For years, the world of MMA has been mainly dominated by American and Brazilian fighters, especially on the big stage of the UFC, but there have been a few British fighters that have managed to become household names in the sport. That list seems to be growing by the day, and one British fighter stood out in 2016.
Michael Bisping helped to make people stand up and take notice of British fighters in a big way. Having a year made only of the dreams of aspiring fighters, The Count’ started the year by beating possibly the greatest of all time Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva, in a fight that many thought Silva had won on his comeback and KO’d the Mancunian fighter. But Bisping showed that ‘British grit’ and pulled out a win that would push him on to have an amazing year. The good year would continue, taking a title fight on two weeks’ notice against Luke Rockhold, and would then go on to take the title after a first round knockout. All this built up to a title defense in front of his home town crowd, as he tried to avenge possibly the most famous of KO’s as he faced the retiring Dan ‘Hendo’ Henderson, and would retain his UFC Middleweight title, and would finish the year gaining Fighter of the Year from numerous media outlets.
This had led to more British fighters looking to emulate Bisping in the UFC. There have been success stores in the past, like Dan Hardy who won his last two UFC fights, and is now a commentator on any European card, and was even subject to a call out from Mickey Gall after he beat Sage Northcutt. You also have Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett who has been a mainstay in the UFC since it purchased WEC, and even holds a win over Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson in his WEC days.
But there are three fighters for me that are leading the new influx of British Fighters in the UFC.
Mark Godbeer didn’t have the UFC debut he was expecting, as he lost to Justin Ledet in Belfast by Rear Naked Choke last November. But that fight wasn’t a representation of how good a fighter the 33-year-old heavyweight from Bridgewater, Somerset really is! To see how good Godbeer really is just watch his fights with Paul Taylor at Bamma 21, where he controlled the Birmingham fighter, to cause a second-round TKO victory via retirement, and his fight against longtime friend Stuart Austin at Bamma 25. Both fighters are heavy hitters, but Godbeer walked away with another second-round TKO victory. Also, he took time off from MMA between these two fights and went and won a boxing championship!
Godbeer next steps into the UFC Octagon at UFC 209, where he will go up against Todd Duffy. This will be a fight of two brawlers, and will no doubt show how good he really is. The Bridgewater native has also upped his training, by going over to Thailand to train, and will also spend his camp for the Duffy fight at the Scottish Hit Squad, training alongside the next fighter on the list, Paul ‘Bearjew’ Craig.
Paul Craig announced his arrival to the UFC crowd when he made his debut against Luis Henrique Da Silva, at this past Decembers card in Sacramento. A fight not only did he win by armbar, but also picked up a ‘performance of the night’ award, not a bad way to start your UFC career. Craig has only been a Pro for 3 years, and like Godbeer came from BAMMA to the UFC. The 29-year-old, from Aidrie, Scotland, has a 9-0 professional record, and of those 9 wins only one has come by a KO/TKO victory, with the other 8 all being by submission.
The next time we get to see Bearjew in the octagon will, like Godbeer, also be at UFC 209 on March 4th, in Las Vegas, as he faces Australian Tyson Pedro, who has a 5-0 pro record with 80% of his wins also coming via submission. So, expect this one to go to ground, in what could be an entertaining fight between two BJJ practitioners.
The final name on my list is also a BAMMA alum, and he comes in the shape of 23-year-old Marc Diakiese.
Diakiese is an exciting young prospect from Doncaster, England, who on his way up to the UFC fought some of the best Lightweights that BAMMA has to offer, and beat them all. Gaining victories over Jack McGann, Rick Selvarajah and Kane Mousah, showed he was no joke. He has continued to impress since his UFC debut at UFC 204, in front of a raucous Manchester crowd, that were eagerly awaiting the rematch between Bisping and Henderson, got to see what ‘The Bonecrusher’ could do, as he dispatched of Lukasz Sajawski by TKO as the second round was coming to a close. But it was his final two fights for BAMMA that proved he has knockout power by finishing Rick Selvarajah and Kane Mousah in a combined time of a minute! Having dispatched Selvarajah in 24 seconds, and Knocking Mousah out in 36 seconds, in what would his final fight for the growing European promotion.
Marc would also win his second UFC bout with a decision victory over Frankie Perez during UFC Fight Night 102 in Albany, New York. Diakiese is an exciting young fighter, who will no doubt continue to excite MMA fans for years to come, and has every chance of rising up the UFC Lightweight rankings. However, at the time of writing Diakiese doesn’t have a third UFC bout announced, he is definitely a fighter to watch, not just in the coming year, but in the years to follow.