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Craig White on UFC exit, Cage Warriors return and infamous Diego Sanchez kiss

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

At the start of 2018, if you had told Craig White that he was going to be a UFC fighter and somewhere along the way he would plant a kiss on Diego Sanchez’s nose, he probably wouldn’t have believed you.

And although that’s exactly what ended up happening to “The Thundercat”, he is now eyeing a return to the Cage Warriors ranks in March following his whirlwind UFC stint that saw him shift 46 pounds to make his short notice debut against Neil Magny in Liverpool before facing the legendary “Nightmare” four months later in Dallas.

White feared the worst in terms of his future with the promotion after two losses, but a visit to the UFC’s Performance Institute gave him a slightly more positive outlook. However, the day after he returned to the U.K. from Sin City, White discovered that his time with the UFC had run its course.

“I got back [from the UFC Performance Institute] and the next day I got a call to say I was cut,” White told Eurobash.

“I had gone over there and everyone seemed to be helping me and the fact that they wanted me to come over...I thought that maybe things would be a bit different, but because I had already accepted [being released by the UFC] it wasn’t that much of a shock.

“Other people were more shocked than I was with the news, but I had already accepted it straight after the Dallas fight because I felt I had put on a sh*t performance compared to what I can do. I still haven’t watched the fight back to back that up, but I’m pretty sure that’s how I’d look at it.”

“It is a shame,” he added, “But I’m realistic. I never thought in my life that I’d make it to the UFC. The fact that I got there last year and took it without any hesitation, that’s an ambition that I’ve always had to be in that top one percent in the UFC. You’ve got to just get in there and give it all you can.”

From the adulation of his short-notice signing to the sniping comments about his loss to Sanchez, White experienced a tornado of social media interactions during his time with the UFC.

Without a doubt, one of the biggest talking points of his time with the promotion was when he kissed Sanchez on the nose as the veteran snarled at their final face off at the Dallas event’s weigh-in.

“Within five minutes it was on BBC news,” remembered White. “Everyone back home was texting me, ‘What the f*ck are you doing? What have you done that for? You never do this’. I was just like, ‘I don’t know, it just felt like the right thing to do at the time.’

“It’s so out of character for me and I don’t know if I’d ever do it again. It was just in the heat of the moment. I said, ‘I’m going to do it to hype the fight up.’ I knew it would get to him and it was all for that. It was to try and build a bit more behind the fight. All week he had been saying that I’d struggle with my weight cut and in a way I thought that this would be my revenge…and it worked.

“The next day I got his arse in my face for about half a round. I’ve become this instant meme where if you kiss someone on the nose you get their arse in your face!”

Despite the trolling that ensued, White is adamant that he doesn’t regret his show of affection.

“The thing I’ve learned about trolls is, if you join in on the joke and have a joke at your own expense, you take that away from them and then they get bored. But it got really boring, some of them weren’t creative at all. It was all just the same boring stuff that everyone else comes up with.

“I wouldn’t change any of it, the whole experience that I had with the UFC…taking the Magny fight on short notice and struggling with the weight cut, I wouldn’t change that. Going to Dallas and kissing Diego Sanchez, I wouldn’t change that. Obviously, I’d change my performances if I could, but there’s no point dwelling on it. It’s just something that happened and it’s done now and I’ve got to look to the future.”

Before moving to the UFC, White was winning his way into title contention and will look to regain momentum when he returns to his former stronghold on March 2 at Cage Warriors 102 in London.

“Cage Warriors was always where I was going, I essentially class it as my home MMA wise, so I wouldn’t want to compete anywhere else and the fact that they’ve got a way more stacked welterweight division now compared to a year ago [helps]. They’ve got top European talent, they’ve got everyone that you’d want to fight against. You’ve got [Nicolas] Dalby, [Alex] Lohore and [Ross] Houston…that’s just some of the names. Why wouldn’t you want to go in there and compete against those guys?”

Check out the latest episode of Eurobash. The Craig White interview beings at 1:13:10.