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Darren Till: I want to ‘earn my stripes’ at middleweight before fighting for title

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

“Only a few more fights at welterweight and I’m done,” Darren Till told the gathered media at the UFC Performance Institute on Tuesday in Las Vegas following his media workout.

Despite his looming welterweight title shot with Tyron Woodley at UFC 228, the Liverpudlian believes his days in the weight class are numbered. He has missed the welterweight mark twice in six outings under the UFC banner, most notably in his last bout on home soil where he faced Stephen Thompson.

Till knows the heavier weight class is in his future, but he still plans to defend the welterweight title should he defeat Woodley in Dallas on Sept. 8.

When he does eventually move up to middleweight, “The Gorilla” is adamant that he wants to earn his stripes in the category before fighting for the title.

“I’ve said I want to go to middleweight. It’s just… I see a lot of guys and they’re chasing money fights. They’re winning titles and they’re calling either the higher or the lower category or they’re calling for that super fight,” he explained.

“When I take that belt, I want to defend that belt and then I want to go up to middleweight, but that doesn’t mean that I want to go up and challenge the champion. I would like to earn my stripes in that division too. I feel there are a lot of good guys in that division.”

“There’s one guy that I wouldn’t like to fight, Yoel Romero. I’m glad he’s gone up, he’s a f*ckin’ beast,” he said, before bursting into laughter.

Till admitted that he would take an immediate title shot if it was offered to him as his first fight in the higher weight class, but underlined that he would like to earn his place as a contender.

“I believe in life you have to earn your stripes. If I did go to middleweight in the UFC and they offered me the title I’m not going to say no. But I’m saying I’d love to earn my stripes, fight the top five, top ten. For me, going up to middleweight, I’m not focusing on the belt because I know I’m the best; I know I’ll win that belt as well.”

If he’s victorious in Texas, the Team Kaobon fighter thinks he could defend the welterweight title “two or three” times before shifting his attention to 185-pounds.

“I just want to win this belt. I want to defend it; I just want to be able to say that I’ve defended it. You could be looking at two or three fights at welterweight and then that’s me done. I’m 25, I’m not putting my body through this for much longer.

“I’m here today, I’m great. I’ve got my chef with me and he’s doing a f*cking perfect job. I feel good. I just want to be able to eat some white rice. I’m just f*cking hungry — that’s what it is.

“As I’m getting older, I’m starting to see that it’s a lot of weight to cut and I don’t need to do it. I started at welterweight, I’m going to finish at welterweight and my ultimate goal is to be welterweight champion. In two weeks, I could be making that a reality. After that, I want to defend and then after that it’s probably me going to middleweight. That’s how I see my future playing out.”