An ominous, familiar drone reverberated around the K.B Hallen on March 9th 2019 as a stoic figure emerged into the arena looking to place himself in the Cage Warriors history books. Draped in Viking fur and with an axe to honour his heritage in hand, Soren Bak made the walk to the cage stone-faced in the hope of becoming only the second person to become a two weight world champion in the promotion’s history.
In a move that took many by surprise weeks earlier, ‘The Viking’ relinquished his lightweight title that he had only recently invaded Liverpool to claim in order to attempt to rule a second division. He was originally scheduled to challenge newly-crowned featherweight champion, Dean Trueman, but the Englishman had to withdraw prior to the event with an injury. Stepping up on late notice to try and halt the momentum of Bak in enemy territory was the relatively unknown Frenchman, Morgan Charriere. Would there be a stereotypical French retreat on the battlefield or would a big underdog rise to the occasion to make his own history?
Soren Bak (12-1) charged straight out of the gate and landed a big right hand early on his adversary before Charriere showed some good striking of his own to earn the Dane’s respect standing. However, the longer the round went on the Frenchman began to take the upper hand as he took down Bak and ended the round on top of the former lightweight king. Over the next three rounds, the tide turned and Bak appeared to be edging his late notice opponent as he attempted rear naked chokes, established the crucifix position and showed some excellent grappling to reverse from certain predicaments. Charriere ended strong in the fifth and final round as he pushed forwards on the visibly tired Bak, attempting to land fight-ending blows.
‘The Viking’ took a majority decision to claim the interim belt but hadn’t looked anywhere near as dominant as expected or as he had done previously at lightweight. After the fight, Bak turned to Dean Trueman at cageside ahead of a unification bout and claimed that if he knew he had to fight him (Bak), he would ‘get injured’ too. The huge Cage Warriors: Night of Champions card in June was later announced as the event where the two rivals would clash.
In his previous weight class at lightweight, Bak had dominated Alexander Jacobsen and Paddy Pimblett who were two of the biggest names in the division. He looked extremely impressive in those performances and it appeared as though a call up to one of the world’s leading promotions wasn’t far away. That’s why fans and media alike were really questioning his decision to abandon that division in an attempt to try and carve out a new path at featherweight. This concern was justified when it took Bak two attempts to hit his new weight before the Charriere fight. However, it turned out that Bak didn’t move down a division in an attempt to improve his performance. He just didn’t see any challenges at lightweight to improve his resume.
“I always knew that lightweight is where I am the most comfortable,” said Bak. “I dropped to featherweight because no one at 155 had the ranking to move me further ahead. The best possible ranked match for me was Dean Trueman at featherweight. I ended up fighting Morgan Charriere and I wouldn’t say it was my best performance. During the fight, I definitely felt the weight cut. However, for all that, taking into account that I got a new, hungry and skilled opponent at late notice, I felt the fight went as expected. During the bout I did feel light, skinny and I tired too early. Clearly featherweight is for smaller men than me!”
Once the 26 year old recognised this, he announced that he was withdrawing from his unification bout and relinquishing his interim featherweight title in order to move back up to lightweight where he had previously ruled. The brief move down to featherweight isn’t something that Bak regrets though as he will always be remembered as only the second ever two-weight Cage Warriors champion. To add to this, he now knows for certain that his body couldn’t hold up to the severe weight cuts he would have to continuously put himself through to make 145 lbs. He was also thrilled that his previous fight gave him the chance to fight in front of his hometown crowd where he said that the Viking atmosphere was electric. After that experience, it didn’t take him long to realise what his next move would be.
“It seemed pretty obvious that lightweight is where I shine the brightest,” explained Bak. “I wouldn’t have known that without trying my luck at 145 lbs so I’m grateful for that opportunity. I’m thinking I’ll be back late summer. I’ve already put the weight back on but my body is still confused and feeling the effects of the extreme weight cut I did to take the interim featherweight title.”
Soren Bak and Dean Trueman were developing an intriguing rivalry and many were left feeling disappointed when it seemed for the time being that the two won’t be able to see who is the better man inside the cage. However, the whole England v Denmak feud will be settled another way as Bak’s fellow countryman, Mads Burnell, is the one stepping in to compete for the featherweight title in June. Bak is a little upset that he never got to compete against Trueman but said that his well-being is the priority in his career.
“I’m just disappointed that Dean got injured ten days before the match,” stated Bak. “The belts and unification mean less to me than my health though. Evaluating after the weight cut and figuring out that featherweight isn’t for me after that fight didn’t hurt me in the least. All the best to Dean in his career.”
Lightweight is arguably the most stacked division in the promotion with names such as Jack Grant, Jai Herbert, Mason Jones and Paddy Pimblett always being able to draw in fan attention. Bak’s return to the division as the last reigning champion only adds to the depth in the weight class and promises a number of intriguing match ups down the line as all jockey for top position. He is looking forward to attempting to extend his five fight winning streak and improving on his record of submitting his opponent in 50% of his victories. Jack Grant and Jai Herbert are squaring off for the vacant lightweight title at Cage Warriors: Night of Champions and when asked if he expected to challenge the winner, Bak gave a dismissive response.
“Who? The next people they think are worthy of the belt? If I want the lightweight title again, I’ll just take it! It doesn’t matter who Cage Warriors give it to until I’m back,” claimed the Dane.
One thing is for sure: the lightweight title picture just got a whole lot more interesting with the previous king returning looking to take back what was once his. He simply handed the title over rather than being beaten for it inside the cage and he will be coming back later this year to prove that no one stepped up as the top lightweight in Cage Warriors during his absence. The next time ‘The Viking’ drapes the fur over his shoulders and clutches his battleaxe, he is ready to declare war on anyone who stands in his way back to the throne.
Image courtesy of Dolly Clew