the title picture as well. Till, however, is still ranked No. 3 in the division. A win over the tough and durable No. 11-ranked Masvidal would keep him near the top of the division. A loss, however, would only push him further down the ladder.
At 26-years-old, a bright future remains a realistic possibility for Till. He clearly has a strong skill set. He also has the personality to bring in viewers and likely has a future at middleweight waiting for him. Because of that, a loss this weekend wouldn’t be a career ender.
But, he’s also openly discussed his interest in getting his hands on the welterweight title before making a jump up in weight. If that remains his plan, Till needs to bounce back. He needs to prove the doubters wrong and prove that the attention he was receiving was more than just hype.
To do so, the Liverpool native will need to make a statement against “Gamebred” on Saturday, March 16th in his home country.