Cage Warriors return to the Indigo at the O2 on Saturday 2nd March as the promotion begin a strong start to the year by running three shows in a month. Cage Warriors 102 is the second of those events and the company have announced a stellar lineup of fights including a title fight, possible no1 contender showdowns and the return of some fan favourites. One fight that catches the eye is a lightweight bout between Jai Herbert (7-1) and Steve O’Keefe (9-3) which promises action as out of their 20 combined professional fights, all but one have been finished inside the distance.
Jai Herbert last competed at the landmark Cage Warriors 100 show where he finished Joe McColgan two minutes into the first round with strikes. He is currently on a 3 fight winning streak and has made an undefeated start to his Cage Warriors career. During the contest against McColgan, the fight played out on the feet where Herbert used his quick movement and accurate striking to land the damaging blows that ended the fight.
“I was happy with the performance,” said Herbert. “I was expecting it to maybe last a bit longer. I didn’t expect to find the range for my right hand so quickly but after I landed a couple of jabs, I was confident to let the backhand go. Once it landed, I knew that the fight was done.”
This was a breakout performance for Herbert and made fans sit up and take notice of the 30 year old as someone who could play a part in the lightweight title picture in the near future. The next challenge in front of him is Steve O’Keefe who has finished 7 of his 9 wins by submission and is also on a 3 fight winning streak. Herbert is confident in his preparations and is looking forward to facing a different challenge inside the cage.
“I’m excited for this fight. He’s a good fighter who likes to grapple and I’m looking to test myself against good guys,” Herbert continued. “I’ve fought wrestlers and jiu jitsu guys before and beat them. I’m at Renegade where the grappling is very high level so I will be well prepared for whatever he has.”
Team Renegade BJJ & MMA is situated in Birmingham and has become more prominent over the last few years as one of the leading gyms in the country. It is the home of top fighters in the UFC and Bellator so Herbert is constantly surrounded by high level guys that push him to improve all aspects of his game.
“I swear the level is unreal down at Renegade. The training partners I have are some of the best in Europe and the world,” Herbert explained. “I work with the likes of Tom Breese, the Edwards brothers and Aiden Lee just to name a few.”
The gym has a number of high profile fights coming up over the next month or so and Herbert wasn’t shy to offer his thoughts on how each of those fights will go.
“I predict Fabian will win (again Lee Chadwick) by KO in the first round, Leon will beat Gunnar Nelson to set up a big fight with Darren Till in Birmingham and Tom Breese will win at UFC London, opening the way for those big fights in the top 10.”
Herbert is sharing the card in London with the the only guy to defeat him in his professional career, Rhys McKee. Now that the lightweight title is vacant, all fighters towards the top of the division will be vying for the position of fighting for the belt. McKee’s and Herbert’s paths may cross again as the division looks to establish a hierarchy but Herbert isn’t putting too much emphasis on looking to get that victory back.
“I have developed a lot as a fighter since then and my focus has been on that – not avenging a loss,” he stated. “I will fight McKee or whoever on route to the title. Everyone knows I never duck a fight. I’m not built like that.”
It came as a big surprise to many when former lightweight champion, Soren Bak, moved down to the featherweight division and relinquished his title in the process after only winning it a few months before. Bak hasn’t yet come out and explained why he is making the move down to 145lbs although some have speculated that he is doing so to try and become a 2 weight world champion to attract the UFC’s attention. However, Herbert thinks differently and makes his own intentions for the year clear.
“Soren Bak has vacated because it seems like he didn’t want to fight Jack Grant. I’ll fight him (Grant) though and any of the others to get the lightweight strap – simple as!”
Image courtesy of Cage Warriors