Behind every great success there are often a host of people who fly under the radar yet constantly drive to improve and drive forward with a true passion. That statement can certainly ring true in the UKMMA scene and whilst your average fan can rock up to a local show for not much than £30 and enjoy a thoroughly entertaining night of fights, it’s often the fighters that get the true praise without even a thought to what went into the event.
When I was asked to put together a list of the top ten Power Figures in the UKMMA scene I immediately thought that regardless of my views (for what they are worth) I would be dividing opinion across the UKMMA fanbase. I would probably get hate tweets, general slaying and if it comes to it even an immediate ban from all UK MMA events forever. But I’m willing to take that risk and I went forth and got cracking. Now the list I have compiled is a real spread across the board and given the size of the scene in the UK it’s been extremely difficult to encapsulate all the important figures. Hopefully justice has been served but I am certainly not setting out to offend anyone by not including them.
So without further ado here is my top 10 list of the most powerful figures (Both past and present) in UKMMA;
#1 Graham Boylan – CEO Cage Warriors Fighting Championship – @GrahamBoylan
Since taking control of Cage Warriors in 2010, Boylan’s vision for the promotion has seen Cage Warriors race ahead in the European scene and become a main feeder for talent into the UFC. Boylan and his team are constantly looking to grow the business and have sparked up numerous television deals across the globe and most recently landed a huge deal with Channel 4 which will help boost the popularity of the sport in the UK. Cage Warriors are keen to take the show to the road and have hit the international scene with shows in Russia, Ireland, Ukraine, Jordan, UAE, Lebanon and Bahrain under Boylan’s leadership. Boylan for me is a key figure in UKMMA right now and a key aspect of how the sport is taken forward in the coming years.
#2 Michael Bisping – UFC Middleweight Fighter – @bisping
Love him or hate him but you all have an opinion of him. Bisping has helped out UKMMA in ways that others just can’t even fathom. Since bursting onto the UFC scene back in 2006 at TUF 3 the Manchester lad has been one of the most successful (Ok Dan Hardy got a title shot but you know where I’m going with this) British fighters in the UFC. For good or bad he has got the sport embedded into the European plans and is certainly a driving force behind the promotions yearly trips across the pond. His early days in the sport saw him crowned as Cage Warriors Light Heavyweight Champion and his 10 fight win streak ultimately got him the nudge in the TUF house, along with his brash personality. He has paved the way for many other Brits to earn their place amongst the upper echelon of fighters and his constant drive towards a title shot will hopefully one day come to fruition.
#3 Ian Dean – Cage Warriors Match Maker – @iandean
Behind every successful promotion is a great matchmaker? Well what can I say that hasn’t already been said about Ian Dean’s match making abilities. He has helped Cage Warriors come on leaps and bounds since joining the promotion in the early Noughties and treated us to some of the best fights in Europe in the last few years. He has also helped to pave a way for UFC stars such as Dan Hardy, Conor McGregor, Gunnar Nelson just to name a few. What really impresses me is his ability to scope out relatively unknown European fighters who come into the promotion and make a huge name for themselves (Nicolas Dalby springs to mind). With the sport getting bigger and bigger and the talent pool ever increasing I can honestly say that I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Cage Warriors fans, all courtesy of the evil genius Ian Dean.
#4 Jude Samuel – BAMMA Match Maker – @EFNSports
Without Jude BAMMA would certainly have not reached the heights of success which they are currently reaping. Jude is often found at BAMMA events running around frantically and really taking a very hands on role with the promotion. His expert match making has seen us treated to hundreds of very entertaining bouts and not only is Jude a fantastic match maker but also a serious BJJ practitioner who under Mauricio Gomes was awarded his black belt in 2005. And for Jude he has adapted extremely well to the new direction of the promotion who recently have branched out to local Fight Night shows in between their numbered shows by matching up local talent and really giving them a stage to make a name for themselves. Jude is a huge talent for BAMMA and without him at the helm I doubt they would be generating the level of shows and gaining the exposure they currently are.
#5 Marc Goddard – Referee – @marcgoddard_uk
In my opinion one of the best referees in the game today and Goddard has helped to put UKMMA on the map. One week he may be refereeing a main event UFC PPV but you can bet your bottom dollar that the following weekend he will be travelling across the UK/Europe to officiate at a local show and this level of dedication cannot go unmentioned. Goddard competed himself in the early 2000’s and so can gage fighters mindsets better than others. He is completely dedicated to the sport and his presence at UFC shows does nothing but good to help promote the UKMMA scene. Like all referees there are always some calls which divide opinions but I don’t think adding him to this list will divide anyone’s thoughts.
#6 Brad Pickett – UFC Flyweight Fighter – @One_Punch
Pickett is another British UFC fighter who flies the flag for UKMMA and is often spotted at UK events when he isn’t over at American Top Team working out (or getting a tan). Brad has been around the sport for a long time and is now also sharing his experiences as a coach at Team Titan and ATT. There has not been one person I have come across who has a bad word to say about Pickett and you can tell from speaking to him that he has a real passion for the sport. He is a great spokesperson for UKMMA and someone who in my mind is always looking to put back into the sport. So Mr Pickett you take a spot in the list for your hard work and dedication to the next generation of UK fighters.
#7 Gary Cook – Chief Global Officer UFC
Cook has certainly embraced his role of expanding the UFC into Europe/Middle East/Asia and I think we can all rest assured that we will be treated to more and more live shows per year going forward. He has arguably been helped out with the rise in popularity of fighters such as Conor McGregor, Luke Barnatt and Gunnar Nelson to name a few and I think the key going forward will be to see how he looks to help develop European talent outside of the current UFC roster. His job encapsulates the UFC’s vision to gain more international fans and I think he is the right man to do that and with the support of Dana which he has I think that the European and UKMMA fans can be excited about the future of the UFC.
#8 Jay Furness – Fighter, Commentator and Journalist – JayFurnessMMA
Furness has dabbled in every aspect of MMA and is a real driving force in the UKMMA Media and also as a competitive fighter. He may not be fighting every other month but when he isn’t out training for a fight he is completely all over social media spinning out content as Editor of YourMMA. This list wouldn’t be complete without a respected member of the UKMMA Media family involved and I doubt many will questions his place amongst the Power Figures in UKMMA. I don’t think he understands the respect he has across the community and partly that is down to the fact that he is one of the limited number of people who has actually fought competitively. So although he may be coming off a dodgy decision in Poland against a Polish opponent, keep your chin up Jay and keep on doing what you do.
#9 Paul Rimmer – Head Coach at Next Generation MMA – @bjj_liverpool
Often coaches fly under the radar as the fighters are the ones who make a name for themselves but I have a true admiration for the work that Paul Rimmer has done. Ultimately his work is encapsulated in the number of top quality fighters he is producing over at Next Generation MMA and I think that he deserves a huge amount of credit for that. Dean Garnett, Paddy Pimblett, Danny Roberts are some of the names to come out of Next Generation gym in recent years but Rimmer is constantly working to bring new talent through the ranks. Rimmer set up Next Generation MMA in Liverpool in 2002 following a year spent in California at Next Generation USA. Rimmer himself is a BJJ black belt under Chris Brennan and it’s his knowledge of grappling which really comes across in his students work. Excited to see who the next batch of stars are from this gym.
#10 Ian Freeman – Retired Fighter – @IanTheMachine
Arguably the man who put UKMMA on the map and one of the original ambassadors of the sport especially this side of the pond. Freeman had his first professional bout (well he actually had three on the same night) back in June 1999 which saw him crowned British Grand Prix Champion. His career spouted all the way from 1999 to 2013 with arguably the highlight coming at UFC 38 when he stopped Frank Mir in London. His record has never been a star studied line up of who’s who in the MMA scene but Freeman certainly helped the sport early on and for that I think we should be grateful. Does he have any influence on how things move forward now? Probably not but for the amount of work he put in before the sport got to where it is now, I think he deserves a place on the list. Enjoy retirement Ian!
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