The first punch has yet to be thrown at Fight Night Liverpool, but there are indicators everywhere about the type of event it will be.
Tickets are sold out for the weigh ins (the weigh ins!). And open workouts, the type of event usually attended by a small but devoted sect of hardcore fans, were supported by a wild group of 2000 Liverpudlians excited to see the UFCs first visit to their city, and beaming with pride that it stars their favorite fighters.
Former Cage Warriors champ Molly McCann got the festivities underway to the warmest of Scouser receptions. The flyweight is one of the very newest fighters in the UFC roster and a finds herself in the fairytale scenario of making her promotional debut in her own hometown.
Another new UFC fighter and Cage Warriors veteran Craig White kept things moving, looking crisp despite only having two weeks to prepare for his short notice debut. While not from Liverpool, White is English, and the fans let him know they were proud to have The Thundercat as their countryman.
His opponent, Neil Magny, and headliner Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson were next, and while they were fully aware that the majority of the crowd would not be rooting for the come Sunday, there was still a surge of positivity and respect for both men, prompting Thompson shout "Liverpool! You're awesome!" as he left the stage.
Unsurprisingly, the loudest cheers of the evening were reserved for the workout of Darren Till. Till looked intense, almost as if his main event bout was already underway. His legendary left hand hit the mitts so hard that the sound cut through the booming dance music that had been pumping throughout the night.
Host Dan Hardy mentioned Till’s callout of Wonderboy, and Till’s response was succinct: “It’s not disrespect that I called him out. I think he’s one of the best in the world. But I’m f—king better, trust me. I’m better.”
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Till's ascent in the sport has been as meteoric as it has been brief, and critics point to Thompson's career experience as a key advantage in this matchup. But Till will carry one weapon into the Octagon that his opponent won't have: a sold out Echo Arena electric in their support of their favorite son. In a city already buzzing with the excitement of their soccer success, the palpable energy simply floating in the air indicates Fight Night Liverpool has all the indicators of an instant classic.
Steve Latrell is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TheUFSteve
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