As UFC 228 approaches, so does Darren Till’s first UFC title shot.
There have been mixed opinions regarding the UFC’s decision to give Till his shot at Woodley at the Sept. 8 event. A fair share of people argue that this is a bad business decision. They claim Till is being pushed “too quickly.”
Now, it’s doubtful that any of these people are saying this because they don’t want to see this fight. It’s a phenomenal bout after all. Stylistically, it’s a great fight for the fans. Whereas a match-up like the previous one for Till against Stephen Thompson resulted in a stalemate due to their styles, this upcoming affair between the champion and the young Englishman is a totally different fight. Till pushes forward every second of a fight. He has devastating distance control and possesses confidence like no other. The Brit should provide a sturdy challenge to Woodley. For one reason or another, you should be invested in this fight.
So maybe you just don’t like the timing of it? Well, that’s nonsense.
You might point to Sage Northcutt, Yair Rodriguez and Paige VanZant to back up your argument. After all, they had massive star potential, yet were pushed too fast. As a result, their hype trains were derailed. However, Till is not another Northcutt, Rodriguez or VanZant. The difference between Till and these derailed hype trains is clear. When it comes to big fights, Till pulls off wins, whereas Northcutt, Rodriguez and VanZant couldn’t get through a certain level of competition.
These other fighters just were not ready for the big spotlight yet. Till, on the other hand, is. He managed to pull off statement wins in his two headlining appearances. Sure, the “Wonderboy” fight included some controversy, but regardless of what you thought of the decision, Till proved that he is a world-class fighter who can hang in there with the best of the division.
When Conor McGregor was quickly rising through the featherweight division in 2014-15, there wasn’t a peep about him being pushed too fast. He had five UFC fights before getting his first title shot against Chad Mendes, and the Irishman pulled off the win and claimed the interim featherweight strap. Now, Till sits in nearly the same position. He has had five fights in the UFC, and he’s ready to challenge for the title for the first time.
If there is anything wrong with this decision, it’s that the fight has left Colby Covington out of the equation completely. As much as people hate Covington, he’s earned his shot at the champion. With Covington set to be stripped of his interim title following UFC 228, it’s fair to say that Covington has gotten the raw end of this deal. However, that’s not Till’s fault.
It’s this kind of fight that stimulates the business. Till has everything going for him right now. He has momentum, confidence and a great skill set. The timing couldn’t be more perfect to match him up against the champion to see if he can really do it. This is what vintage boxing was all about. The best fought the best. Look at the Fabulous Four: Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns. These guys were so popular because they were easily the four best fighters of their generation, and they struck when the iron was hot. The popularity of these fighters was through the roof. Boxing nowadays lacks the integrity of letting the best fighters fight the best fighters when they are at the top of the game. The sport’s popularity has suffered significantly over the past few decades as a result. Should MMA really seek to follow that same bad example?
The UFC has not gone down this road yet. The match-ups are still phenomenal, but it’s fights like Woodley against Till — and not those featuring Daniel Cormier against Brock Lesnar or Phil “CM Punk” Brooks against anyone — that are made for true fight fans. The UFC has other great contests lined up in the coming months. Khabib Nurmagomedov is set to meet the aforementioned McGregor, and the November card at Madison Square Garden looks great already, even without a headliner. Add Woodley and Till to the list.