On 15th April 2016, Cage Warriors returned to the MMA scene with Cage Warriors 75 which took place at the Camden Centre in London. It was the first time the promotion had put on a show since November 2014 and there was a lot of questions to be answered as to just how big of an impact they would have on the scene after such a long hiatus.
Returning owner Graham Boylan had been working tirelessly with his former team to bring back a product worthy of taking over the European MMA scene, and had created some big partnerships with the likes of UFC Fight Pass to ensure the return of Cage Warriors made a splash in the current market. But it wasn’t quite as well received as perhaps envisaged. Now that is by no means to knock the promotion, but it just didn’t have that “Cage Warriors feel” about it. Feel free to dispute that if you think otherwise.
One thing I have always admired about the Cage Warriors structure is their proven track record of building stars under their brand. So it was refreshing to see their revitalised package pushing the likes of Alfie Davis, Darren Stewart and Jack Shore. I feel that right now guys like this probably just need a bit of polishing before they break into the mainstream, and I absolutely believe that they will.. In addition, Jack Shore was a big part of the Newport show (given it’s his backyard) and it was great to see him branded across UFC Fight Pass.
The good news for the likes of these names is that the promotion isn’t as top heavy as it once was and, so, there should be a better opportunities for these young rising stars to compete higher up on the fight card against bigger European names.
But for all the good work that is being done by the promotion to build future stars, there has definitely been some questioning (from both media and fans) around the match making in particular relating to those fighters managed by Intensiti Fighter Management. The first point to be clear on is that it isn’t unusual for fight promoters to have other interests within MMA, with some promoters managing some/all of the fighters. So it’s no big shock that Intensiti Fighter Management (owned by Graham Boylan) have clearly got an influence over the matchmaking of the Cage Warriors cards and probably always have had. The issue they have now is that given the reduced size of their roster its far clearer for everyone to see.
Take Chris Fishgold (managed by IFM), for example, who is arguably one of the best 155lbers in the UK. At Cage Warriors 75 he fought Jordan Miller (14-14). Brad Wheeler (also managed by IFM) is set to fight Tom Green at Cage Warriors 77, an opponent who has amassed a record of 10-1 but with 90% of those opponents fighting off a losing record (2-10, 1-7, 1-3). I absolutely understand the desire of management teams to get their guys to the highest level that they can, and IFM have a clear success rate in getting their fighters into the UFC, but you have to question whether or not there is any conflict of interest with a promotion and management company both chasing the same goals?