On Saturday 9th March, Cage Warriors return to Copenhagen, Denmark for the first time since 2014. The promotion have put in the ground work to grow MMA in the country through their academy series, which looks to provide local fighters in the early stage of their careers with a clear path to succeed. Many of these fighters will likely appear on the card alongside more notable names such as Mark O. Madsen and Mads Burnell. One of the key fights on the card sees Dane, Nicolas Dalby take on Alex Lohore in a bout for the Interim Welterweight Championship.
Cage Warriors Welterweight Champion, Ross Houston (8-0), won the title back in October and emerged as the front runner in Cage Warrior’s most high profile division. Many considered ex-UFC fighter and former Cage Warriors Welterweight Champion, Nicolas Dalby, to be the guy who was next in line to try and take the belt following his win at Cage Warriors 100. With the promotions push into Denmark, Dalby fighting for the title in his home country would have made a lot of sense. However, Houston didn’t believe he needed to travel to Dalby’s turf to defend his title and would have rathered the fight take place in Scotland. He has also just opened up a new gym so didn’t have the time to prepare correctly for a fight in March so Cage Warriors created an interim title instead.
Houston, who fights out of Scotland, took the title from Stefano Paterno via a close split decision in what was widely regarded as the promotion’s ‘Fight of the Year’ of 2018. Both men were dropped during the fight with back and forth exchanges taking place on the feet and on the ground. Houston was honest when assessing his own performance and felt that there was lots of room for improvement.
“The fight against Paterno was probably my worst performance ever,” said Houston. “It was my biggest win in terms of being the most important but my performance was far from my best. There wasn’t an ideal build up to that fight but I’m not making excuses as everyone has problems going into events. I won’t get into specific details but the last four weeks before the show weren’t amazing at all. I was glad I got the win but I wasn’t happy with my performance.”
Paterno began the fight in the first round by landing some clean strikes when he managed to get inside of Houston’s reach. However, in the second round, Houston made a noticeable adjustment when he used the snap kick to the body which kept Paterno at range. This is a technique that the welterweight drilled many times in preparation for that fight.
“I use the snap kick to the body quite a lot and it’s a nasty shot. I sparred with some good people who use it and it was effective so I’ve utilised it into my game as well,” Houston explained.
In the fourth round, Paterno landed a heavy shot on Houston that dropped him to the canvas. He managed to survive though and even managed to reverse position when Paterno was on top of him while he was still hurt. His heart was on display for all to see and both himself and Paterno were lauded for their toughness.
“I was hurt in the fourth round. If it wasn’t for that shot he landed, I think it would have been plain sailing for five rounds to be honest. He caught me with a big shot but I’ve shown everyone that if you want to get me out of there, you’re going to need to shoot me,” stated Houston. “It’s not going to happen. I’ve said it from the start, I’m mentally tougher than any of these guys that you’re going to put me against. There is no chance that these guys at this level are going to stop me and I’m only getting better every week.”
Houston is one of the larger fighters in the division and acknowledged that his weight cut is quite tough but he’s now got it down to a tee. He has learnt how to re-hydrate properly and feels big come fight night when he steps into the cage at around 190lbs.
The Welterweight Champion was asked about his views on the promotion introducing an interim title even though he recently won the belt and isn’t out for an extended period of time. He was very relaxed with his response and gave his thoughts on the fight.
“I’m not too fussed about the Cage Warriors Interim Title – I think it’s just a glorified title eliminator. I really don’t care who wins. I think Lohore might win as I don’t think Dalby is that physically strong. However, I think Lohore is small as well and he’s quite predictable with his techniques,” explained the Scot. “The way I look at, it’s two green ticks in my box if I were to face both so we’ll see what happens. In Copenhagen, we’ll see who number 9 will be for me! I respect them both and they are good fighters but I just think I’m on a different level to these guys, especially on fight night.”
One of the men competing for the interim title, Alex Lohore, recently did an interview with Mike Morgan of WHOA TV where he said that he considers fighting Houston a step down in opponent after he defeats Dalby, so he is thinking of the fight in Denmark as the real title fight. Houston let these comments go over his head.
“Lohore thinks I would be a step down? Say that to the last 8 victims. They all underestimate me because I came up fast in the rankings and I didn’t come from a big gym or anything like that. I’ve proven them wrong every time. I’ve either put people away fast or dominated them,” Houston said.
The new gym Houston has just opened is in the north of Scotland and he said that things have got off to a really good start. The facility is much bigger than where he previously trained so everyone has a lot more room to work and improve. He believes this new environment will be key in developing the next group of stars to come out of Scotland. As Cage Warriors look at travelling to different territories, Scotland is one of the standout options for the company to go to soon which is in large part down to Houston holding the title. He indicated that it if Cage Warriors don’t commit to holding an event in Scotland soon, the opportunity could well be gone for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t know man. I keep pinging the question to them and harassing them on social media but I don’t know if it’s working. I want it to come through as it would be cool for me to defend the belt in Scotland,” said Houston. “It would be great to help set up a show in Scotland to inspire future generations but at the same time, I don’t want to be in Cage Warriors forever. I’m thinking I’ll defend this belt and then I’m on the way to the UFC so just whatever. I think it’s only fair. You’ve got me with the title, Scott Malone fighting for the title, Paull McBain was just in a title eliminator and you’ve got the likes of Aiden Steven coming through. I think it’s only fair that Scotland gets a chance.”
Whether or not that plays out is yet to be seen but Houston will be fully prepared and ready to go, wherever his first title defense takes place.
“I’m back in full preparation now so we’ll see what happens in Copenhagen. I’ll be ready for whoever they put me up against!”
Image courtesy of Dolly Clew