Since Jack Shore signed to the UFC back in May, the prestigious Cage Warriors bantamweight title, which has been held by some of the biggest stars in the promotion’s history, has lay vacant. That all changes this Friday night when one of Europe’s leading MMA promotions hosts a one-night, four man tournament where a new champion will be crowned. The show takes place in front of an invite-only crowd from the BT Sport Studio in Stratford, London where a new era in the division will be ushered in. Outside of the four-man field (made up of Scott Malone, Josh Reed, Marko Kovacevic and Jack Cartwright) a reserve bout will also take place on the night to provide an emergency replacement in the bracket if needed. Italy’s Tanio Pagliariccio (5-0) takes on Ayton De Paepe (8-3) during the evening’s preliminary card where the winner will be hoping that a certain string of events occur so they can step up and fight for the title if needed.
Like many Italian children, Pagliariccio began playing football during his earlier years before discovering kickboxing at the age of thirteen thanks to his brother and father. After a few years training in that single discipline, he was exposed to MMA and fell in love with the sport. Pagliariccio now doesn’t know what he would do without it in his life. Italy hasn’t been a notorious hotbed for MMA but the undefeated believes that the country is slowly becoming more aware of the sport.
“In the last few years, MMA has grown in Italy and many of our fighters are being signed to significant promotions around the world,” said Pagliariccio. “Italy is ready now! Bellator is investing in the country too and is providing Italian fighters with bigger opportunities. This will be my first time fighting outside of Italy in MMA but I have fought many times around Europe during my kickboxing days. Actually, when I was in the junior category, I fought a K1 professional match against a senior champion in London and I managed to earn a draw so I have competed there before.”
“I can’t wait to come back to London and fight in Cage Warriors!” continued Pagliariccio. “I believe it is the most important MMA promotion in Europe. It’s a dream come true. I have huge ambitions and being asked to fight for this promotion means that I’m on the right path.”
Although he is only currently signed to a one-fight deal for the tournament, the 21-year-old knows he will prove to Cage Warriors that he is deserving of a longer contract. Pagliariccio hopes that his match up with De Paepe goes a long way in earning that. De Paepe is still searching for his first win in Cage Warriors after falling at the hands of Jack Shore and Josh Reed in his previous promotional outings. However, they are two of the best to have ever fought in the Cage Warriors bantamweight division so the man from Belgium will be aiming to recapture the form that saw him open his MMA career 7-0.
“Honestly, I don’t know him (De Paepe) that well,” stated Pagliariccio. “I’ve found out that he is a great fighter with a respectable ranking so I’m very motivated for this fight. This will be a great bout and even though we are the reserve match in the tournament, I think Cage Warriors will notice both of us. I’m very prepared and know what I have to do to get the victory. I have clear and precise ideas which I will execute.”
With this being a reserve tournament bout which comes along with the possibility of fighting two times in one night, many fighters may alter their preparations compared to a standard contest. Should they try to get their first fight over as quickly as possible so they are relatively fresh for the final? Should they be extra cautious to avoid injuries so they have an increased chance of advancing? Should they study every competitor in the bracket to plan for all possible outcomes? Pagliariccio has given all of these scenarios thought but doesn’t want to become distracted on what may happen in the future – most of his focus is on the present.
“My preparations have hardly changed at all,” explained Pagliariccio. “For the moment, I’m focused on my scheduled fight. I am very confident in my physical conditioning so I’m not worried if I have to fight for a second time during the evening. Also, I will be in no rush to finish De Paepe as I love to fight. The longer the bout goes the more I’m at ease.”
“I have studied all opponents in the tournament so if an opening arises for me to advance, I will be ready. In the most humble way possible, I don’t really worry about what my opponents might do. My own style is really troublesome so I’m sure that they will have to adapt to me!”
Cage Warriors Unplugged 2 takes place on Friday 6th September and the whole card will be shown live on BT Sport 1 and UFC Fight Pass. The preliminary action begins at 6:30pm and the main card kicks off at 9pm.