Karl Moore looks to become the first man since Conor McGregor to hold two Cage Warriors titles when he meets heavyweight champion, Mauro Cerilli, at Cage Warriors 92: Super Saturday this weekend.
The west Belfast native won the promotion’s light heavyweight title in his last outing when he saw off Bellator and TUF veteran, Josh Clark, after five rounds in Dublin’s 3 Arena.
Moore has spent some time in SBG ahead of his heavyweight debut. His usual stomping ground, Fight Academy Ireland in Belfast, couldn’t provide him with the same number of bodies as the Dublin gym, so he reached out to John Kavanagh who had no problem with him welcoming into the facility.
He expects to weigh roughly 235 pounds on fight night. Based on what he saw at UFC 220, he is confident that he will be at optimum weight for heavyweight MMA.
“It’s these small heavyweights that seem to be having the most success on the big stage,” Moore told MMA Fighting.
“Look at Stipe Miocic against Francis Ngannou, he ran rings around him. I know my opponent couldn’t even consider 205 now. We were supposed to fight at light heavyweight a few years. We were in a four-man tournament and he was on the opposite side of the bracket, I think he missed weight by four kilos.”
Moore had to watch on as Cerilli claimed the heavyweight title at Cage Warriors 89 in November as he was forced from the card due to injury. The Italian blasted his way to victory with relentless ground and pound midway through the first round. Moore tried not to diminish the championship-winning performance as he criticized his replacement Nills van Noord’s efforts.
“I didn’t know what his opponent was doing. He just lay there and let him land huge shots. I just expected to see the guy try to get up a bit more. I don’t think he wanted to be there; I think he lost before the first bell rang,” Moore said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking anything away from Cerilli, but I just feel like his opponent could have done more to disrupt the rhythm of those heavy punches.”
When reports surfaced about the UFC planning an event in Dublin, many fans believed that Moore would be a near certainty for the card if he captured the heavyweight title against Cerilli. The UFC has since announced that a Liverpool event will take place rather than a fourth trip to Dublin, but Moore believes he still has every chance of being granted a UFC contract if he is successful on Saturday night.
The only man who has beaten him thus far is Scotland’s Paul Craig. The Scot’s Hail Mary triangle in the final second of his UFC London bout with Magomed Ankalaev won him a new contract with the promotion last weekend.
Moore found himself cheering on Craig during the fight. Not only because he wanted to see his former opponent prevail, but also because it kept his chances of avenging the loss under the UFC banner intact.
“Even to have the mentality to go for that submission in the dying seconds of the fight should be commended, it was f*ckin’ unbelievable. I even messaged him to congratulate him after the win,” said Moore, who thinks a return to light heavyweight is likely in his future.
“I’d love my UFC debut to be against him in Liverpool. I think the perfect way to announce myself in the promotion would be to avenge that first loss. That sounds good to me, nearly as good as being a two-weight world champion.”
Just like McGregor after claiming his second Cage Warriors title against Ivan Buchinger on New Year’s Eve 2012, Moore plans to let the powers that be know he’s ready for the big step up.
After being shortlisted by the promotion ahead of UFC Belfast, he knows not to be dejected if the call doesn’t come.
“I’m definitely going to put it out there on Saturday night. The thing is, if they don’t offer me anything it’s not the end of the world. I got way too excited about getting on the Belfast card, so I’ve learned my lesson from that. If the UFC offer me a contract, that’s all well and good. But if they don’t, I’m just going to keep my head down and keep working,” he said.