Paddy Pimblett’s UFC debut earlier this month was a stunner, to say the least.
From the haircut to the interview after the fight over a first-round win he promised, “The Baddy” was just at the box office.
The 26-year-old Englishman has vowed the UFC “take over”, refer to himself as “the new cash cow” and “the captain on the list”.
This week he’s guesting at MOTDx and picking a Liverpool XI of the best players he’s seen.
We met him beforehand to talk about his long-awaited UFC debut, calling people “sausages” and “lizards”, why loyalty is so important to him, and more.
“If I had signed with UFC years ago, it would have ended in tears”
While global attention is new to Pimblett, it has long been hyped in the fighting community, particularly on its hometown of Merseyside.
In 2016, at the age of 21, he won the Cage Warriors’ featherweight belt previously held by the legendary Conor McGregor. It raised high expectations.
However, he has had ups and downs in his career, including losing the title to Nad Narimani in his hometown in 2017.
And he turned down opportunities to fight in the UFC twice before finally accepting this year.
Does he think his decision to wait was confirmed by his first-round loss to Brazilian Luigi Vendramini?
“Everything was timed perfectly,” he says confidently, adding: “If I had signed years ago, it would have ended in tears.
“I know my head doesn’t fall off when I get a little batter and get a little famous. That’s what I did when I won my first world title at 21 and started thinking of myself as the boy.”
“The fact that it wasn’t a flawless win made it even better”
Pimblett has been considered a grappler in the past – but he showed on his UFC debut that he can box too.
And its celebration – shouting “who can not hit?” to those outside the octagon – implied it was a point he was trying to prove.
Teddy Atlas, who worked with former world boxing champions Barry McGuigan and Alexander Povetkin, praised the way Pimblett recovered from an early Vendramini shot to beat his way to victory.
It was something Pimblett valued.
“He’s a legend,” he says. “When people like that give you credit, it feels great.
“The fact that it wasn’t flawless made it even better for me – this is just my career. I always say I have to be slapped in the face to wake up.”
And that sassy style is part of the game for Pimblett.
“I can’t help it,” he says. “Even at the gym, my coaches always tell me to keep my chin down, but I just work up a sweat.
“I enjoy slapping people in the face and getting slapped in the face – and I know people like to see that as a show. I will continue to do what I do. “
At the moment every day is a cheat day
Pimblett was in the best shape of his life before his UFC debut, but he loves a treat – and he’s been indulging in the sweet things since his fight.
“You want to see the food that I put away,” he says.
“I guess I ate about 5-6,000 calories a day, maybe 7-8,000 calories, ate twice a day and then ate ice cream and bubble waffles and brownies.
However, he insists that the healthy routine starts again soon.
“I’ll be fighting again before the end of the year, so as long as I give myself time to drop the weight again, it’s fine,” he says.
Jokes about his hair
Pimblett didn’t have to look far to see the impact the fighting in the UFC had on his profile.
His Instagram account was deleted prior to fight week after he argued with a follower, and since setting up a new one, he’s noticed a lot of new interest.
“One fight and I have over 600,000 followers,” he says. “At the start of fight week I was at 30,000, if that is the case.”
A number of memes – many of them about his hair – have also come in.
What does Pimblett think of it?
“I love it,” he says. “What made me laugh the most was when someone said I looked like a 15th century farmer who survived a harsh winter. That appealed to me.”
People call it “lizards” and “sausage”
Another aspect of Pimblett’s character that might have popularized him with new audiences is his penchant for stupid insults.
Asked what he did about the youtuber who turned boxer, Jake Paul, Pimblett. holds called him a “sausage”.
When UFC broadcaster Megan O’Livi asked him which fighter he wanted to compete with next, he responded by shouting to Instagram, “Give me back my account, you lizards.”
O’Livi adopted the term himself.
“I laughed myself when I saw that she posted that,” says Pimblett.
Lizards, sausages … what does it all mean?
“Scousers only say weird things, don’t they?” he says. “I love weird insults like ‘sausage’ or ‘mushroom’.
“It doesn’t even make much sense to say to someone, ‘You’re a mushroom.'”
“We take care of ourselves”
Pimblett has been training in the same gym with the same team since he was a teenager.
It is the same with his private life. He has been dating his fiancée, who is from the same area of Liverpool, for 10 years.
“From my mother’s bedroom window, you can see my friend’s mother’s bathroom window,” he says.
“It’s like six doors down. And now we have our own house together, just around the corner.”
It’s about community.
“We do that in this city,” he says. “We take care of ourselves.”