"AAre you not entertained? Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett screamed in the middle of a Saturday night house party that dominated the first UFC promotion in Europe in three years. Minutes before, he had secured the victory by forcing Rodrigo Vargas to submit, fulfilling his prediction of knockout in the first round. Her good friend and Liverpool "big sister" "Meatball" Molly McCann had already produced an even more impressive finish with a stunning third-round knockout that ignited the 02London Arena on a transformative night forthe chatty duo Scouse and British MMA.
There were seven British winners on the night, including another impressive first-round stoppage for heavyweight Tom Aspinall, and UFC president Dana White later described it as the most enjoyable promotion in his organization's history. White was so caught up in the feverish atmosphere that he made the unprecedented decision to granta $50,000 bondto the winner of each of the nine fights that ended in stoppage, instead of awarding just one fighter on the night.
However, there was no doubt that this was theRice and Molly Showas Liverpool's two highly distinguished fighters lived up to their pre-fight hype. In only his second fight in the UFC, Pimblett received a euphoric reception as he entered the Octagon. Her blonde top, goofy smile, and pale, slight body — without a single tattoo — mean that Pimblett looks so different from a traditional UFC fighter. Vargas, his imposing opponent from Mexico, frowned menacingly, but the 27-year-old from a Huyton development continued to smile.
The change in Pimblett's cheerful mood occurred just a minute before the cage door closed when he was introduced. Instead of greeting the crowd, Pimblett seemed suddenly focused as he looked at the Mexican who had promised to teach him a hard lesson. Vargas started with intent and a hard right rocked Pimblett. After 18 seconds into the fight, Vargas took Pimblett down and pinned him to the canvas as the Mexican used his upper body strength and jiu-jitsu skills.
Pimblett's explosive punch sealed the first round victory in hisUFC debut in Las Vegasin September, but throughout his MMA career, his submission work on the ground has been exceptional. he also hadspent weeks at boot campworking on his grip and flew with a noted American fighter, Chasen Blair, at his expense to develop his skill set.
There was still a sense of danger and a hush fell over the arena as a transfixed crowd waited to see if Pimblett could escape Vargas' clutches. Slowly, inexorably, Pimblett began to regain control. There was a roar as Pimblett broke free enough to gain enough strength to get to his feet, and they continued to wrestle in upright positions.
Then, three minutes into the first round, the contest took a dramatic turn when Pimblett's left leg wrapped around Vargas' stocky limbs and Vargas completed a deft judo move that allowed him to knock the Mexican to the canvas. Within seconds, Pimblett's left arm became a vise around Vargas's neck. He began squeezing and strangling his opponent, and at three minutes and 49 seconds into the first round, it was over. Vargas surrendered because he was helpless against the strength of that rear naked choke.
Pimblett ran across the cage. He climbed over the fence and made a beeline for White, who sat down next to Eddie Hearn and Anthony Joshua, the boxing promoter and former world heavyweight boxing champion smiling in surprise when Pimblett reminded him of theufckingpin who was on his way to becoming, in his words, the "main man" and "new earner".
Soon he was back in the cage and an elated McCann hugged him. It took a while for the grumpy friends to break up, but by then Paddy the Baddy was talking better. "I'm never, never, never, never in a boring fight, boy," he told Michael Bisping, the former UFC world champion from Manchester. "I have to get punched in the face to wake me up and I'll have a good black eye in the morning to prove it."
Calling their performance "only a five or six out of 10", Pimblett focused on the crowd and his skyrocketing fame as he and McCann became an irresistible duo. “See this sand? the 02? Very small, very small. Get me a stadium. Take us to Anfield and we'll fill it up."
White confirmed that the success of Saturday night's promo meant the UFC would return to the UK later this year. Pimblett, an ardent Liverpool fan, decided to fight at Anfield and believes he and McCann, who support Everton with the same passion, would attract a crowd of 70,000.
In typical Paddy the Baddy fashion, Pimblett said his next battle would be with the billionaire owner of Facebook and Instagram. “Mark Zuckerberg, boy, I'm going to break your head. I'm done with you, boy. I'm sick of you closing my Instagram account when all I do is help charities, help people with mental health issues. You're the biggest bully in the world."
There was still time to honor the 97 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough. “I was going to sing F the Tories, but the world is too full of hate right now,” Pimblett said. “We need positivity. Will they all sing with me? He turned to the crowd and led the chant:“Justice for 97… Justice for 97…”Meatball Molly, wearing an Everton scarf around her neck, joined in the chant. She was still enthralled after a landmark performance less than an hour earlier.
Facing Luana Carolina, a Brazilian with a great range advantage, McCann had dominated the first round. He looked close to sealing an early stoppage with his superior punch as blood poured from Carolina's face. McCann also expended a lot of energy on such an emotionally charged night, and his intensity dropped somewhat in the second round, although he clearly won.
Carolina had five minutes left in the third and final round to save her night, but McCann intended to end the show. A straight left rocked Carolina, who defiantly motioned for McCann to tackle her again. The Liverpool fighter didn't need any invites. Chasing the taller Brazilian, he bided his time. When Carolina brought her left knee up, McCann prepared to grab her early, ducking and swinging, turning in a tight circle and completing the most impressive move of the night. His back elbow connected with the injured opponent's face. Carolina was unconscious before she even touched the screen, her arms outstretched in complete oblivion. McCann walked away, mouth agape with amazement and delight.
She confirmed in the Octagon that the rare spin elbow stoppage was a move "that we practice every day" at the gym. McCann then shouted a tribute to her city and Everton: “Liverpool was for you! Even the sweets!
Seeing his stunning knockout in the locker room before his own fight, Pimblett squealed in delight. The friend returned the tribute when she interrupted the interview in the cage. "My lungs are sore so I'm ready to get laid all night," McCann said. "I'm so happy... please, please, please get him ready for... 'Oh, Paddy the Bad...'" The crowd joined Meatball Molly in the roaring accompaniment of her scouser companion.
Sunday morning Paddy the Baddytweeted: "Woke up in dreamland here 2 from Liverpool back 4 tweeted yeah Andy boy" after Andy Robertson and Virgil van Dijk took to Twitter to celebrate Pimblett's win. Pictures of Wayne Rooney hugging each otherMcCann e Pimbletthe also set social media on fire with the tweet "just some kids from Liverpool", matching his love of his hometown.
He echoed Saturday night's rave when backstage, devouring a giant pizza, Pimblett confirmed: “It was like fighting in Liverpool. Half of my city is here. We take London. Wait till we get to Anfield, boy. This will be a special night.”
The Paddy and Molly Show seems unstoppable now.