Fight Sport FREE CHAPTER: Matchmaker Ian Dean uncovers history of Cage Warriors ladies’s divisions

25 minute read By Alistair Hendrie Shortly before entering the UFC, Joanne Calderwood earned her sixth professional win at Cage Warriors 53 in 2013, breaking down the American Sally Krumdiack in round one. The Scot delighted the Glasgow crowd as she boxed at range before finishing her rival with ground-and-pound. She had already signed for…

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By Alistair Hendrie
Quickly forward of entering the UFC, Joanne Calderwood earned her sixth expert be pleased at Cage Warriors fifty three in 2013, breaking down the American Sally Krumdiack in spherical one. The Scot pleased the Glasgow crowd as she boxed at differ forward of ending her rival with ground-and-pound. She had already signed for Invicta, but Cage Warriors gave her a huge gamble to appear in her relieve yard.
Ian Dean, Cage Warriors’ matchmaker, told me: “That’s what we’re trying to cease – give folks opportunities. We’ve given ladies a huge gamble to fight on live announces in a stable, expert setting in resolution to framing them as a freak-train. I comprehend it’s very cliché but Cage Warriors has continuously been about trying to cease one thing contemporary and take the sport forward.”
They did precisely that by inserting on Calderwood, Rosi Sexton and Kate Jackson a blended 5 cases between 2010 and 2015. It became no exaggeration to boom that Cage Warriors had leveraged British ladies better than any a good deal of promotion.

Nonetheless their impression didn’t quit there. Essentially based in 2001 by Tommy Gilmour, Cage Warriors’ early shows in London, Coventry and Cork had been the stuff of chronicle.
Sexton fought on one among Gilmour’s shows in 2002, but it became when Graham Boylan joined as CEO in 2010 that Cage Warriors stepped up their enhance for British ladies. Indeed, Sexton’s victory over Aisling Daly at Cage Warriors forty seven in 2012 brought contemporary eyes to the scene.

Bear in mind, Rosi wouldn’t be far from the UFC by then.
Nearer to the point to day, Boylan’s stable had persisted their enhance by promoting top class British talent a lot like Liverpool flyweight Molly McCann , Colchester strawweight Wendy McKenna and Belfast featherweight Leah McCourt.
Cage Warriors made their supreme assertion of intent relieve in 2013, though, after they signed 20 of Europe’s most proficient females collectively with nine Brits. It got right here at a time when young females had been energised by Sexton’s look in the UFC, now to no longer mention Nicola Adams’ gold medal in boxing on the London 2012 Olympics.

Nonetheless the ladies’s fight community became quiet haunted by Boylan’s pass, and so became I. It’s subtle to point to the gravity of the difficulty, but thanks to Cage Warriors, British ladies went from scrapping in puny halls to competing on enviornment shows with worldwide broadcast protection.
In the bantamweight division Boylan signed Bristol wrestler LJ Lewis, Hove fighter Laura O’Brien-Howarth and Inverness stand-out Amanda Kelly. Assorted bantamweights to arrive had been Colchester striker Kerry Hughes, Kent judoka Emma Delaney and Cornwall starlet Hannah Stephens, whereas Bournemouth rookie Gemma Ruegg joined later.

Those to connect pen to paper at flyweight had been aged Jackson, Leeds battler Chloe Hinchcliffe and Brighton upstart Rachael McMillan. In other places, McCann-Pearson and London flyweight Kirsty Davis earned newbie bouts.
There became no time for British ladies to mattress themselves in though. Over the next two years they would deal with the likes of Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Lina Lansberg, both sure for the UFC, as well to touted contenders a lot like Agnieska Niedzwiedz and Pannie Kianzad.

To me there became a form of romance about the young Brits coming via. It stroke a chord in my memory of the early rounds of the FA Cup, when the smaller teams are easiest a step far off from a golden mark.
Quiet, in November 2014, Cage Warriors began a Sixteen-month hiatus, and the ladies’s scene fell apart momentarily. Though the promotion had labored wonders in nourishing the ladies’s facet of the sport, they didn’t cease it without encountering setbacks.

I became sure to interview Boylan about the formula forward for Cage Warriors’ ladies’s divisions. Try as I would, I couldn’t attain him.
I messaged Boylan on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. I even reached out to Cage Warriors’ press officer, Paul Dollery. Quiet no just correct fortune. Indeed, Boylan became one among the most guarded personalities in the sport.
Fortunately, Dean became more approachable.

When I’d launched myself, he became one among my current folks in the alternate.

He became as frank as they come when discussing Cage Warriors’ strengths and weaknesses. First of all though, he told me about the attach it all began.
***
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Assign merely, Dean lived and breathed his work. It became tricky to take into myth any individual with a stronger files of European MMA.

He broke a fight down doubtlessly as well to Sexton, and followers referred to him as “Dean-ipedia” thanks to his legendary files. If he became ever on Mastermind, his specialist subject would possibly possibly be MMA, and also you would possibly possibly bet he’d fireplace honest solutions left, honest and centre.

Nonetheless for the kind of workaholic, Dean made for relaxed, informative interviews at any time after I called him or chatted to him on Skype.
He printed how he met Cage Warriors’ founder, Dougie Trueman, at Cage Warriors 2 in 2002. “I consider seeing Dougie on just a few forums relieve then and I preferred a good deal of what he posted,” said Dean. “He did issues the honest formula and became very personable – he became dead wonderful as soon as we met and to lower a prolonged account short, I said if there became the leisure I would possibly possibly cease for Cage Warriors correct let me know. A number of months later the firm began a web boom so I began doing news, interviews and promotional work. I built a list of contacts and because this became forward of social media, it became a extremely just correct formula to analyze fighters.”
Dean’s DIY formula stroke a chord in my memory of Guy Ramsay in Glasgow.

“I learned loads about the industry,” he added.

“In as of late there weren’t many shows and the MMA scene became of route puny – you’d meet the identical folks at every train. By 2004 it obtained the point the attach I became moderately a passable contact for Dougie – I began helping out at weigh-ins too.

By the point Andy Lillis joined the promotion in 2005, Andy took me below his flit and I began acting as a matchmaker for our aged occasions on the Coventry Skydome.”
It became around this era that Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy won Cage Warriors belts.

Dean mentioned matchmaking became “natural development, for want of a better term. Because Dougie and Andy had been so busy, I began talking to loads more folks and fell into matchmaking.

Contributors forget that on the smaller shows folks would quiz you for assist with issues. You would possibly possibly attain out and touch the sport loads more.”
Alternatively, between July 2008 and Would possibly maybe 2010 Cage Warriors promoted easiest three shows – two of them in The US below the steering of Tommy Gleeson. Trueman and Lillis left the emblem, deciding that they’d performed all they would possibly possibly possibly, and it became time for Boylan to come relieve in with a original perspective.
“In June 2010 a bunch of Heart Jap investors bought the emblem, which we’d heard rumours of for a whereas. We went to a attorney’s place of work on the Friday, signed the papers and Graham had taken over by the Monday. I’d by no formula heard considerable about him forward of he got right here in but I knew he’d been working his MMA Sanatorium gyms for around 18 months.

“We had been of route going into the unknown.

Nonetheless I consider after I first met Graham – we sat down in a pub, chatted, and he said he had a vision for the emblem.

He mandatory to raise it relieve. By that October we’d already performed our first train collectively. It became conventional Graham – blueprint out a realizing and cease it.


Cage Warriors had gone from energy to energy with Boylan, picking up worldwide streaming on UFC Fight Proceed and a broadcast deal in Britain with BT Sport. Their enlargement had taken them to arenas in Denmark, Ukraine, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Let’s no longer forget their talent pool either. Jedrzejczyk and McGregor joined in Boylan’s tenure forward of earning three UFC belts between them.

After which there’s the future. Colchester featherweight Arnold Allen impressed with Cage Warriors forward of joining the UFC in 2015. Donegal light-weight Joseph Duffy furthermore reached the immense time 5 years after defeating McGregor at Cage Warriors 39. As such, it became beautiful to command the British scene would had been weaker without Cage Warriors.

***
I’d nearly chanced on it silly after a whereas. It appeared everyone I’d spoken to for my book mentioned Sexton , or no longer it is no longer relevant what skill they had been in. Promoters, fighters, retired fighters – they’d all had dealings with Sexton. Extra to the point, Sexton had helped the sport attain the next stage.

I’d spoken to Rosi just a few cases about her involvement with Cage Warriors – the supreme thing I didn’t realise became considerable she influenced the promotion’s ladies’s divisions.
“Rosi called a good deal of oldsters’s bluffs,” said Dean. “She contacted a good deal of female fighters and asked in the occasion that they’d cherish to signal for us. It became moderately silly – I believe Graham and Rosi had chatted about it more in-depth on their possess but one morning Graham correct walked into the place of work and asked how I’d feel about doing more ladies’s fights.

I correct said: “Yeah, OK.

” We had the database and it went from there.”
In July 2013 the emblem announced their contemporary signings. “I believe ladies had been correct being pushed apart unless a promoter became trying to push any individual,” said Dean. “There’s no real incentive most continuously. There’s no longer an limitless deal of depth in the divisions and inserting on ladies’s fights isn’t straightforward – it’s ridiculous. There became a good deal of satisfaction for just a few of the ladies as soon as we first made the signings.

I’m no longer going to be patronising and verbalize we’re going to present you opportunities you won’t salvage anyplace else and all of that roughly thing, but we gave ladies a huge gamble to truly chase someplace.”
Though Sexton did the brunt of recruitment, I became absorbing to know which fighters Dean became mad to belief. Who did he fill hopes for? “Lewis is unbelievable, very aggressive, very smartly-rounded, first price grappling as smartly,” said Dean. “We can’t take too considerable credit for her because she’s one among the most established names in the bantamweight division. Jackson became very just correct for us as smartly. We’ve had setbacks in the divisions but we’ve furthermore had just a few stars – Catherine Costigan from Dublin at 105, Kianzad at a hundred thirty five.”
Lewis claimed the emblem offered a “huge platform” for British ladies.

“It’s the kind of considerable, expert put,” she said. “I’ve by no formula fought for the kind of smartly-speed train. It’s so mushy and straight forward for us which makes the kind of distinction in an intense journey for these who’re making prepared for a fight. All ladies fill the dream to salvage to The US and fight for the UFC or Invicta and I’ve continuously of route struggled to salvage suits, so I’d cherish to fight for Cage Warriors but again.”
Hughes told me: “When Cage Warriors made their first lot of signings it became immense because nationally and internationally, ladies fight to salvage matched. It became cherish boxing just a few years ago – they didn’t want ladies combating, they chanced on it to be distasteful. “Can’t fill birds combating”, they thought.

Nonetheless the more gleaming promotions realised that having female fighters became a passable thought because in overall our traffic are more supportive, so we sell more tickets. Our fights are furthermore more appealing because ladies’s MMA is in its infancy.”
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I seen Cage Warriors had a considerable wider impression on British ladies’s MMA.

“Cage Warriors meant all all of a sudden we obtained sponsorship that wasn’t there forward of,” added Hughes. “With out warning MMA dresses firms realised that women and males aren’t the identical shape and seemingly it would possibly possibly possibly be a passable thought to manufacture some dresses that fit ladies.” Very dry from Kerry, which is what I’d come to rely on from her. “It’s the cramped stuff you of route don’t relieve in tips – for me Cage Warriors is huge for ladies in the UK.


One fighter I became waiting for seeing became Kelly, who scooped up multiple world titles in muay Thai whereas coaching with Invoice Judd at KO Muay Thai in Bethnal Inexperienced. The Scot shone with her inserting at differ, and appeared devastating when she stopped Stephens at Cage Warriors 60 in October 2013. Alternatively, Kelly walked far off from MMA in 2014 after successive defeats to O’Brien-Howarth, Hughes and Lewis.
“In most cases you realise that correct because a fighter is winning in one discipline, this doesn’t mean they’ll be triumphant in MMA,” defined Dean. “Kelly appeared spectacular at one point; she became a doable critical person and of route obtained folks talking. Nonetheless for everyone who succeeds there’s a Royce Alger – to utilize a extremely aged example. He became an American collegiate wrestler who of route bombed in MMA some 15, Twenty years ago.


Dean described Lewis’s victory over Kelly – as phase of Cage Warriors seventy two in September 2014 – as “a masterclass.

” He had a degree. Lewis musty her background in rugby to time and executive her takedowns completely. She dominated the competition forward of sealing a rear naked choke in the zero.33 spherical. “It became a passable fight for me because I managed to head three rounds and salvage the enact in the quit,” said Lewis.

“I became comfy with how I tailored to her and obtained the takedowns.

In the zero.33 spherical I knew she became going to alternate it up and preserve at differ, so I couldn’t bull-urge in. I needed to ranking my moments. Credit ranking to her, she’d clearly been engaged on her grappling and her hips had been so solid.

I made sure I controlled positions in a scientific formula, because I knew she would possibly possibly afflict me if I didn’t preserve active on top.”
If Lewis’s stoppage over Kelly became a image of easy systems to stifle a fighter from top subject, Hughes’s be pleased over Amanda – at Cage Warriors 69 in June 2014 – confirmed straightforward systems to fight fireplace with fireplace. Hughes stood and banged with Kelly forward of decking her out of nowhere in the 2nd frame. “That impressed a good deal of oldsters,” said Dean.
It became a gigantic upset despite every little thing, with Hughes taking a look and exchanging instant combinations in the first frame.

Both ladies had been afflict in all places in the bout and fix up a gutsy effort, but in the middle spherical, as Kelly dropped her guard, she walked into a honest hand on the button. Time stood quiet as Kelly staggered.

Hughes pounced, darted in with ground-and-pound and earned a really noteworthy be pleased of her profession. That result, Hughes told me, meant so considerable more given her resolution defeat to Niedzwiedz at Cage Warriors sixty two in December 2013.
“I wasn’t as fit as I’d preferred to had been after I fought Niedzwiedz,” said Hughes, who missed the bantamweight limit forward of that meeting. “If I’d been offered it now I doubtlessly wouldn’t fill taken it. Nonetheless this became my first fight for Cage Warriors so I became cherish: “You perceive what, this is the kind of passable different that I’ve obtained to head for it”.

I believe I can beat any individual in and around my weight class, other than any individual cherish Cyborg. I became taking into consideration Cage Warriors became the supreme thing that will fill befell to British ladies, so I didn’t try to miss a possibility and no longer be welcome relieve.”
The contemporary opportunities, she said, produced a nerve-wracking setting. “It’s no longer cherish we’re global footballers or the leisure cherish that so for these who’re getting prepared for a fight, you cease what you cease in the gym, but then at Cage Warriors you’ve obtained the pyrotechnics going, all this manufacturing, cameras in your face.

.. I most continuously think: “What am I doing right here?” It’s so surreal.”
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In other places, O’Brien-Howarth fought three cases for Cage Warriors between December 2013 and August 2014, taking choices over Emma Delaney and Kelly forward of struggling a TKO in opposition to Lansberg.
“For no subject motive, it wasn’t O’Brien-Howarth’s evening in opposition to Lansberg,” admitted Dean. Indeed, the Dane dominated the inserting exchanges, picking off O’Brien-Howarth in violent vogue unless the English lady wore a disguise of blood. Her nook pulled her out by the quit of spherical one, waiting for issues would easiest salvage worse. “This stuff happen – I obtained over it and moved onto better issues,” said O’Brien-Howarth. “To be on mainstream TV became amazing though.”
“The Channel Four protection became immense for the general ladies alive to,” added Dean.

“It became an insane different, even for the fighters to command to their traffic and family: “Right here’s my fight, you would possibly possibly seek for it.” Contributors in MMA are continuously going on about opportunities. Around thirteen years ago I spoke to guys who had been combating without cost in a sports activities hall without a thought that they had been going to salvage anyplace. They said to me: “I’d chase someplace if I had a possibility”.

You’ve obtained manufacture that different and speed with it, and beautiful play to those that cease.”
***
So with the likes of McCann, McKenna and McCourt on board, Boylan, Dean and Cage Warriors are alive to to continue leveraging the ladies’s scene. BT Sport will present an attractive platform for that and young stars a lot like bantamweight Nathaniel Wooden will continuously map attention to the emblem as a whole.
Quiet, as I’ve already mentioned via this book, building the MMA scene is a work in development – in particular on the ladies’s facet of the sport. “I revel in inserting on ladies’s fights with Cage Warriors but with paper-skinny divisions it’s continuously a bit of a likelihood,” said Dean.

“I would possibly possibly be unpopular for announcing this but ladies’s MMA can’t develop unless ladies are prepared to fight at a expert stage. Our be troubled is that as quickly as we fill got an damage, we can’t correct magically produce any individual. You would possibly possibly’t correct flit any individual out from the States for any individual who is quiet lower-mid card.

These are correct facts of life – it’s actuality.”
O’Brien-Howarth added: “Girls are subtle to compare in the UK and it’s continuously subtle for ladies to salvage opponents. It’s all smartly and just correct for Cage Warriors to signal these ladies but in the occasion that they haven’t obtained the honest opponent, they’ll want to wait on unless they are able to fight on the honest stage.”
Forming competitive match-usais one thing, but then there’s the politics.

Girls can ranking the honest opponents, but they quiet want to verify their ego on the door, forget about their anecdote and take these riskier fights. At the least, Sexton and Jackson are advocates for entering into because the underdog in uncover to preserve active.
“The be troubled when a promotion cherish Cage Warriors tries to form divisions is that no-one desires to fight anymore,” said Lewis. “Opponents don’t want losses on their files. I believe it’s silly because if a girl fights for Cage Warriors, it offers them huge publicity which is crucial. The more of us that belief us, the more folks who know us and that makes us extremely challenging to the UFC and Invicta intriguing forwards. Any individual cherish Calderwood proves that – the UFC would had been insensible now to no longer signal her and market her to the Scottish followers.


Indeed, British ladies live in hope that Cage Warriors will continue propelling young fighters cherish Calderwood towards the UFC. Dublin’s Daly and Germany’s Sheila Gaff fill furthermore ran out for the UFC after exhibiting for Cage Warriors, so does Dean belief the emblem continuing to form ladies’s MMA?
“I’m originate-minded,” he said. “I love to form divisions but it’s tricky to cease in ladies’s MMA. For these that look no longer easy sufficient there are just a few stand-out names cherish Helen Harper and Bryony Tyrell – there’s others coming via but it’s tricky to command which divisions are going to be solid. I’m no longer announcing we won’t manufacture ladies’s fights because if the fights manufacture sense we’ll manufacture them happen.

The short solution to your attach a matter to of is we’ll belief what happens.”
Alistair Hendrie’s Kindle book, Fight Sport: The Untold Memoir of Girls’s MMA in Britain, is on hand now from Amazon on Kindle and the free Kindle app.
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