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Looking at Wales’s most successful mixed martial artists

Another UFC is on the horizon. At the Etihad Arena, on Yas Island, in Dubai, and in the Light Heavyweight division, the champ Jan Blachowicz will be defending his belt against challenger Glover Teixeira on October 30th at UFC 267. For those interested in betting you can click here, but before you do it’s worth noting that although Teixera equals the champ in height, he concedes two inches in reach, one-and-a-half inches in leg reach and 15 lbs in weight. Bookmakers are placing their confidence more in the champ to hold onto his title, with odds of around 10/31, compared to the challenger’s 2/1.

Mixed martials arts (MMA) is growing more popular by the day, with British fighters such as “The Count” Michael Bisping, “The Gorilla” Darren Till and, much more recently, “The Baddy” Paddy Pimblett all making names for themselves in the sport. Below is a look at some of Wales’s most successful fighters in the UFC and in other cage fighting organizations.

Jack ‘Tank’ Shore

Die-hard fans of the MMA will remember the fearsome ‘Tank’ Abbot of the UFC’s incredibly brutal early days, but there’s another ‘Tank’ who has gradually established a reputation in the sport. Only this ‘Tank’ hails from Abergavenny and fights in the Bantamweight division of the UFC, and has won all four fights. Two by submission, one by unanimous decision and the other by split decision.

These victories form part of a 14-fight winning streak for Shore who remains undefeated. With the exception of Pain Pit Fight Night 15, the rest of his victories have come on the Cage Warriors circuit.

Cory ‘The Hobbit’ McKenna

By virtue of becoming the youngest fighter to ever sign for the UFC, some might consider Cory ‘The Hobbit’ McKenna one of the most successful Welsh fighters, when she joined the organization in August 2020 at just 21. She’s also the country’s first female fighter to step into the Octagon.

But her achievements extend beyond that, as she made a successful debut against Kay Hansen in the women’s Strawweight division, who was also just 21 at the time of their battle in November 2020. ‘The Hobbit’ won by a unanimous decision, displaying excellent boxing as well as fighting superbly from the bottom during the fight.

As a baby, McKenna grew up in Cymbran and decided in her early teens she wanted to become an MMA fighter. After taking up karate, she explored boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai. She earned her place in the UFC after defeating Vanessa Demopoulos as part of Dana White’s Contenders Series.

Mason Jones

In January 2021, Mason Jones, from Blaenavon, made his UFC debut, taking on Mike Davis on Yas Island, at UFC Fight Island 8. Although his performance earned Jones some recognition from UFC fans, it wasn’t to be his night. He fought confidently and pushed forward, putting Davis under pressure, but the bout went in Davis’s favor with a unanimous decision.

Jones came to the UFC from Cage Warriors, where he had been a two-division champ, having held the Lightweight and Welterweight belts at the same time, a feat which had earned him inevitable comparisons with ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor. The defeat also ended his record of 10 straight wins. On 23 October, he’ll fight Alan Patrick again after an eye poke by Jones in their June matchup turned the fight into a ‘no contest’.

John ‘The Welsh Wrecking Machine’ Philips

John Philips has had a bumpy ride in the UFC. The slugger from Swansea made it into the organization because of his prowess on the Cage Warriors circuit. He’d really let his hands fly in the cage, which resulted in some devastating knockouts. Twenty of his 22 wins in the cage have come by knockout, in fact, and he fights with the nickname ‘The Welsh Wrecking Machine’.

Unfortunately, Philips has been on the end of more losses than wins in the organization. His one win was an impressive one, however. He finished his opponent, Alen Amedovski, 17 seconds into the first round, which earned him the Performance of the Night award. Following his UFC Fight Island defeat at the hands of ‘The Iron Turtle’ Junyong Park, it’s unclear whether Phillips is still fighting within the organization. Allegedly, the UFC have released him, according to some sources on the internet.

Brett Johns

Swansea fighter Brett Johns is another Welsh fighter to have enjoyed a successful career in the cage. Before leaving the UFC to join Bellator after failing to reach an agreement over payment, he held a record of four wins and two losses in the organization’s cages, plus a win in its Ultimate Fighter 26 finale.

In his days before life as a UFC employee, the bantamweight fighter had faced off against opponents in the cages of Titan FC, where he became champion, and on the Cage Warriors circuit. He’d also been victorious in three appearances at the Pain Pit Fight Night, an appearance at the Tattoo Monkey Promotions Bad Blood Fight Night 2and one at the Celtic Battle Fight Night. The blemish of losses only appeared in his time at the UFC.

Follow the world of MMA and you’ll see Wales is producing some splendid fighters who have the toughness and the skills to persevere and prosper in this grueling sport. It’s an amazing time for Welsh cage fighting. Fans can be sure that in a gym or practice cage somewhere in the country, other young fighters are training hard to forge their own path to MMA glory.