At this point it almost feels more like a curse than a promise. Tell people that you’ll become a multi-division champion in the UFC before you’ve even won your first belt, and your next stop is permanent contender status. Even among those skilled few, fortunate enough to capture a single UFC belt in their career, the feat is beyond rare. Randy Couture, BJ Penn, GSP, Daniel Cormier, and Conor McGregor; in the 20+ year history of UFC champions, those are the only men to complete the task.
Will Darren Till be next? Or has he already doomed himself to failure?
Speaking to the assembled media at the UFC Performance Institute, Till laid out his vision for the future. ‘The Gorilla’ heads into his fight against Tyron Woodley at UFC 228 looking not just to win the welterweight title, but then defend it once before making the jump up to 185 lbs for a run at a second belt (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“When I take that belt, I want to defend that belt and then I want to go up to middleweight, but that doesn’t mean that I want to go up and challenge the champion. I would like to earn my stripes in that division too. I feel there are a lot of good guys in that division.”
“I believe in life you have to earn your stripes. If I did go to middleweight in the UFC and they offered me the title I’m not going to say no. But I’m saying I’d love to earn my stripes, fight the top five, top ten. For me, going up to middleweight, I’m not focusing on the belt because I know I’m the best; I know I’ll win that belt as well.”
And while he seems confident about the idea of climbing the ladder, rather than stepping right into the title picture, it appears there’s at least one fighter that Till would rather not face at middleweight: Yoel Romero.
“There’s one guy that I wouldn’t like to fight, Yoel Romero. I’m glad he’s gone up, he’s a f*ckin’ beast,” Till admitted, laughing.
In the meantime, hopefully Till can make the championship weight for his bout with Woodley. The Liverpudlian has made the 170 lb limit twice in his six fights in the UFC. However in that time he’s also come in dramatically overweight as well, hitting 176 lbs against Jessin Ayari back in 2017, and 174.5 in his most recent bout against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. If he misses weight against Woodley on Saturday, September 8th, he may find himself up at middleweight a lot sooner than planned and with a lot more of the ladder to climb than anticipated.