Combat sports will always require a balance of charismatic personalities, action fights and premier talents. Paddy Pimblett has delivered in abundance in the first two categories and will take a meaningful step toward the latter should he beat.
Jiri Prochazka and Glover Teixeira were scheduled to run back their 2022 Fight of the Year frontrunner at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, but Prochazka suffered a serious shoulder injury and vacated the light heavyweight title. Their absence from the PPV event stripped the card of much-needed star power and increased the promotional load on Pimblett's shoulders.
"This is just normal to me," Pimblett told CBS Sports. "Another step forward in my career and legacy. It's nothing new. I knew all of the attention was going to be on me anyways, even when Glover was facing Jiri on the card.
"I was born to do this, lad. This is what I was meant to do... I've always envisioned this and saw this in my future."
Check out the full interview with Paddy Pimblett below.
There are several parallels to draw between Pimblett and superstar Conor McGregor. Both are brash, charismatic lightweights from Europe with knockout power and legacy as Cage Warrior champions. One of UFC's most significant contributions to McGregor's rise was mindful matchmaking. McGregor was presented with challenges of increasing difficulty, but ones that accentuated his strengths and afforded him time to patch weaknesses. Chad Mendes exploited McGregor's wrestling defense in their short-notice fight at UFC 189 in 2015, but Mendes' stamina wained and McGregor ultimately turned the tide.
"What the UFC calculated was a very smart bet," CBS Sports analyst Luke Thomas said on Wednesday's "Morning Kombat" episode. "What they bet on was: if he's good enough, then eventually he'll get to a point where we can't avoid these fights. But if we give him just enough time on this journey up the highway, if he continues to actually work in the gym and he actually gets better, then when he gets to the point where those fights are unavoidable, he's going to win some of them anyway.
"They're making some kind of a similar bet on Paddy. Let's give him as much time as we can, reasonably speaking, to see where he ceilings out and he'll get however much better he'll get in that time. We're going to give him that and eventually he's going to be who he's going to be."
But while McGregor's road to the UFC lightweight title was nearly flawless, Pimblett's performances have been uneven. Both Luigi Vendramini and Rodrigo Vargas had success taking the fight to Pimblett early, but they were soon overwhelmed by Pimblett's unforgiving offense and defiant heart. His win over Jordan Leavitt this summer was his most promising. Pimblett avoided danger and penalized Leavitt's wrestling with various choke attempts. Pimblett's next test is in the form of his most Octagon-experienced opponent to date. Gordon is a tough customer who has gone 7-4 in the UFC and mixed it up with the likes of Charles Oliveira, Grant Dawson and Carlos Diego Ferreira.
"He makes a lot of mistakes and he has a lot of holes and I just have to capitalize on it," Gordon told CBS Sports. "But he's tricky, definitely. He throws flying stuff: flying knees, flying armbars. When he goes, he swings in bunches. With four-once gloves on, one of those can put anyone out."
Check out the full interview with Jared Gordon below.
Pimblett can exponentially increase his earnings and his reputation, so long as he continues to win. There is a level of stardom that can mitigate career losses. Take McGregor for example, who is 1-3 in the last five years yet remains a pay-per-view headliner. Pimblett is not there yet but beating Gordon is a crucial step to defining himself as a cult of personality for years to come. Tito Ortiz, Chael Sonnen, McGregor and Sean O'Malley. Many magnetic personalities have fought and talked their way into title contention. But Pimblett refuses to walk in the footsteps of those who came before him.
"I'm my own man, lad. I don't follow anyone's lead," Pimblett said. "I'm Paddy 'The Baddy', simple as that."
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