If the UFC play their cards right with Paddy Pimblett, they could be onto a future British UFC champion.
Those are the sentiments of former UFC title challenger Dan Hardy, who became the first Englishman to fight for a UFC championship when he took on Georges St-Pierre for the welterweight title in 2010.
Hardy came up short in that contest, losing to St-Pierre via unanimous decision, but ‘The Outlaw’ believes ‘Paddy The Baddy’ could succeed where he once failed.
Speaking to Ariel Helwani during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Hardy explained that the UFC should be careful not to rush Pimblett into the top-fifteen until the Liverpudlian irons out some of the kinks in his game and develops further as a fighter.
“I do like the way they’ve booked him,” Hardy, who is preparing for a boxing match with Diego Sanchez, told Helwani (h/t MMA Fighting). “I think the UFC recognize that Paddy’s still a developing talent. To expect him to be thrown towards the top 15 and to be the same fighter that he was on Cage Warriors, you just can’t expect that.”
“The other thing is, the guys he fought, [Luigi] Vendramini and Vargas, they’re not pushovers. They’re tough individuals, they both caught him with good punches, and there’s been moments where Paddy did look like he could lose the fight. So to me, that tells me that they’re matching him correctly for this moment, because those opportunities against other 155ers, they don’t end in him turning that fight around and finishing. They’re gaps that need to be closed before he moves on from the Vargases and the Vendraminis of the division, especially because 155 is a shark tank. It always has been.”
“You’ve got to make sure you have no real, massive holes in your game by the time you get to [the top of the lightweight division].”
Although title talks are obviously premature, Hardy sees no reason why Pimblett, who is 2-0 in the UFC and 18-3 overall, can’t potentially become a champion in the future.
“Absolutely,” Hardy said when asked if Pimblett could win a UFC title. “I can’t count anybody out at his age. He’s got everything in front of him, he’s got all of the opportunities, he’s got the fame and the opportunities. Every gym door is going to swing open to him, the Performance Institute will welcome him in and build him up like the next top athlete, because he’s such a valuable commodity to the UFC. As long as he’s dedicated and focused and wants to be a world champion, there’s nothing that could stop him.
“He’s going have to develop, of course. He’s going have to learn. But everybody in the division that’s not currently the champion still has something to add to their game. Very, very few people get to a championship level, and there’s nothing to say Paddy can’t do it. Like I said, there are things he’s got to work on, but he’s still a young guy, 10 fights into his career. Michael Bisping, people counted him out over and over again. I’m not saying we might see Paddy in his early 30s fighting for a belt and winning, but we can’t count him out. With the flare and the aggression and the confidence he has, everything else can be bolted on the sides.”
The UFC recently unveiled Pimblett’s next opponent for the upcoming Fight Night card in London, England. The 27-year-old will take on Syndicate MMA’s Jordan Leavitt (3-1 UFC, 10-1 MMA) at UFC Fight Night 211 on July 23 at London’s O2 Arena.