In the summer of 2018, Darren Till had the world at his fingertips. Considered to be one of the hottest prospects in the UFC, Till was scheduled to face Tyron Woodley the following September at UFC 228 as he was just coming off a main event victory over Stephen Thompson at a fight night card he had headlined in his home city of Liverpool. Till was being talked about as a future star and face of the sport. Comparisons to Conor McGregor were everywhere and he appeared to have this unbreakable mindset. Whatever he said would happen generally did. At the age of 25, he was supposed to be a superstar of the sport just coming into his prime and was talking about becoming a champion at welterweight, middleweight and eventually light heavyweight. Brimming with confidence and with a competent skill set Till simply looked unstoppable.
Unfortunately for Till, this success and stardom is no longer the same.
What Is Next for Liverpool’s Gorilla?
The Darren TiIll of 2022 looks to be a totally different person. No longer undefeated in the organization, Till has won only one fight out of his last five fights. A losing skid that began with him coming up short against welterweight title holder Tyron Woodley at UFC 228. The defeat to Woodley was followed by a devastating knockout loss to Jorge Masvidal at the O2 in London which would be Till’s last ever appearance in the welterweight division. Upon his return to the Octagon, Till would be fighting at middleweight. He had long talked about making the jump up to 185lbs and many fans thought that it was the perfect move for him at the time in order to revive his career somewhat and provide a fresh new start. His middleweight debut was a promising one with Till picking up a split decision win over Kelvin Gastelum. Kelvin had just fought in the fight of the year in his previous fight against Israel Adesanya in a contest which to this day remains the toughest in Adesanya’s career in the UFC. This win for Till showed that he was capable of beating the best that the division had to offer at the time and the future was looking promising for the young liverpudlian. Despite losing his next fight to Robert Whittaker, many fans and fighters alike were impressed with Till’s performance against the former champ and some believed that he should have been awarded the very close decision. Even though he had lost, his stock had not gone down too drastically. It was following the defeat to Whittaker; however, that Till’s problems would begin.
Stricken with Problems
These problems are mainly injuries. Immediately after the defeat to Whittaker, Till was booked to face Jack Hermansson in December of 2020; however, a month before the fight he was forced to pull out due to an undisclosed injury. He was then booked to fight Marvin Vettori in April the following year before breaking his collarbone a week before the fight and being unable to compete. Finally he managed to make it to a fight without having to pull out due to an injury, however his fight against Derek Brunson was a one sided beatdown in favor of the American.
It was later revealed that Till had completely torn his ACL in training camp leading up to the fight. His knees would continue giving him trouble with Till originally being slated to fight in the main event of the second UFC London card in a rebooking of the fight with Jack Hermansson; however, again, he was forced to pull out due to injuries that likely had not healed from the Brunson fight. All of these injuries and various pull outs have given Till a label as an unreliable opponent and has certainly damaged his reputation with both fans and fighters alike. No longer thought of as the future of the company, indeed Till now finds himself the target of trolls online who regularly tell him that he should not even be ranked inside the top-10 of the division.
Going by a recent interview done by Till after pulling out of the UFC London card, Till has begun to let these trolls and negative comments affect him. He voiced his frustrations with the apparent stagnation of his career and how his trajectory has not gone according to plan. The consistent injuries, losses and criticism from fans and fighters alike appears to have taken quite the toll on the young English fighter who looks to be shaken and unconfident. A shadow of his former self. All this begs the question, what does Darren Till do from here? How does he reestablish himself as a force in the middleweight division and get his career back on to where it once was and beyond?
First off, he is probably making the right decision pulling out against Hermansson for the card on the weekend. When Till makes his return to the Octagon he needs to be as fit as possible. Of course as any fighter will tell you, no one is 100% when they make that walk, but it is vital that Till is in top physical condition for his next fight. Simply because another loss would be disastrous for him and his career. His next contest really is a must win scenario and it would be wise of him to make sure all of his major injuries have healed up by then.
Going into a fight with a grappler as talented as Jack Hermansson with a destroyed ACL or similar knee problem is asking for trouble. It would be a massive risk and Till should not be taking any of those right now. He needs to play it as safe as he can. Obviously when fighting top-10 middleweights in the UFC. ‘safe’ is of course a relative term but there is absolutely no reason for Till to return fighting the top dogs of the division immediately. He has not only been damaged physically, but mentally he is not the same fighter as he was before. It is clear that his confidence has been badly shaken and in order for him to fight at his full potential Till needs to ooze confidence. He should take fights against lower ranked fighters. Fighters that he should be the favorite to beat on paper but will still give him a test and will prove to fans and most of all himself that he has the necessary skills to be at the top of the division. Uriah Hall and Brad Tavares are two names that spring to mind that would allow Till to show that he still possesses the skills of a fighter still in the mix.
Whatever route Darren Till decides to take, it is clear that he is at a pivotal moment of his career and that if he wishes to reach the lofty heights that so many thought he would be able to reach, he is going to have to start winning sooner rather than later. Till is more than capable of making a comeback and climbing back up the rankings. He is young and has many more years to win championship gold. Only time will tell if he will live up to his potential or if he will simply fade into obscurity.