Cage Warriors return to the nation’s capital on Saturday, June 29th for a night that the company are billing as the biggest in their history. Cage Warriors 106: Night of Champions emanates from the iconic Eventim Apollo (formerly Hammersmith Apollo) in London for the first time, as the company move to a bigger venue than their usual stop off in the Indigo at the O2. No less than six title fights feature on the card that will most likely signify a new era in many of the promotion’s divisions. One of those bouts sees Grimsby’s own, Jack Grant (15-4), take on fellow Englishman, Jai Herbert (8-1), for the vacant lightweight title in a mouth-watering contest.
Grant extended his winning streak to six last September when he took out Finnish fighter, Aleksi Mantykivi, at Cage Warriors 96. He opened the first round by keeping his distance well using his kicks and punches so he could strike his opponent without getting hit himself. Not long after, Grant was on the receiving end of an accidental eye-poke before getting stunned with an overhand right. However, the 27-year-old recovered well by initiating the clinch against the cage so he could bide his time until he could steady his legs underneath him.
Once he regained his composure, Grant hurt Mantykivi with a big combination and moved in for the kill as he fired off a series of brutal elbows that put his opponent in serious trouble. The referee stepped in once Grant landed with a huge left hand that slumped Mantykivi to the mat. It was a highlight reel finish that really pleased Grant although he was aware of a mistake he made during the fight that could have proved costly.
“I liked my performance as Mantykivi is a dangerous striker,” said Grant. “Going in, I wanted a stand-up battle which is what I mostly got that night so it was fun. However, I did take a few things from the fight including how I reacted to the eye-poke. After it happened, I should have taken more time to recover as I was seeing double in one eye. That then made me rush my game which actually worked out well but that’s not the safest way to fight a guy like Mantykivi! The right hand that he landed shook me a little bit but I felt in control. I was just thinking it’s time to get him back. The eye-poke hindered me more than the punch.”
Not long after that victory, it was announced that Grant would star at Cage Warriors 101 a few months later to continue building his momentum. Much to the disappointment of the fans, he had to withdraw from that event as he suffered a bad injury on Christmas Eve. Grant is now fully recovered from that setback after taking proper rest and undergoing rehabilitation.
Before his current victorious run, Grant was quite inconsistent inside the cage as once he got a win, he would often follow it up with a loss. Grant admitted that his training situation around that time wasn’t ideal so he wasn’t getting the preparation that he needed to unlock his true potential. He now feels very comfortable where he is in his career and puts a considerable amount of that down to finding a team that best caters for his needs.
“I’ve moved gyms twice to surround myself with the right people,” explained Grant. “I have found a great home at AVT where I have many excellent coaches and training partners. In order to be the best fighter you can be, I believe it’s all about who you surround yourself with and then the success will show.”
Grant is facing Team Renegade fighter, Jai Herbert, next Saturday night where the winner will walk away with the belt in one of the most talent rich divisions in Cage Warriors. Herbert is undefeated in the promotion and has finished seven of his eight professional wins, six of which have come by knockout. His biggest strength is his striking and the power he possesses in his hands so all indications are that his clash with Grant could well be a stand up affair. Grant has an 83% finishing rate himself so both fighters are always pushing the pace and looking to take their opponent out. Due to Herbert’s prowess on the feet, many would be constantly trying to take him down but Grant has the confidence in his own ability to beat Herbert at his own game.
“I’m 100% sure that I can stand with him,” stated Grant. “He’s a great fighter and I think he’s a bigger threat than the previous champion (Soren Bak) but I feel confident everywhere in the fight. I believe I’m going to finish him in the first or second round. My focus is always on training to finish fights.”
The promotion’s lightweight title was vacated when previous champion, Soren Bak, decided to move down to the featherweight division to pursue adding a second title to his Cage Warriors resume. However, after only one fight down a weight class, he decided that the cut drained his body too much so he wasn’t able to properly showcase his skills inside of the cage. He is looking to return to the lightweight division later this year with many suggesting that he would be the obvious next challenger to the winner of Grant v Herbert. A few months ago prior to his last fight, Herbert claimed that the real reason that Bak moved down a division was so that he didn’t have to defend his belt against Grant. This is a sentiment that the man from Grimsby echoes.
“I definitely think he vacated the title so that he didn’t have to fight me,” claimed Grant.”He’s a p***y and I think that I’m an awful matchup for him with my style, game and range. I’d break him quickly! He’s not worthy of being next in line for the winner between me and Jai. Anyway, I heard he had an accident with his axe and now he’s in the women’s division.”
With a win at Night of Champions, Grant believes he will be extremely close to progressing to the UFC – a route which Cage Warriors pride themselves on providing European fighters. If that doesn’t happen straight away, a potential bout with Bak would be just as intriguing and would settle once and for all who the throne of the Cage Warriors lightweight division belongs to.
Cage Warriors 106: Night of Champions will be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass on Saturday 29th June. Limited tickets are available and can still be purchased here.
Image courtesy of Dolly Clew.