Its been over four years since the last Brit got a Title shot in the UFC. Rewind way back to 27th March 2010 when the UK’s own Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy got his opportunity at the Welterweight crown against GSP. It came as a result of four UFC wins on the bounce for Hardy and also came at a time when the list of UK fighters on the roster was very slim. Hardy fell short in the fight suffering a unanimous decision loss but was able to hold his head high after overcoming some serious arm attacks from the champ and showing his heart in not giving up.
But since that fateful night back in March 2010 no other UK fighter has been able to get anywhere near a title shot and it has given me the idea for this article. Just what UK fighters stand the best chance of making history by winning UFC gold?
Possibly the two most obvious fighters that immediately spring to mind are Michael Bisping and Ross Pearson. However, Bisping has done himself no favours in taking the fight with Tim Kennedy and getting beaten in that one. And Pearson who is currently fighting at Lightweight is on an uphill struggle to make a name in such a stacked division. So who stands a realistic chance at winning the UFC Gold? Where here are my picks which consist of three fighters who I feel have a realistic shot at getting themselves into the history books, in no particular order.
Brad “One Punch” Pickett
For me Pickett has always been one of the guys who on his day could beat anyone in the world, but for him his consistancy seems to go up and down like a yo-yo. He does have a crazy Faber-esque ability to rebound from a loss/unconvincing win with a champions performance and I think that has really helped to keep his name in the mix as one of the best in the respective divisions. You may beat him but god forgive the poor guy who is up next for him. What is also crazy to me is that Pickett is one of only two men, the other being Dominick Cruz, who hold wins over the current Flyweight Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. And by gawd Pickett put a beating on young Johnson back at WEC 48 and outwrestled the American for three rounds. Yes folks thats right you heard it here first. A Brit outwrestled an American. I truly believe that both Pickett and Johnson have come on a great deal since that fight so a rematch for me would be very intriguing and would really show who had advanced the most out of the two. Pickett for sure has a great wrestling base and as his nickname suggests isnt afraid to stand and trade with anyone on the planet. I would certainly back Pickett against Johnson especially as they have both now dropped to Flyweight and feel that Pickett could use his size and strength to do what he did when they first met and give the Champion some real problems.
Luke “The Bigslow” Barnatt
Having followed “The Bigslow” since BAMMA 9 I cant get through an article talking about UK prospects without mentioning him and I truly believe he possesses the skills both physically and mentally to one day become a UFC Champion. Its certainly too early on right now to be talking about Barnatt being anywhere near the top ten Middleweight contenders based purely on his past opponents and his next opponent (Sean Strickland). Barnatt raised his name on the TUF show and was Sonnen’s first pick which certainly helped to get him known and respected within the show. He has looked great in his first three UFC fights winning two by stoppage (submission & TKO) and is a confident as ever going into his next fight. If he can continue to put away his opponents in the fashion that he has been and also look to keep raising his stock with a bit of trash talking everynow and again then he certainly will start to stick in peoples minds. And lets be fair there is a lot of “playing the game” involved and Barnatt will know that from Sonnen who has talked himself into a few title fights. So I’m not saying that right now Luke Barnatt deserves a title shot but what I am saying is that as this guy continues to grow and evolve with the sport, he definitely holds the skills to get to the top and I would not be surprised if he didnt manage to get a title shot within the next 3 years.
Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood
Now out of the three Joanne really does probably have the best shot at winning the UFC title as she is competing on TUF season 20 which will crown the first UFC women’s Strawweight Champion. Calderwood is an 8-0 undefeated professional fighter fighting out of Dinky Ninjas Fight Team in Scotland and has fought for Cage Warriors and also Invicta. She has won 4 of her 8 fights by TKO and seems to have just grown with confidence everytime she steps inside the cage. Joanne comes from a Muay Thai background but has been evolving her game at Dink Ninjas with some of the best fighters in the UK (Paul McVeigh, Graham Turner). She will definitely have her work cut out for her during the TUF season as she is in the competition with the likes of Bec Rawlings & Felice Herrig but she certainly has a fair crack and winning the competition and with the tournament style of TUF there is no guarantee that the favourites will come out on top. Calderwood is a very confident but down to earth girl who turns into a assassin as soon as the cage door closes. One to watch and lets all get behind her when the TUF season 20 begins.
So three fighters all in very different stages in their UFC careers (Pickett 7-4, Barnatt 3-0 & Calderwood 0-0) but all with equal opportunities in my mind to work their ways towards UFC Titles in their respective divisions.
Obviously the UFC roster continues to expand and more UK fighters are making their way into the big show so there is definitely a chance that others may make a title run before any of these three.
As a UK citizen nothing would excite me more than a UK fighter winning a UFC Title so regardless of who it is lets get behind all these guys/girls and give them the support they deserve.
As always very interested to get your thoughts on my words so let me know on facebook or twitter @mmanarchy