There’s a New Star in the UFC and His Name is Paddy Pimblett (Daily Sports Thought 3/19)

The UFC returning to England was a welcome sight. The UFC Fight Night emanating from the O2 Arena in London was stacked with fan-favorite countrymen. Molly McCann and Arnold Allen both represented the country well by winning with big finishes on the main card. Tom Aspinall sent the home crowd home happy with a submission win in the main event. But none of them were as exhilarating as Paddy Pimblett.

Despite fighting in the fourth of six matches of the main card, the fans acted like it was the main event of a major pay-per-view. Pimblett’s walk to the cage (which is already one of the most fun in the sport) was greeted with a huge ovation. He got a massive cheer when he was announced by Bruce Buffer. It was clear that Paddy the Baddy had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand before the bout even started. All he had left to do was to prove himself in the cage and not let the fans down. And that is exactly what he did.

Pimblett performed like a true showman, creating a little bit of doubt that he would win before ultimately prevailing. He was momentarily staggered by opponent Kazula Vargas early in the first round and missed on a subsequent takedown attempt. That led to Vargas ending up on top of Pimblett on the ground, a position almost no fighter wants to find themselves in. Pimblett didn’t panic though, and he eventually got to his feet but still was in a clinch from Vargas against the fence. He quickly turned the tide with a nice judo through and found himself on top of Vargas. He soon locked in a rear-naked choke and forced Vargas to submit, earning his second win in the UFC.

The crowd at the O2 Arena went absolutely berserk following Pimblett’s win. As he ran around the cage with his hands in the air, fans were yelling like crazy. He hopped over the cage and talked to Dana White. He jumped up on top of the cage with good friend and fellow Liverpool native Molly McCann (who had an even more impressive finish two fights earlier with a spinning back elbow knockout). It was one of the most electric crowd reactions I have seen in quite a while. Like a star soccer player, Pimblett even has his own crowd chant. As fans were singing “Ohhh, Pa-ddy the Ba-ddy,” he was announced the winner and the crowd exploded once again. It had the feeling of a March Madness buzzer-beater but with 17,000 Brits and a dude with a bowl cut. To put it simply, those are the types of reactions usually reserved for the top stars in the company, something Pimblett is on his way to becoming.

Pimblett cemented his star even more with his post-fight interview. Commentator, former UFC world champion, and English legend Michael Bisping entered the octagon to chat with Pimblett, where he showed off his infectious personality. He laughed with Bisping about how Vargas got him pretty good with a shot early. He claimed that the O2 Arena, the second-biggest arena in the United Kingdom, wasn’t big enough for him and asked for a soccer stadium instead. He called out Mark Zuckerberg, saying he was the biggest bully out there. And lastly, he led the crowd in a song asking for justice for people killed in his hometown of Liverpool by police negligence.

If it wasn’t obvious that Pimblett was a superstar from his performance in the bout, it became clear following his work on the microphone. It takes a lot of hard work to make it big in the UFC. Not only do you have to be one of the toughest fighters in the world in your weight class but you have to have a great personality as well. Pimblett has done exactly that. He may not receive a number next to his name or a championship shot yet, but those are surely in his future. For now, Pimblett will settle for being one of the best young stars in the sport. You can count on the fact that the next time he enters the octagon will be just as entertaining as this last time, and hopefully, it’s for a fight against Mark Zuckerberg.