Cage Warriors return to London on Friday night hot off the heels of its incredibly successful Night of Champions show for another event where the promotion has thought outside of the box. After previous champion, Jack Shore, vacated the bantamweight title in May when he got called up to the UFC, speculation began about who would get the chance to vie for the famous belt. The promotion decided that the best way forward would be to stage a four man, one-night tournament with the last man standing taking his rightful place at the top of the division. Cage Warriors Unplugged 2 takes place in the unique environment of the BT Sports Studio in Stratford, London in front of an invite-only crowd. Previous title challenger, Scott Malone, is one of the standout competitors in the bracket and is hoping to take the title back to Scotland on Friday night.
Malone (6-2) last fought back in May when he came up short in a main event, title bout against Jack Shore. He travelled into enemy territory at the Viola Arena in Cardiff, Wales off the back of a six-fight winning streak, hoping to silence the partisan crowd. Despite having some successful moments in a fairly strong opening to the bout, Malone eventually succumbed to a rear naked choke in the third round. It was undoubtedly the toughest test that Shore had had in a while so the Scotsman walked away from the contest with his head held high.
“I felt my performance against Jack was good as he is a great martial artist,” said Malone. “The fight game is a game of inches and I made one mistake that he capitalised on. It will be interesting to see how he gets on against guys at the next level. I genuinely think he will do well.”
After that bout, Malone made it known online that he was only paid 1k for his headlining spot. By the time he had to pay for his medical testing and give coaches what they were owed, it left very little to take home for himself. The 31-year-old was a little downhearted considering he had just played a key role in one of the most anticipated Cage Warriors main events of the year so far. However, he holds no grudges against the promotion but believes fighters in a similar position to himself should be compensated more for their services.
“It’s a business for them (Cage Warriors) at the end of the day,” stated Malone. “I reckon fighters at a similar level to me should receive higher purses so we can concentrate more on training rather than trying to juggle other things at the same time. It is what it is but I still have a pretty good relationship with Cage Warriors so there are no hard feelings. I’m grateful for the opportunity to fight on one of the best stages in Europe and to continue featuring heavily for them.”
Even when he was preparing for his first title shot, Malone was having to plan training around his day job of being a scaffolder. In the lead up to Friday’s tournament, he took the big and potentially risky step to quit his job and become a full-time fighter. Malone has taken trips out to Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California over the previous few years which has aided his development but he is hoping dedicating his life to training will prove to be the vital next step in his career. He feels fitter, stronger and has had way more time to let his body recover this camp so believes he is in the best shape of his life. Most importantly, after personal struggles in recent times, Malone now feels happy doing exactly what he loves.
His opponent in the semi-final of the tournament is Englishman and Cage Warriors debutant, Jack Cartwright (5-0). The undefeated fighter has finished all of his professional victories but Malone represents a notable step up in competition as only one of Cartwright’s past opponents had a winning record. In fact, the pair were due to meet in 2017 on a regional show but the bout never came to fruition. Malone, who has finished 5 of his 6 professional wins, is confident going into the first of a potential two bouts on the night.
“I think he’s dangerous and seems very confident,” noted Malone. “However, I don’t think he’s faced anyone like me in his career so far. He will be in for a shock come fight night!”
If Malone is to claim the bantamweight title, he will have to overcome two opponents in one night which is a throwback to the original days of MMA. Therefore, a number of different scenarios may need to be planned for so all eventualities are considered. Should the first fight be approached in a more conservative manner to reduce the risk of any potential injuries? Do all competitors in the bracket need to be studied and game-planned for? As it turns out, Malone is already very familiar with a number of the fighters in the tournament so is focusing more on himself than anything else.
“I’ve mostly been training the same way I usually do in the build up,” explained Malone. “The only things I’ve done differently are putting in a lot more work with my cardio and I haven’t really made any game plans going in. I’ve been working on my own strengths and weaknesses. I have defeated Josh Reed fairly recently and I’ve sparred with Marko Kovacevic so I kind of know what to expect from the other guys on the opposite side of the bracket.”
After a journey of ups and downs so far, Malone is only two fights away from finally getting his hands on Cage Warriors gold. The belt has previously been in the possession of Brett Johns and Nathaniel Wood who both successfully graduated to the biggest MMA organisation in the world. It is no secret where Cage Warriors champions eventually end up and Malone is now well set up to tread that familiar path.
Cage Warriors Unplugged 2 streams live around the world on UFC Fight Pass from 1:30 PM ET/12:30 PM CT on Friday when the semifinals take place during the preliminary action. Viewers in the UK and Ireland can also watch the prelims on BT Sport 1 at 6:30pm, followed by the main card at 9pm.