The Ultimate Fighting Championship organisation hits the O2 Arena, London, for the fourth time in three years on Saturday, October 16, as UFC 120 assembles three of the best British fighters all on one card to take on the world’s best.
First, emerging talent John ‘Hitman’ Hathaway will look to scalp another contender when he takes on American Mike ‘Quicksand’ Pyle; then welterweight title challenger Dan ‘the Outlaw’ Hardy returns to face former WEC world champion Carlos ‘The Natural Born Killer’ Condit before, in the main event, British superstar Michael ‘the Count’ Bisping collides with Japanese judo master Yoshihiro Akiyama.
UFC UK Division President Marshall Zelaznik said: “We have three of the very best British fighters to ever put on a pair of gloves, all in hugely significant matches, all on the same card. At only 22, Hathaway has established himself as someone to really look out for in the welterweight division after dominating Diego Sanchez, but Mike Pyle couldn’t care less about the hype. Dan Hardy was a national hero in the UK already, but I think he won an army of American fans by his display of courage against Georges St-Pierre, but now faces a fighter with the same ‘never-say-die’ attitude in Carlos Condit. And Bisping fights are always magical occasions in England, but in Akiyama, he may be in for his toughest test yet.”
Tickets for UFC 120 are priced at £50, £75, £100, £125, £175 and £250 and will go on sale via ticketmaster.co.uk and the O2 Arena box office to UFC Fight Club members at 10am on Thursday July 22, UFC Newsletter subscribers and O2 subscribers will get their chance from 10am on Friday July 23 before tickets go on sale to the general public at 10am on Saturday.
The first non-American to win The Ultimate Fighter reality series and the first Briton to headline a UFC card, Michael ‘the Count’ Bisping carries a 20-3 MMA record into his third UFC main event appearance.
Now in his fifth year with the world’s premier MMA organisation, one of the sport’s most polarising personalities is looking forward to fighting in front of a fanbase who voted him ‘the Coolest Man in the UK’ ahead of Daniel Craig, David Beckham and Christian Bale.
Bisping said: “It is great to be fighting in the UK after going to Australia and Las Vegas in my last two fights. The British fans have always given me unbelievable support and I’ve never lost at home, so I am looking to help make this another special night for British MMA.”
Unbeaten in his home country, Bisping added: “Akiyama is a very dangerous guy. He strikes very well, he has power, and he will keep coming at you. He is very strong with his judo takedowns, and I will have to train seriously hard to come up for an answer for those.
“But I think that if I set a fast, hard pace in the first round, that by the third I will have taken over and will be in a position to finish him. Akiyama will obviously looking to do the same thing – that is the way he always fights – and I am already spending my ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus in my head.
Bisping isn’t the only man to carry the expectation of an entire nation into the Octagon with him; opponent Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-2, 2 NC) is one of the biggest stars in all of Japanese sports after first becoming a national hero in Japan as an elite judoka in the Asian Games, All-Japan Invitational and World Games.
Adept at altering his style to suit particular opponents but a warrior at heart, Akiyama has defeated opponents as diverse as former world heavyweight boxing champion Frans Botha, kickboxing champion Melvin Manhoef, PRIDE FC icon Kazushi Sakuraba as well as middleweight contenders Denis Kang and Alan Belcher.
Known simply as ‘Sexyama’ to his legion of female supporters, both of Akiyama’s UFC bouts to date have been instant classics as well as worthy ‘Fight of the Night’ winners.
He said: “I am very excited to fight Michael Bisping on his home ground, from what I understand Bisping is popular like David Beckham there, and I am honored. I want to show to the world that Asian fighters can stand toe-to-toe with the world’s best, and I hope to see Asian fans at the fight in London.
“Bisping is a very good technical striker, so I am expecting a stand-up match with him.
“Michael Bisping – thank you for taking this fight with me, and let’s put on an exciting show for our fans in England.”
In the mouth watering co-main attraction, two of the most attack-minded fighters in the welterweight division collide as England’s Dan ‘the Outlaw’ Hardy squares up to Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Carlos Condit.
The hard-hitting Hardy, 23-7, 1 NC in MMA and 4-1 in the Octagon, is coming off a heroic UFC Welterweight Title challenge against Georges St-Pierre, where the Briton gained enormous respect for simply refusing to yield to the pound-for-pound talent from Canada. Now retooled for battle after spending six-months training his grappling in the USA, Nottingham’s modern day Outlaw will rejoin the title hunt in front of his rabid countrymen.
Hardy said “Condit has good submissions and good stand-up skills, he is dangerous everywhere and – as he showed in his last win over Rory MacDonald – he never gives up. I’ve got that exact same attitude as well – so you’ve got all the right ingredients for a real war in London.”
Perhaps one of the best trash-talkers in the game, Hardy added: “Condit actually asked for the fight; I guess thinking a win over a world title challenger would look nice on his record. But it is very much a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ because I’ve taken it upon myself to beat the stupid out of him on October 16.”
Former undefeated WEC champion Condit, 25-5 in MMA said: “I’m really excited about fighting Hardy and thrilled to be fighting in London. I know I’m going to have to be at the top of my game because I’m facing a very tough guy who doesn’t give up, but yes I did ask for this fight.
“For one, I really think this is a hell of a style match up and is a guaranteed Fight of the Night. The welterweight division is stacked, and to get noticed you’ve got to be in awesome fights, and Hardy will stand there and throw just like me. And obviously he was just recently the No. 1 contender and I want to fight the best in the world to earn a title shot, so that’s why I called him out.
“I am gonna love being the enemy in England, they can boo me all they want, it is just energy. I’m a well rounded fighter and am especially confident with my stand-up game. Hardy is good, but my all-around skills give me an edge in this fight.”
Naturally quieter than his compatriots Bisping and Hardy, John ‘Hitman’ Hathaway, 14-0 in his four year MMA career and 4-0 in the UFC, nevertheless made a huge noise in the welterweight division when he dropped and then dominated UFC title challenger Diego Sanchez over three one-sided rounds at UFC 114 in May.
Still only 22, Hathaway has only lost a single round since joining the UFC in January 2008 (to Rick Story at UFC 99) and will be looking to build on that stunning 4-1 victory.
“I am getting recognised a lot more by fans after the Sanchez win, but I am not getting carried away with it,” the former rugby player said. “I was back in the gym a few days later, I made plenty of mistakes in the fight and I want to improve all areas of my game. I have a lot of hard work in front of me, I have a ton to learn, but I am looking forward to fighting in front of a packed crowd in London.”
Mike ‘Quicksand’ Pyle, 19-7-1 in MMA and 2-2 in the UFC, will care nothing for the young Brit’s growing reputation. The Las Vegas native is 11-years deep into a MMA career which he began in Memphis, Tennessee, giving up over 30lbs to one Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. A former WEC Champion who never lost his title in competition, Pyle has beaten contenders like Shonie Carter, Chris Wilson, Jesse Lennox and remains the only man to ever make UFC Welterweight Title challenger Jon Fitch submit.
“Reputations and hype are irrelevant to me,” said Pyle. “They don’t mean crap. This kid has a lot of pressure on him now; he’s expected to look as good as he did against Sanchez every time – but that’s not happening at UFC 120.
“I’ve watched Hathaway, he’s a good fighter but so is everyone else in the UFC. Fighting a good opponent isn’t anything new to me, fighting in Europe isn’t anything new to me, travelling isn’t anything new to me, fighting in front of hostile fans isn’t anything new to me. I’ve been in with top guys for years, this is just another day in the office.
“Hathaway’s not using me as a stepping-stone. I will put this kid away, 100%.”
Further bouts for UFC 120 will be announced shortly.