English welterweight Darren Till struck a big chord with the international MMA fan base when he addressed the Brazilian crowd in Portuguese following his debut win over Wendell Oliveira Marques.
After spending four years in Brazil, Till returned to Liverpool and to his old gym Team Kaobon. Despite the 24-year-old’s great links to his birthplace, he insisted that working with Team Kaobon head coach Colin Heron was the main factor in his decision to return home.
“Colin is the only reason I came back to Liverpool,” Till told MMAFighting.com.
“Obviously my family is here, but the only reason I came back was for Colin and Team Kaobon.
“When I’m around him motivates me, not just in the gym but in life in general. All the things he says are words of wisdom. If he could take them and put them in a pot and sell them, he’d be a millionaire. I love being around him.”
Heron was the man who advised Till to travel to Brazil to fully make the transition from Muay Thai fighter to MMA proponent – an act which gave Till an even deeper respect for the Team Kaobon founder.
“You get a lot of coaches who hold on to their fighters. They’re greedy with them, and sometimes they can’t see an opportunity to help their fighter progress to the next level,” he explained.
“I’ll never forget when I asked Colin what I needed to do and he told me that I needed to go to Brazil. I listened to him, he told me that’s what I needed to do to get to the UFC and now, here we are.
“He’s the most open-minded person you could ever come across. You rarely see other coaches sending their fighters to other places to learn like that.”
Although he has nothing but praise for Heron, he does admit that coming back under his tutelage was a bit of a culture shock coming from Brazil.
“It took some adapting to the way Colin teaches and trains. It’s much harder than it was in Brazil. Brazil is well known for its relaxed environment, and it definitely took me some time to get back into the swing of things.
“I was in Brazil for four years – I had set up my life out there – but I always kept in touch with Colin,” he added.
Returning to his hometown has rejuvenated Till who is soaking up as much he can from Heron, and from one of the UK’s standout MMA talents and freestyle wrestling Commonwealth bronze medalist Mike Grundy.
“You can never stop learning. Don’t ever think you’re too big for the gym. I feel like every minute of every day I’m in the gym, I don’t want to stop,” Till said.
“To be the greatest you have to learn. You won’t here me saying, ‘Oh, I’m the greatest striker’, because I want to be the greatest MMA fighter.
“It was nice to get those takedowns in the last fight. So many people want me to just defend takedowns, but I’m very confident in my wrestling ability now. I’ve been working very hard on that aspect of my game.
“I’m doing a lot of work with Mike Grundy at the moment, a guy who should really be in the UFC.
“I’m always first in for his class and I’m always ready to learn from him. Wrestling is one of those things that’s really hard on your body, a lot of guys who come from striking backgrounds don’t really like working on it. I know you need it to succeed in this game so it doesn’t bother me.”
Till’s Rotterdam bout against Bojan Velickovic marks his second camp since returning to Team Kaoban, and he has promised to steal the show when he takes to the Octagon at the top of the preliminary card.
“I like fighting when people are expecting a show. I like the attention. I feel like the eyes are on me.
“I wanted this fight because I’ve never fought in Holland and I know it’s one of the striking capitals of the world. I think the fans are going to appreciate my skills.”