Photographs provided by the fabulous Vicky Moggridge *
This past weekend I made the trip down to the Big Smoke, to the proper part of Laaaaandan Taaahn to watch the seventh incarnation of the increasingly popular Warrior Fight Series. After spending the preceding week in regular contact with head honcho Harry Shoebridge, I decided to turn the volume up on my phone whilst driving down, turning on WhatsApp notifications, half expecting a message saying “the event is off”. Let me put that into context, that’s not me saying Harry and his team are quitters, far from it. That’s me acknowledging the absolute shit house week they’d had pre-event.
All fight shows have bad luck. All events have late pull outs, but WFS must have smashed a mirror or two, considering what they’ve had to cope with. The drama started with Louis King’s opponent injuring himself, then Jay Butler pulling out a few days before, citing personal reasons. Next came Ben Linihan withdrawing on the day of the weigh ins, having been hospitalized. The weight cut appears to have exacerbated a previously undiagnosed underlying issue, which needs to be dealt with before the young prospect can consider a return to action. This was then swiftly followed by one half of the main event; the highly anticipated WFS Lightweight Title bout between ‘Shadow Demon Blaximus’, aka Jefferson George and Jay ‘The Prodigy’ Dods, being pulled as George was hospitalized due to a bad weight cut. The card dropped down to ten fights. Then, just to rub salt into the wounds, the hugely promising Tom Creasey woke up on the morning of his fight with Mark Wade, semi-collapsed and ended up in A&E too! Down to nine. I kept driving towards Bethnal Green, but the call didn’t come; and thank the Lord it didn’t, what a night!
The event started with two good quality amateur bouts, between Rees Kenny and Robert Harris, then Kingsley Crawford and Aidan James, who had UFC fighter Brett Johns in his corner; with decision wins for Kenny and James respectively. Next up, the heavily supported Robert Scott confidently entered the cage to face Tony Hall. Scott stalked his opponent, trying to land heavy shots to satisfy his cheering crowd. Hall wasn’t going to be the fall guy though. From out of nowhere, he landed a heavy shot which visibly rocked the Diesel Gym/10th Planet fighter. Hall then quickly followed up with a knee to the dazed Scott’s temple and referee Dan Movahedi quickly jumped in to prevent any more unnecessary damage being taken. A superb stoppage. Hall jubilantly mounted the cage wall, beating his chest in celebration. In my mind I was thinking “that’s probably going to be the highlight of the evening”. If it had been, I would’ve gone home happy; but no, that was just the start of things to come.
The first King
The Kings are well known on the UK circuit as ferocious and fearless K1 stars. They bring half of their hometown Haslemere with them when they travel and they show their appreciation to their fans by leaving it all in the cage. Saturday night was no different as Tommy King was the first of the brothers into combat. His opponent, Ciarain Shanahan came in to a wall of noise from his numerous friends and fans, but the King roar was about 20 decibels louder. Tommy soaked up the atmosphere on the stage before making his way to the cage. Older brother Louis stepped away from his own pre-fight preparations to nervously watch Tommy compete. The bell rang.
Round one was all King. I’d previously posted that Tommy was lighting his opponent up. That’s probably doing a disservice to Shanahan. The young man moved with the grace and poise of a far more experienced fighter; King was just that bit better. He landed cleaner shots. He was the aggressor throughout the round, even dropping Shanahan with a slick hook (although this caused a dispute on my own table, where a few people thought Shanahan had slipped). Even a painful low blow didn’t prevent King from winning the round.
The second started like the first, with Tommy dictating the pace; however, halfway through the tide changed. Shanahan found his feet, was quicker to the punch, landing more effective and decisive shots. It didn’t look like King was ever out of it, but the sound of the bell must’ve been a blessed relief. Round three saw the pendulum swing back in King’s favour. A strong and controlled showing crystalised the decision in the judge’s mind, as Tommy came away with a deserved victory. Shanahan, though clearly disappointed, can take heart from his performance. He’s definitely one to watch out for in the future.
The timing of the interval was perfect. Shoebridge and team set this up like a DJ’s set. He brought the crowd close to crescendo with the bout of K1 excellence, before allowing them to refill their glasses and catch their breath before the second half of the performance.
Bringing up the curtain was WFS favourite Kes Mamba as he took on Rafal Cerjowski. Mamba always gets the crowd going. The WFS faithful love his powerful strikes as much as they love his declining gas tank. He is a throwback to the times when the likes of Tank Abbott would just rock up, fight, then slug a beer in the cage afterwards. His opponent, Cerjowski, wanted to put on a show. Rather than walk out to pre-recorded music, he brought his own Polish rapper. Whatever he was saying certainly got the crowd going, as his countrymen chanted along with the musician. As the fight started you could see that Cerjowski had done his homework.
Rule no.1 when fighting Kes Mamba: Don’t let him punch you. He’ll put you to sleep.
For two and a half rounds, Cerjowski took him down and beat him up on the ground until referee David Swann made the right call and stopped the action. Mamba was clearly disappointed to not have the opportunity to get his own game plan going, but he lived to fight another day.
The family jewels
Being a regular first hand viewer of two athletes entering the cage to damage each other means that I’m quite aux fait with violence, blood and popped joints. This, however, was a first for me. I remember watching BAMMA bout Tom Duquesnoy vs Ashleigh Grimshaw (who ironically was in attendance on Saturday night) on TV and wincing, but this next bout made my stomach turn. Damien Weedon and Salih Kulucan stood opposite each other ready to start what I expected to be one of the most fiercely and closely competed matches on the card. The fighters came out of the traps fast, just as expected; but before any real damage could be done, Weedon accidentally struck Kulucan in the knackers, hard. Oh my goodness, it was so hard. Kulucan imploded, rolling around on the ground in absolute agony as the medical team tried (and ultimately failed) to help him. When they finally got him up he projectile vomited over and over into a bucket and he half staggered and was half carried from the cage. No fault to Weedon, it was clearly an accident; but also, nothing but respect for Kulucan for taking one of the most painful shots I’ve ever seen. Ouch.
Fight seven was a hastily rearranged bout, as Vitor Silva (who should’ve been facing James Lutman, who pulled out a week or two before the event with a torn bicep) took on Jay Butler’s original opponent, Richie Edwards. Edwards made short change of the Brazilian-turned-Londoner, securing a first-round TKO victory.
King number 2
No, not Louis; he’d been bumped to the main event, this was the crowning of a new King and that King goes by the name of Jay Dods. WFS CEO Harry Shoebridge proved why he is one of the most highly regarded promoters in the UK at the moment by pulling a master stroke. In less than 24 hours he not only saved his title fight, he made it credible too. In came Sergei Morali, an Eastern European beast of a man, chiseled from granite. Dods, 5-0 before this bout, is one of the up-and-coming stars of the UK scene. He’s got hands of steel, a smothering grappling game and all the tricks in the book on the ground. Add in the fact that he’s a good looking little sod who’s articulate on the microphone and you’ve got a star in the making.
Jay Dods wanted this title and a last-minute change in opponent wasn’t going to change that. He controlled the fight on the feet, landing some beautiful combinations of strikes before taking Morali down. Sergei rolled, Jay grabbed his back and Morali turtled up to protect his chin. Dods locked on a tight body triangle and rained down punches. Somehow Morali got back to his feet, but then got manhandled up against the fence and punished some more before the bell saved him.
Once again, the refereeing team showed why they’re in the upper echelons of the sport in this country. They assessed the fighters, they looked at Morali and decided that he wasn’t going to be fit to continue, calling off the fight between rounds. Warrior Fight Series crowned a new champion. Jay Dods is the King of their lightweight division.
The third and final King
Normally regional fight shows empty out before the main event. For a reason that I still find completely unfathomable, UK fans buy a ticket to support their mates, but as soon as said mate has fought, they bugger off. I just don’t get it. Still, this didn’t happen on Saturday. Everyone had seen the Tommy King K1 bout, they weren’t going to miss big brother Louis putting on a show; and put on a show he did. Louis had suffered the curse of the WFS pull outs in the week preceding the fight, as his original opponent got injured. Not many men wanted to take on the challenge, but up stepped Teesider Thomas Daniel, who shed 8kgs in a week to make the weight.
Sorry Tommy, but Louis is even more popular. The place erupted as the older sibling made his walk to the cage, with his trademark smile on his face. The excitement was palpable. This is where I disappoint you, readers (well, the ones who’ve made it this far). This fight was so good. So, so good. Whatever I write won’t do it justice; so, I’m going to give you some good advice. When this fight becomes available on the WFS You Tube channel, get yourself a drink, cast it to your big, widescreen TV, send the kids out of the room and just enjoy it. These guys went back and forth, the fight ebbed and flowed; my God, it was awesome. It ended in a majority draw, which was a fair result. What a fight. What a way to end the show, and what an event from the Warrior Fight Series team. Roll on WFS 8.
- = Not really! Of course, many thanks to the Lord of the Shutter, Marc Moggridge.