Paddy Pimblett made his MMA debut in 2012. At the time he was just 17 years old. Piblett made his debut against Nathan Thompson whose MMA record was 4 wins and 34 losses.
This fight can still be viewed online.
And if you watched Pimblett’s UFC debut you might think he’s careless. You’re absolutely right. Here’s how he described his start in mixed martial arts to vice:
“I’ve always been a wind up merchant,” he said. “As soon as I came into Next Generation when I was 15 years old I was winding people up and getting choked unconscious to be taught a lesson. As soon as I woke up I would be back at it again. People got the message then, no matter what they said to me I’d stay the same. I’m a good guy really at heart, though. In saying that, if you get on the wrong side of me it can get dangerous very quickly.”
From the very start of his career, Pimblett had a solid grasp on the marketing side of the sports:
“No reaction is a bad reaction, whether it’s positive or negative. Once I have got the reaction, once I’ve got the people talking, that’s all I’m worried about. Like they always say, any publicity is good publicity.”
Pimblett made it to Cagewarriors in just a year. This officially meant he was in the big leagues. No more 1-21 opponents. Paddy’s first claim to MMA fame came in 2014 when he submitted Conrad Hayes with a flying triangle.
(If you use UFC Fight Pass, you can watch most of his career fights there.)
Pimblett was slowly making a name for himself, mostly as a grappler but also as a really outspoken fellow.
It would take several years before he officially became a Cage Warriors champion. His performance here is particularly interesting. The entrance is electrifying. Something of his chaotic energy just takes the fans for a ride.
But then he also shot for that takedown – in a really misguided attempt to take things to the ground. Pimblett’s fights seem almost as if he’s taking lucky shots with the strike flurries he launches on.
Following title win, Pimblett went on to lead the crowd in a singalong of Justice for the 96.
This relates to a famous 1989 incident in which 97 Liverpool fans lost their life in a fatal accident at the Stadium. This is a controversial event in Liverpool history. The accident came to happen when a Police commander made an error that lead to an influx of fans ultimately rendering the stands overcrowded. Initially police fed the press false stories suggesting that hooliganism and drunkenness by Liverpool supporters had caused the disaster. It wouldn’t be until 2016 when the second coroner’s inquests ruled that the supporters were unlawfully killed due to grossly negligent failures by police and ambulance services to fulfil their duty of care.
Meanwhile many spectators were actively comparing “Baddy” to Conor McGregor whose star was hitting meteoric heights during that time. But Paddy was dismissive of McGregor and went on to call out McGregor, Artem Lobov and others.
After a FCC championship win Paddy was asked about social media fights he had with Artem Lobov and Andy Ogle. Ogle had just gotten released by the UFC at the time. Paddy was particularly salty on Lobov saying:
“Jesus that’s not the next step, he’s a step down. Get him in there with me and i’ll tap him in a round, I’ll tap him quicker than Alex Enlund (ie Enlund had submitted Lobov at Cage warriors). He is a sidekick. Give me McGregor and I’ll f***** smoke him easy. When he goes out I’ll kick his ass.”
Paddy even went on to make an interesting charity bet.
Paddy pledged he would be giving 10k to an autism charity if he couldn’t defeat McGregor in the next 5 years.
But the verbal jabs went even further, at one point Paddy Pimblett went to the finals of Europa League with his McGregor banner in tow.
Pimblett seemed perfectly happy to coopt Liverpool football fanaticism and tie his cause to it, sort of speak. We can’t help but wonder if his signature haircut was also a calculated play on his behalf. After all it doesn’t get more Liverpool than a beatles haircut guy with a fanatic devotion to Liverpool football club. And it seemed to work too. According to some anecdotal accounts we’ve encountered researching this, a lot of the people who are Paddy fans aren’t really MMA fans – they start off with Paddy.
Much like his fights, Paddy also rushed his career. He defended the title only two months later in a rough outing that ultimately went his way. Controversial decision went against Julian Erosa in spite of him having dropped Paddy twice – and Paddy ultimately throwing up in the cage post fight.
But that was followed by a very difficult fight against Nad Narrimani that he would lose. Perhaps in a stroke of luck, Narrimani went on to sign with the UFC right after, while Pimblett would have to figure out his game. It seemed some of the fans had turned on him.
Like many fighters that rely on grappling Paddy was made to pay for his half hearted shots and even taken down by Narrimani.
Following the loss Pimblett appeared on the Helwani MMA show and clarified that nothing was going right that day. Part of his justification for the loss was him believing he was suffering from a bad bout of stomach flue. But still Paddy hadn’t quite conquered his demons. Non stop weight cutting in 2016 seemed to have exhausted him and injuries were catching up. In addition to this, in his head he was playing catch up with McGregor who had by this point become the two division champion in the UFC. This lead Paddy to challenge Sorek Bak for the lightweight title.
This resulted in dropping a decision loss to Bak.
“I was sparring the week before with a splint on underneath my wraps. I just got on with it. People don’t know all the sh*t that goes on, they just think I got in there the best I’ve ever f*cking been. Just imagine what I would’ve done to Soren Bak if I didn’t have a f*cked up wrist and if I had a full, proper fight camp…just imagine,” he said.
In a different interview Paddy also explained losing was a sobering experience for him:
“It took a loss for me to realize the opportunities that I had. I’m not going to throw it away. I’ve known people to waste their talent and I won’t be one of them. I did have a bad attitude because I thought it could get me far, but it can’t. My attitude has changed and so have I.”
” I’ve got to go back and have the same operation on my hand that I had 4 months ago. The bone in my hand has gone again and its a 2nd op for me now to get this fixed.”
Pimblett wouldn’t be cage ready until 2020 – and by that point coronavirus was already wreaking havoc on the European travel restrictions. In a sign of things to come, Pimblett would end up fighting a third replacement in February of 2020. It was no surprise he made quick work of Decky Dalton who had stepped up with just 9 days of prep.
We wouldn’t hear more about Paddy until March 2021. For all intents and purposes -Paddy was back.
He is back! A quick flurry gets The Baddy the takedown and RNC for the win ?
Paddy Pimblett gets it done in one!
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) March 20, 2021
Soon after he would get the UFC call. According to Pimblett this would be lucky number 3. He told MMAjunkie:
“When they first offered it to me in 2016, I was still fighting at featherweight,” Pimblett said. “I was still very immature. I wasn’t professional at all, still a child partying all the time. When they offered it to me again in 2018, I turned them down the second time, I wasn’t even a proper lightweight then. I was still a boy fighting men. I didn’t even have a proper (strength and conditioning) team.
“I’ve got a ridiculous S&C coach now, Paul Reed. I guess you’ll see on Saturday night the physique of me. I’m a different animal because of him. I’m an absolutely different breed. I’m a specimen now. Back then, I was just a fighter. I was going off heart and skills and talent. Now, I’m an athlete. It’s going to be unbelievable Saturday night when I put it on Luigi and go on with it a nice bonus.”
And Paddy has had to adapt with the times. Long gone are his jibes at McGregor and jealousy over Darren Till. Now it’s all about Khabib:
“The Khabib fans online are worse than the Conor fans now. It’s embarrassing. You can’t say a bad word about him,” Pimblett continued. “I said that he’s not the GOAT, but said he is that 155 GOAT, and people took no notice of that and just, ‘oh, you said he’s not the GOAT, this and that’. I started getting called a Muslim hater because I said he wasn’t the greatest of all time. And he’s not. I don’t care what anyone says, he’s not the GOAT. You’ve got to have longevity in this sport to be the GOAT, and he hasn’t had longevity. He had three title defenses. Jon Jones has had what, 12?”
Much like Darren Till, Paddy the Baddy is marketable and interesting. But is he also too young? Too eager to take damage that accumulates rather fast in elite competition? Sure, he defeated Luigi Vendramini but for a while there he was taking plenty of shots and keeping his chin much too high.
Today, Pimblett is the brand new toy but is he capable of climbing to the top of the sport before the accumulated damage and critical errors catch up to him?