In recent months, Cage Warriors have been arguably the best promotion in the world at cultivating and developing talent from the Nordic region. They have shone the spotlight on fighters such as Nicolas Dalby, Soren Bak, Mads Burnell and Mark O. Madsen which has really helped the development of the sport in Northern Europe. In fact, some have suggested that the majorly successful Cage Warriors 103 show in Copenhagen, Denmark, opened everyone’s eyes to just how popular MMA is in the country which prompted the UFC to make their maiden voyage into the territory. Next in line to represent the region is Marthin Hamlet (5-0) who makes his full Cage Warriors debut on Saturday night and hopes to claim the promotion’s light heavyweight title in the process.
Hamlet is a national hero in his home country of Norway due to his dominance on the wrestling scene which was his initial foray into the world of combat sports. He is a seven-time national wrestling champion and has picked up 15 world cup medals along the way displaying the fact that he was among the best wrestlers in the world at his weight. In 2017, Hamlet made the full time switch to MMA after getting tired of the wrestling grind and believes that due to his background, he is in a much better position to transition over to the sport than other single discipline athletes.
“I had been wrestling all of my life and took bronze at the World and European championships,” said Hamlet. “Before the Olympics, I broke my foot which was a bit of a setback and I had always wanted to test myself in MMA. As well as that injury, I was also sick of the wrestler lifestyle as I travelled to train for about 160-180 days a year. I was never home and I love to combine family and sport which I wasn’t able to do. MMA is more exciting, more of a show and wrestling is absolutely the best base you can have mentally and physically for the sport.”
“In terms of striking, I had no prior experience so I literally started from scratch,” continued Hamlet. “However, I spent my first year of MMA just on stand up and a motivated athlete learns fast. I really do love to strike. When you can mix striking and wrestling together, you have a dangerous combination.”
The 27-year-old began his professional MMA career in Sweden under the Superior Challenge banner where he won his first three contests all by way of stoppage. This peaked the interest of Cage Warriors who went on to sign him to their academy series in Denmark which aims to provide the best talented, up and coming talent with a route to the big Cage Warriors shows. Hamlet won his two fights in the series towards the back end of 2018, the most recent being a unanimous decision victory over the experienced veteran, Lukasz Parobiec. The powers that be at Cage Warriors decided that not only was it the ideal time to call him up to the main roster but he was ready for an immediate shot at the vacant title. Some were surprised that he was given that opportunity immediately but Hamlet expected to get the title shot straight off of the bat.
“If I was going to sign a deal with a promotion, a title shot is what I expected and wanted,” explained Hamlet. “Sometimes stating what you want isn’t enough to earn it but that wasn’t the case for me. I’m glad Mr Boylan believes in me enough to put me straight into this position.”
This weekend at Cage Warriors 106: Night of Champions, his MMA journey so far culminates with the chance to win the belt which UK legend, Michael Bisping, once held. Standing in his way on Saturday night is Lithuanian, Modestas Bukauskas (8-2), who is on a three fight winning streak. The promotion’s light heavyweight belt has been vacant since Karl Moore left the company last August so the chance is there for both competitors to stamp themselves as major players on the European scene at 205 lbs. Hamlet is looking forward to competing on such a big stage at the Eventim Apollo and thinks he knows how to best exploit his opponent come fight night.
“Bukauskas is a tough opponent with a decent record but he’s nothing special,” claimed Hamlet. “I have analysed his fights where I watched for his strengths and weaknesses. It’s not a secret that he’s doing better when he’s on his feet rather than grappling and wrestling. I will make him work.”
“I’m going into this fight prepared to end it early but I’m also ready to go for the full five rounds. To be honest, I don’t really get too concerned about hunting the finish. All I care about this weekend is putting on a great performance, picking up the victory and heading home with some gold.”
Leading up to this fight, Hamlet has been training with top 10 ranked UFC fighters, Volkan Oezdemir and Jack Hermansson, so has been putting work in with top level guys. He said that this makes him even more focused and they give him the extra push that he needs to reach the next level. Although Hamlet acknowledges that going hard rounds with world renowned athletes makes him even more confident, it is mostly the belief in his own individual approach and training system that prepares him suitably going into competition.
There aren’t many high profile names on the Norwegian MMA scene so there hasn’t been consistent examples of how to reach the highest level of the sport in the country. The best two examples are Jack Hermansson and Emil Meek who were both able to reach the UFC and claim wins over notable opponents. Hamlet acknowledges that MMA still has quite a way to go in his home country before it catches up to other bases in Europe but believes that solid foundations are there to build upon.
“We are a small country but we are hard workers and don’t quit,” stated Hamlet. “Jack Hermansson for example has shown us that it is possible to be one of the best in world, regardless of the size of the gym or country. We are building a winning culture in Norway!”
If Hamlet is victorious on Saturday 29th June and extends his unbeaten record, Cage Warriors will have (at the very least) one Nordic champion on their roster. In fact, if certain results occur, the promotion could have three title holders from the region which may mark a new era in European MMA. Hamlet spearheads the attack this weekend as he is the first title fight on the card and will look to set the tone for the Nordic fighters in high stakes bouts coming after him. It is a pivotal night in Cage Warriors history in more ways than one and the major story line after the show could well be that the Nordic invasion is complete.
Cage Warriors 106: Night of Champions will be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass from 4pm on Saturday night.