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Being Cage Warriors first two-weight champ since Conor McGregor is important to Paddy Pimblett

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Dolly Clew, Cage Warriors

It feels like a prophecy could be on the verge of coming full circle this Saturday night in Liverpool as local hero Paddy Pimblett — Cage Warriors most polarizing product — attempts to become the first person since Conor McGregor to claim titles in two weight classes under the banner.

The candles had barely been blown out on his 20th birthday cake when “The Baddy” first became a lightening rod for the European sport. His claim that he would “smoke” both Artem Lobov and his teammate, Conor McGregor, succumbed him to the scorn of the newly enthused Irish fan base as the enigmatic Dubliner charged towards his fist UFC title fight.

All the attention Pimblett received pushed him to the forefront of the Cage Warriors brand when it remerged after a brief hiatus in 2016. Three months later, “The Baddy” was wearing the featherweight title that once donned the waist of “The Notorious”. Shortly after that, the Liverpudlian began to set his eyes on the promotion’s lightweight title.

A loss to Nad Narimani — a victory that earned Narimani a UFC call-up — saw Pimblett part ways with the featherweight title in 2017. Should he secure the lightweight title at Cage Warriors 96 on Saturday when he meets Soren Bak, Pimblett’s skillset would become undeniable to a certain extent, but he doesn’t expect that to stop his critics blowing up his social media notifications.

“People can’t chat sh*t after this, but they probably will, even though I’ll be a two-weight world champion,” Pimblett told MMA Fighting. “I’ll be the first person to do it since you-know-who [Conor McGregor]. I’ll be going onto bigger and better things soon, just like him.”

He came close to losing an opportunity to be the first man to equal McGregor’s feat when Cage Warriors afforded former light heavyweight champion, Karl Moore, a chance to fight for the heavyweight title. Moore’s loss to Mauro Cerilli left the opportunity open to the Next Generation fighter, but he admits he was “gutted” by the fact that he nearly lost a chance to be the first person to reach McGregor’s CWFC summit.

“Lad, I was gutted about that. Honestly, I was wounded by that, I was thinking, ‘F*ck in hell, Cage Warriors are doing this for him, they’re giving him a shot to be double champ’, and I’ll be honest, I thought Karl was going to do it as well. I know Cerilli is a decent fighter, but I just thought Karl was going to do it. Cerilli came out and ironed him in 12 seconds,” he remembered.

“I felt like I was at the forefront of Cage Warriors since it came back. I can remember when I was fighting Ashley Grimshaw in the first event back, he was saying, ‘We’re the main event’, and he was right. I fought on every show after that. I fought then and then I fought on the next show — I fought Teddy Violet and I missed weight because it was such short notice. I fought for the title in September and then defended it in November.”

With such a short period of time between the fights on his featherweight run, competing became completely focused on making weight. Pimblett admits he had no time to add strings to his bow during the time given the emphasis he had to put on hitting the featherweight mark.

On Saturday, Pimblett expects to showcase a whole new side of his game having been able to build his technique without having to worry about his battle with the scales.

“When I think of all of those fights, I probably came out and looked exactly the same. I think I had a few new things to show everyone in my last fight and that was only with six weeks work. I’ve had two and half months to prepare for this one and you’re gonna be f*ckin’ shocked. Watch the f*ckin’ tricks I pull out of this bag lad, I’m gonna be like Gandalf.”

As the best-known name on the Cage Warriors’ books, it would make sense for Pimblett to compete at December’s milestone event, Cage Warriors 100. With the card taking place in Wales, he thinks the promotion may be looking for prospect Jack Shore to headline the event, but wouldn’t rule out the possibility of fighting on the night.

If all goes according to plan on Saturday night, Pimblett definitely wants another fight before the end of 2018, whether the fight takes place on a Cage Warriors or UFC event remains to be seen.

“I was thinking the same as you, for Cage Warriors 100 they need a nice big main event, but it looks like they’re building Jack Shore up for that, to be honest, especially with the event being in Wales,” he said. “I know it’s going to be a big event and it does interest me, I just haven’t thought about it that much. You know me, I’ll fight anywhere; I’ll fight in someone’s back garden, I’m not arsed.

“We’ll see what happens, it could be more risk than reward. We all know the UFC want to sign me. If they can’t beat Cage Warriors offer, I’ll be fighting for Cage Warriors again. I probably will want to fight before the year again, so maybe it will be at Cage Warriors 100. We’ll have to see where I’m fighting, but I do want to get another fight in before the end of the year.”