Wales has become one of Cage Warriors’ most important markets over the last few years after the company has sent a wealth of homegrown talent to the UFC. The European promotion returns to the nation’s capital for the second time this calendar year on Saturday night for Cage Warriors 108, which looks to showcase the next crop of emerging stars from the region. Mason Jones headlines at The Viola Arena in Cardiff alongside his adversary, Aleksi Mantykivi, in a night which Jones hopes will solidify himself as a top lightweight title contender while also signalling that he is now ready to carry the torch for Cage Warriors in his home country.
When Jones first started his martial arts journey many years ago, his passion was always centered around and driven towards MMA. Every step of the path he has walked up to this point has been about building up his skill base and equipping him for a successful mixed martial arts career. Jones (7-0) trained kickboxing, boxing, wrestling, judo and jiu-jitsu from a young age while making sure he never rushed or ran through these sports in order to arrive at his eventual goal quicker. The Welshman learned his craft and is still perfecting it every time he steps inside the cage in order to be the most complete and well-rounded martial artist that he can be.
Jones has been a mainstay for Cage Warriors and has essentially grown up inside the promotion. He gained amateur experience under their ‘academy series’ banner before making his full professional debut while donning the famous yellow gloves in October 2017. Since then, the rising lightweight has won seven fights straight and has finished five of those bouts before the final horn. Jones last competed back in April when he defeated one of the toughest outs on the Cage Warriors roster, Donovan Desmae, by decision after demonstrating his crisp striking and explosive wrestling game. He was really pleased with that performance and it gave him even more confidence that he is on the track that he set out in his mind many years ago.
“My last fight against Desmae was the easiest fight of my career,” said Jones. “The game plan went superbly and the few mistakes that I made were easily correctable after review. I took that fight as further confirmation that I am more than capable of beating the best in the division.”
Cage Warriors’ three previous and only outings in The Viola Arena were all headlined by recently-signed UFC bantamweight Jack Shore so this marks the first time the promotion visits the 3,000 seat venue without him as part of the main event. The company helped cultivate the careers of fellow Welshmen Jack Marshman and Brett Johns too and Jones believes he is destined to follow in their footsteps to the UFC.
Some would suggest that having to shoulder a large part of the promotion around the show could lead to certain fighters taking a lot of pressure inside the cage with them on fight night. However, this isn’t something that Jones, who has spent time training at Team Alpha Male during this camp, believes will happen to him.
“Extra pressure? No. Extra excitement? Definitely!” discussed Jones. “It’s going to be my first time headlining such a prestigious show and I’m looking forward to making the step up. I can’t wait to show that I can carry the mantle that the likes of Jack Shore and others have carried before me.”
On Saturday night, Jones takes on Finnish striker, Aleksi Mantykivi (13-5), who will be looking to silence the partisan crowd in Cardiff. He is familiar to the Cage Warriors audience as he faced another of the promotion’s top lightweights, Jack Grant, last year but ultimately fell short. Despite not getting his hand raised, Mantykivi caused Grant some problems and looked dangerous on the feet. He has since rebounded with two knockout victories back in Finland and will aim to put himself immediately in the lightweight title picture with a win. Jones likes to study his opponents but uses what he discovers to put a game plan in place that will suit his strengths to exploit his adversaries weaknesses. He thinks the fans are in store for an all-action match up this weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to this bout,” stated Jones. “Mantykivi is a dangerous opponent, has explosive power and is effective on the front foot. I can’t wait to show who the better fighter is. I’m predicting a second round finish but you’ll have to wait and see how I get it done. For this one, I’m keeping my cards close to my chest.”
With a victory which will continue his undefeated record, Jones could well be in line for a shot at current lightweight champion, Jai Herbert, at the start of next year if Herbert is successful in his first title defense later this month. The pair appear to be on a collision course but Jones isn’t going to be overly vocal in calling for the belt next.
“I’m willing to fight anyone put in front of me,” explained Jones. “I am the best in this division. When it comes to challenging for the title, I don’t feel the need to call for what I know is rightfully mine. Jai has had some great fights and has showed some top class striking. He’s a brilliant all rounder but he’s definitely not on my level. I’m a better martial artist than he is!”
Cage Warriors 108 can be viewed live on UFC Fight Pass at 9pm BST on Saturday night. Fans in the US can tune in to watch the card at 4pmET/3pmC.