England has a long fighting history. From fighting wars to the rise of boxing, the country has long been associated with combat. More recently, however, it has become closely-knit with MMA. A number of British MMA fighters have become some of the most recognizable names in UFC history, so here is a look at the history of the stars that the Commonwealth have produced.
A History of the Stars of British MMA
What Could Have Been- Lee Murray
One of the pioneers of the UK fighting scene was “Lightning” Lee Murray. When he made his UFC debut at UFC 46 back in 2004, he was one of the first Brits to fight for the leading MMA promotion. While he picked up a win over Jorge Rivera in that fight, it would be his only bout for the organization. His next fight, a losing effort to the great Anderson Silva under the Cage Rage banner, would be his last, capping his career at a record of 8-2-1 (1 no contest).
Murray had the potential to be a force in MMA and become the first MMA star from “across the pond”, but in a more extreme version of fighters like Jon Jones and Conor McGregor today, he simply could not get out of his own way. He was known for getting in street fights- one of which has become somewhat of an urban legend in MMA, supposedly knocking out then-UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz in a street fight, although that has been disputed. Another street fight cost him his career, as he was stabbed during a bar fight, puncturing his lung and severing an artery in the process.
The stabbing nearly cost him his life, but any hope of a comeback was derailed after another incident. In 2006, Lee Murray was the supposed mastermind of the largest monetary heist in British history, the Securitas depot robbery, where over £53 million was taken. After incriminating himself, he was arrested by Moroccan police and eventually sentenced to 25 years in prison, which he is still currently serving. As a result, he is one of the biggest cases of “what if” in MMA’s early history.
England’s First MMA Stars- Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy
British MMA truly reached world prominence with the arrival of Manchester native Michael Bisping. “The Count” ingratiated himself to UFC fans originally on TUF 3, showing an exciting fighting style and a brash personality. When he won the show, he was immediately rocketed to stardom in England, and around the world quickly afterwards, headlining UFC 78 in just his fifth UFC fight.
As fight fans know by now, he would go on to have a Hall of Fame career, capturing the UFC middleweight title in the last stage of his career and cementing his legacy as one of the all-time greats. Bisping is the one who opened the English market for the UFC, battering down the floodgates of talent for the Union.
Shortly after Bisping’s UFC debut, Nottingham-based “The Outlaw” Dan Hardy made his way to the UFC. Similar to Bisping, Hardy would always bring an all-out, striking-heavy style of fighting to the Octagon while carrying a carefree yet intense demeanor outside of it.
Hardy worked his way to a title fight against Georges St-Pierre in at UFC 111 in 2010, getting dominated but earning large amounts of respect for his toughness. He would ride that wave for five more fights, before having to call an end to his career due to a rare heart disease. However, both he and Bisping would wind up becoming UFC commentators after their fighting careers ended, a sign of their impact on the sport.
The Present British MMA Stars- Darren Till, Leon Edwards, and Tom Aspinall
When Bisping retired in 2017, he left a opening for the face of British MMA. Scouser Darren Till and Brum Leon Edwards quickly took the reigns and ran with them. Till’s headliner against Stephen Thompson in his native Liverpool was the home for one of the most electric fight night atmospheres in MMA history, a testament to his stardom. He has continued to be a fan favorite, and will headline this weekend’s UFC Vegas 36 card against Derek Brunson.
“Rocky” Edwards has also risen the ranks to become one of the UFC’s premier welterweights, most recently winning the biggest fight of his career against transcendent superstar Nate Diaz. Less brash than most of his British counterparts, Edwards has let his fighting do the talking en route to his current status.
In the co-main event of UFC Vegas 36, another fast-rising British MMA star takes center stage as Tom Aspinall faces Sergei Spivak at heavyweight. Aspinall is one of the hottest prospects in the division, running roughshod through his first three opponents to start his UFC career. He has only been to the second round three times in his entire career, and has never entered the third round. If he continues this streak, he could easily join Till and Edwards as one of the premier English names to UFC fans.
The Future of British MMA- Paddy Pimblett and Muhammad Mokaev
While the future is bright for British MMA, there are two fighters that stand out to become future stars. Paddy Pimblett is already a big name in England, but will be making his UFC debut this weekend against Luigi Vendramini after a long run in Cage Warriors. Fighting on the card alongside Till and Aspinall, now may be a good time to try some Free Bets UK. If you need assistance as to which bets to make for the card, MMA Sucka has betting tips here. If Pimblett lives up to the hype that he has already undertaken, he could become a true force in the lightweight division and a marketable name.
Another name to look out for is Muhammad Mokaev, who is already considered by some to be the future of MMA. His distinguished amateur career left pundits comparing him to the likes of Aaron Pico and Jon Jones in terms of prospect hype. The bantamweight has rattled off five wins to start his career, fighting both with Cage Warriors and Brave CF. He was offered a spot on this season’s Dana White’s Contender Series, but declined it to gain experience until he earns a UFC contract outright. If Mokaev continues on this path, he could be on the path to superstardom.
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