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Graham Boylan acquires Cage Warriors brand, eyes potential rebrand and two shows in 2015

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Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

What happened to Cage Warriors? The arguable top European promotion had a 12-year history of not just running successful shows, but producing top prospect after top prospect. Yet, after November of 2014, everything seemingly went quiet. No new events were announced and by February, the former CEO Graham Boylan, announced he was resigning, spurring even more rumors about the once-great promotion's future.

Today, however, those questions were answered as Boylan appeared on Monday's The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani.

"In December after our last London show, we had a lot of big meetings and they dragged into January. We have a lot of fighters on the roster and there were a lot of things going on internally with the current owners," Boylan explained.

"It was time for me. It was a five-year, six-day-a-week, 24/7 run when we ran Cage Warriors and did what we did. We did 68 shows or something internationally. It was a long five years. It was life for five years, in and out, just like you're doing now. I'm not going to wait around for the meetings to finish, i's to be dotted and t's to be crossed, and called it a day," he continued.

As it turns out, Boylan may have left Cage Warriors, but that was only to return to the brand in a different capacity. "Over the past week, other business brought me back to speaking with the guys. We've finished Friday and I've acquired the brand."

Boylan said he had kept busy in his time off with his other business ventures and working with other fighters, but realized with the right opportunity, he wasn't ready to leave all the work they'd put into the organization to go to waste.

"No, never something I was looking to do," he noted. "I was hoping things would move on in the direction that they'd been moving because at the end of 2014, I left a pretty large brand, a large organization considered to be top five in the world, to move forward."

The former CEO said the organization could have kept going, but through bureaucratic inertia, never did. There were partnerships in place, he said, and "a lot of deals didn't happen that were supposd to happen", all due to the inability of the organization to collectively move forward with the appropriate vision and strategy.

That came to an end when the old ownership decided to move on and Boylan decided to step in. "At the end of the meetings, we've reached a deal where I've acquired the I.P. (intellectual property) and I now own Cage Warriors."

Boylan contended if the brand is to move forward, some things have to change. The old ownership had investors from the Middle East, which made acquiring gambling or alcohol sponsors a challenge. Boylan no longer views this as an obstacle. Second, the entire Cage Warriors brand may get a face lift and even a new name.

"What I want for the brand is one giant step and leap," he argued. "It may be rebranded to something else with the people I'm speaking to, provided we can come to some kind of arrangement and all move forward in the right direction." Boylan wouldn't share what direction that is, but noted if and when the change happens, all questions about getting rid of a well-known brand will cease.

"I think the rebrand may be something when you see the name of it you take that question back on," he said.

As for moving forward, Boylan said there are meetings with interested parties, old and new, to get to when he returns to England. He claimed they're looking at staging one, potentially two events within 2015, but as of now, nothing is set in stone. More importantly, Boylan claimed, is next year, not this.

"I'm speaking with a lot of people for 2016 to kick off. I've already touched base with all of my previous TV partners. They're all on board, so the TV footprint doesn't change. It'll still be shown in over 120-something countries. That's still there. There are other plans I what I want for what Cage Warriors stands for in Europe. Providing we can move that plans and get that plans to happen, I'd be a lot happier for the brand to move in that direction," Boylan told Helwani.

Most importantly for Boylan, though, is getting back to the organization's original mission and central function in Europe. He is the first to note the powerful role in had in giving European fighters a place to compete and eventually move on to the world's highest stage.

"We produced big, big, big names," Boylan noted. "I think Cage Warriors, in terms of giving guys to the big show, 60-something guys have gone to the UFC since the inception of Cage Warriors. That's a big number.

"The European scene since Cage Warriors did their last show in October has left a massive, massive vacuum. There's nowhere for guys to fight. There's no exposure for them if they do get a fight on a show. A lot of the shows that are running, there isn't a great deal of medicals that go on at those shows. Some shows don't even have doctors there. So, a lot of the guys who were contracted to Cage Warriors, it's been a massive eye opener for them, clubs, coaches and managers alike, over the past four months, five months because there are very limited options that are there for them," he stated.

As Boylan sees it, his work isn't done with Cage Warriors and Cage Warriors' place in Europe is as valuable as ever.

"It's good for the sport if Cage Warriors gets back in full swing, which I'm pretty confident it will very soon, so these guys will have somewhere to go and so the bigger shows a year from now have the future Conor McGregors and future Joannas [Jedrzejczyk] and future Joe Duffys and Nicolas Dalbys and Tom Breeses because where are they going to come from, how are they going to develop if there's no shows if after only five, six months of Cage Warriors sitting on the shelf?," he asked.

That said, change isn't just inevitable, but critical. Some things have to go differently this time, but in talking to Boylan, there is plenty of purpose in the Cage Warriors cause.

"If it's back, it's back big," he said. "It's going to be back bigger than what it was."