If the entire European MMA landscape was surveyed, it would be almost impossible to find a better lightweight fight coming up on paper than the one taking place at Cage Warriors 106: Night of Champions this weekend. From the Eventim Apollo on Saturday 29th June, Jai Herbert (8-1) takes on Jack Grant (15-4) for the vacant lightweight title on one of the biggest shows in the promotion’s history. Both men are in the midst of a combined 10 fight winning streak and their collision course comes to head on the ground breaking card where six title belts will be up for grabs. A lightweight champion hasn’t been in place since Soren Bak vacated the division earlier this year so whoever comes out victorious on Saturday night can claim to be the number one lightweight in Europe.
Herbert last competed at Cage Warriors 102 against Steve O’Keefe where going into the fight, it was known that the winner could well compete for the title in their next contest if they looked impressive. O’Keefe started aggressively as he charged forward looking to land damaging strikes but Herbert stayed just out of range. A bodylock takedown was secured by O’Keefe and he moved from half guard to mount, punctuating an impressive opening.
The 31-year-old did a great job at avoiding any meaningful damage though and restored guard before his opponent threatened a guillotine and moved back to mount. Wolverhampton born Herbert remained composed once again, bridged, rolled back to his feet and landed some big knees on the way to a first round stoppage. O’Keefe gave him the smallest of openings and he took it, demonstrating just how dangerous Herbert is on the feet if given the chance to get off some shots. It was a fight in which he was tested but ultimately rose to the occasion, consequently securing the biggest fight of his career.
“I feel it was a very good performance against O’Keefe,” said Herbert. “I stayed patient, waited for the opening and took the opportunity for the finish. At Renegade we train a lot of bad situations so when we get in those positions we are fully prepared to deal with them. That showed in this fight. I knew 100% that I was getting the title fight after that victory. After my last three performances against top quality opposition, I had nowhere else to go but compete for the title.”
Herbert grew up on a rough council estate where he spent a lot of time on the streets during his teenage years. He could quite easily have made a series of negative choices and been led astray by the wrong crowd but he steered clear of these options before finding his way into a MMA gym. It was there that he could channel his energy in a positive way and give his life a real focus. Seven years later, he finds himself fighting for a world title in one of London’s most iconic venues. Herbert has come a long way in that time and his story is yet another example of how martial arts can help young men to find the right path in life.
The man who has won four straight and has finished six of his eight professional wins by knockout is thankful for the opportunity given to him by Cage Warriors to showcase his skills at this huge event. Due to the hype surrounding the show, Herbert is looking forward to the increased exposure he will get and is revelling at the chance of participating in one of the biggest nights in the company’s history.
The man standing in his way on Saturday night is Grimsby man, Jack Grant, who has finished 14 of his 15 professional wins. However, despite being unbeaten in his last six fights, the two previous losses on his record were by first round knockout so if that is a chink in his armour, that may be an area that Herbert knows he can exploit. When WHOA TV caught up with Jack Grant last week, he said that he had total confidence he would be able to stand up and exchange strikes with Herbert. The thought of staying on the feet against Grant excites the Team Renegade standout and he believes that more is on the line at the Apollo than just the Cage Warriors title.
“Grant is a good fighter and it’s a great stylistic matchup,” explained Herbert. “He believes he can stand with me. I like his confidence but I’m the best striker in this division. Fact! The fight is not just for the belt in my eyes; it’s for that UFC contract and I’m more than ready for it! We aren’t going the full five rounds and I will become the new Cage Warriors lightweight champion!”
Cage Warriors 106: Night of Champions will stream live on UFC Fight Pass from 4pm on Saturday night.