LONDON (Reuters) – The UFC returned to London on Saturday but it was two Liverpool fighters who stole the show, as Paddy Pimblett and Molly McCann pulled off brilliant wins to electrify the crowd at the O2 Arena in the capital for the first time in three years.
McCann blazed forward from the opening bell against Brazil’s Luana Carolina and ended the fight in spectacular fashion in the third round with a spinning elbow that knocked her opponent out cold.
Not to be outdone, her close friend Pimblett bounced back from being rocked by an early punch to dominate Mexico’s Kazula Vargas, taking his opponent’s back and sinking in a rear naked choke submission to send the raucous crowd into a frenzy.
Still in her fight kit, McCann jumped back into the cage to celebrate with Pimblett, the pair hopping up on the fence to take the applause and cheers of the crowd.
“I’m never, ever, ever, ever in a boring fight lad, I have to get a punch in the face to get woke up,” the charismatic 27-year-old said in his post-fight interview before throwing down the gauntlet to the UFC.
“See this arena? Too small, too small, get me a stadium. Get us to Anfield and we’ll fill it,” Liverpool fan Pimblett bellowed, and judging by the response, many of those in attendance in London would make the trip to Merseyside.
Having not staged an event in London since March 16, 2019, Saturday’s card was a triumphant return for the UFC, which abruptly cancelled a planned event in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep around the world.
The British fighters excelled on Saturday, with Welshman Jack Shore winning a decision victory and Scot Paul Craig pulling off another come-from-behind win via triangle choke against Nikita Krylov.
Ipswich-born Arnold Allen came out swinging haymakers at New Zealander Dan Hooker in the co-main event, ending it with a TKO victory halfway through the first round.
With many Russian athletes excluded from competition following their country’s invasion of Ukraine, Alexander Volkov was booed as he took on Tom Aspinall in the heavyweight main event.
His evening went from bad to worse as Aspinall opened a cut on his head early and then secured a straight arm lock on the Russian to end the fight at the 3:45 mark in the first round.
Given the performances from the brawling Brits, the UFC is likely to return to the U.K. sooner rather than later.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Hugh Lawson)