Exclusive Darren Till interview: I’d say YES to a YT boxing fight; I was stabbed, dying when a nightclub security brought me back to life; I need to work on my aggression to start winning again

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In an exclusive interview with Basketball Insiders, UFC fighter Darren Till opens up about the nearly fatal night he was stabbed outside a nightclub in Liverpool.

Till also gives an honest assessment of what he needs to go to get back to winning ways in the UFC, whilst hinting at future in the boxing ring and PFL.

If you would like to use any quotes from the exclusive interview with Darren Till, you must credit and link to Basketball Insiders.

Interview highlights:

Question: UFC 283 takes place in your adopted nation of Brazil, what makes Brazilian UFC events different to others?

Darren Till: “The people mainly. Brazilians are so passionate about UFC and sport in general it’s incredible. Football is huge in Brazil as well of course. I went to a couple of games and they’re such chaotic, passionate fans. They’re lovely people but the two main things in Brazil are Brazilian jiu-jitsu and football. On carnival days when the beers are flowing you can see the passion for MMA everywhere. I’m one of the co-founders of BlockAsset and we have a few Brazilian athletes like Glover Teixeira working for us and it was honestly manic when it was announced that UFC 283 will be in Rio.”

Q: What fights on the UFC 283 card have really caught your eye?

DT: “Firstly I just want to say I’m disappointed that the Gregory Rodrigues vs Brad Tavares match isn’t going ahead because that would’ve been great (due to an injury suffered by Tavares in training. He will be replaced by Brunno Ferreira). Also a great friend of mine, Mounir Lazzez, who is fighting on the preliminary card. I can’t wait for that one, he’s got a tough fight against Gabriel Bonfim but I’m sure he’ll pull through. Obviously the two main matches Deiveson Figueiredo vs Brandon Moreno and Glover Teixeira vs Jamahal Hill have the potential to be epic. Big shout out as well to Jessica Andrade. She’s been in the UFC for eight years and she’s a beast so I’m really looking forward to her fight too. And also a big shout out to Gilbert because Khamzhat’s going to beat him again (laughs).”

Q: Do you foresee any big shocks at the weekend?

DT: “For people who want to know my insight, I feel like in Brazil the crowd can be such an important factor that they can even influence a match. They can get into a fighter’s head. They’ll chant phrases like ‘você vai morrer’ which means ‘you’re going to die’. I know it sounds bad but it sounds different in Portuguese (laughs). So some fighters that me and you think are going to win could potentially lose if the crowd goes against them. Wait until they do a camera live on the crowd! I promise you it’s going to be absolutely epic.”

Q: Which of your UFC victories stands out in your mind as the best so far?

DT: “It’s crazy because I’ve been in the game a long time but I’ve only just hit 30 and they say your 30s are your prime years. So I’ve had great moments when I burst onto the scene when I beat Cowboy Cerrone and when I headlined the Echo Arena in Liverpool. When I fought a co-main event against Kelvin Gastelum and then as well headlining with Robert Whitakker was memorable. Even some of my losses have been memorable too and I’m coming into my prime now so if I can knuckle down and focus properly then I’m sure I’ll move even further up the ladder in the future.”

Q: UFC 286 will be held in London. Are you hoping to be a part of that event?

DT: “I did yeah but I’ve been back home for a few weeks now and I’m sort of in a bit of limbo. I’m not entirely sure what my plans are and it might be a bit too soon if I’m completely honest. I’m not injured or anything but I just want to make sure I’m in a good frame of mind. Even in that last fight I felt in a good state of mind but there’s a few little factors I just want to work on. So I might not be involved but I am very happy for Leon Edwards who is headlining UFC 286. I feel like he deserves all the credit he’s getting because I feel it’s a bit overdue over the last few years. Tom Aspinall might be fighting too and it’s good to see all these British fighters doing their thing.”

Q: You’ve had a few tough consecutive losses now. Is there anything specific you’re looking to improve on?

DT: “The aggression factor. In the gym I’m so aggressive. When I got into the Du Plesis fight I had him flinching a lot in the second round and I could see he was terrified. I really should’ve stopped him there and then with the power I carry. But for whatever reason I couldn’t pull the trigger and really let it go. So in my mind there’s got to be some mental things I’ve got to work on and tweak a bit. Not massively but also on the grappling side of things, I didn’t do enough of that and I don’t know why. There’s a few aspects I want to talk about with my team as well. But there’s plenty of time to learn and strive for the greatness that I’m hoping for. I’ve just got to live a clean life and keep working hard.”

Q: In that fight with Du Plesis, you came to the octagon to the song Tourner Dans Le Vide, synonymous with Andrew Tate’s viral videos. Is that a happy coincidence or are you a fan? 

DT: “I know he’s probably the most controversial person out there at the moment but I’ve actually known Andrew for many years because he was a fighter himself previously. I’ll say this to Andrew’s face. There’s a lot of things he says that I agree with and a few that I disagree with but I like him and I like some of the things he stands for. I know he’s very controversial but I don’t think he’s a bad person and that theme tune for me is just sick. When I’ve seen some of the viral videos I’ve just thought yeah that’s a bit of me. You could be caught on video giving a million pounds away and someone would still criticise you. It’s like sometimes nothing’s ever good enough. I used to host a youtube channel called ‘Opinions and Arseholes’ and I used to say it’s because everyone’s got one. You can’t please everyone. I’m a fan of his but not of all his views and that’s just the way the world works.”

Q: What do you think of Andrew Tate’s recent arrest in Romania?

DT: “It’s tough for me to comment because I’m not a guy who watches a lot of TV or a lot of news and politics, so I don’t know who’s lying and who’s not these days. I think your average person is getting more familiar with how the world works thanks to social media. But as the phrase goes you’re innocent until proven guilty aren’t you? I haven’t looked into it too much. I’ve been thinking about giving my opinion on Twitter but I’ve got half a million followers and as soon as I give my opinion you never know what the reaction might be so I’ve stepped back. If he is guilty then obviously that’s not good but equally he might be innocent.”

Q: What were the main differences between training in Brazil compared to training here?

DT: “ Obviously the weather was very different to start with, it’s amazing out there. Actually I will get political for a minute. You know when we buy a pair of trainers here they’ll cost say £100 but out in Brazil I remember being shocked because they were like triple the price! That’s because it’s all imported but on the other hand, the food and fruit is so cheap and that’s because they are self-sufficient in terms of farming. It’s all so fresh and the quality is fantastic. In terms of training it was incredible too. Everyday on the mat there were literally 20 black belts all gunning for you. It’s very sick over there. Brazil is such a huge country. It’s more like a continent in my eyes.”

Q: Where is tougher to grow up – Brazil or Liverpool? 

DT: “I lived in the favelas of Brazil and life there is totally different. When I ventured through Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiro it’s very eye opening. I’ve got a close friend who’s from the Amazon Rainforest and his mum doesn’t even have windows. You don’t know about poverty until you’ve been to a place like that. It’s a tough country to grow up in and that’s probably why they’re so good at fighting. It makes the skin tough, it really does.”

Q: How did you avoid getting into sticky situations while you were living out there?

DT: “I was always in sticky situations! I remember one time when I was walking through an unknown favela in another city after I’d just fought and this group of guys collared me and they were like ‘oi whiteboy’ and I was thinking ‘I really don’t need this s**t now!’ It’s not like here where there’s serious consequences for serious crimes. If you kill someone here you’re going to jail for 20 years but over there life is different in terms of the way things are resolved. You have to be careful. I’d always try to walk with a crowd and of course the lads from the gym were all from the favelas and they had my back.”

Q: What can you share about being stabbed? Did it change your perspective on life?

DT: “I’ve been in some situations in my life. There was a time when I was training at my gym in Liverpool when I was struggling to make money and I was sort of on both sides of the law you could say. It was not a good place to be but I was a terrific fighter and my coach always knew that. I got into a situation in a nightclub where a fight broke out and I got stabbed twice in my ribs. I think the blade was centimetres from a major artery and if it had hit that it would’ve seen me bleeding out and dying. To cut a long story short I remember sitting outside the club and seeing a light. I’m not a big believer in God but in that moment I remember thinking it must be my time to go. But a security guard from the club stuck his fingers in the wound and he brought me back. It was a brutal moment but it changed my life for the better in the long term. I’ve got a beautiful family now and a house and everything I could wish for really.”

Q: Are there any up and coming Brazilian fighters you have high hopes for?

DT: “I Want to give a shout out to Caio Borralho, he’s one of BlockAsset’s athletes and I think he’s a terrific fighter. I love him and I think he’s going to make it to the top. Before he got into the UFC he used to send me messages and I helped him get involved with us. He’s going to take the game by storm.”

Q: Who do you want to see Khamzat fight next? Colby?

DT: “I would love to see him get the belt at welterweight. I think he’s destined to get that. But at the same time I don’t want to see him risk deteriorating his health by doing so. He’s already a big guy if he sticks to a strong diet and regime then he can make it. I would love to see the Colby fight but also I would love to see him fight Leon Edwards and I think he gets to win on both. I think Colby is great but Khamzat just carries too much striking power for him.”

Q: What do you think of Francis Ngannou leaving the UFC? Was it a shock?

DT: “If he’s not happy, he’s not happy and if he’s been able to negotiate a deal to get out of his contract then fair dos. If he feels like he’s not getting paid what he’s worth then that’s on him isn’t it. I’ve got a good relationship with Dana (White) and Hunter (Campbell) and the guys but obviously I’d like to get paid more too. I always said to Dana if I have a problem with the money I’ll come to you direct. I’m not one of those guys who will hold court in public and diss him after saying something like that.”

Q: In terms of Dana, and the media storm surrounding him right now, what’s best for him? Does he need to step away from the forefront of UFC events for a bit? 

DT: “Dana’s always been a big advocate against abuse and the ‘woke brigade’ for lack of a better term. I’m trying to give a solid opinion. The one thing I really don’t agree with is him saying ‘you need me’. There’s always got to be consequences and punishments when you do something wrong. It’s just the way the world works. What he was filmed doing in the club obviously can’t be condoned in any way.”

Q: Do you think Ciryl Gane is a difficult style fight for Jon Jones? Who wins for you?

DT: “What a fight! Wow! It’s interesting because Francis Ngannou took Gane down and Jones is the best wrestler in the heavyweight division and that speaks volumes for me. Jones is not a stupid fighter who’ll go striking with Gane, he’ll mix it up. Jones has been out for a hell of a long time but I still think he’ll prove too strong. But it will be great viewing.”

Q: What are the chances of the Jack Hermansson fight being made again?

DT: “There’s always a chance but MMA is moving so fast these days you just can never be sure. One or two losses will see you fall down the rankings just as fast as a couple of wins will bump you up. Boxing is different but MMA is evolving so quickly. I’ve been hearing that Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis are going to fight for the last 20 years! Are you going to fight or not? Same as Joshua vs Fury. Just get on and fight each other.”

Q: Thoughts on Conor McGregor? Should he retire? Is he still a huge draw or past his best?

DT: “I think Conor has been there and done it, made his money and now he’s happy. I’m sure he probably wants to come back but deep down he knows life’s different now. I think it’s probably the end for Conor but he’s still the biggest name in the sport.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the new generation of British talent currently on the books in the UFC? Paddy Pimblett and Meatball Molly etc.

DT: “MMA is on the rise in Liverpool. There’s so much raw talent coming through now in the UK as a whole but Liverpool seems to be the heart right now. They’re looking to us for inspiration and it’s going to be scary in 10 years what these kids are going to be up to.”

Q: Is there a ‘Team Liverpool’ connection with Paddy?

DT: “Yeah there has to be doesn’t there. We have to stick together because it’s only a small city.”

Q: “What are your thoughts on his £1m Barstool contract?”

DT: “He’s a kid from Huyton making a million quid! Who would’ve thought that was possible? It’s the best thing you can do in this sport and he’s showing there’s no limits. It can be achieved and anything is possible.”

Q: Rumour has it that headline MMA fighters operating under Jake Paul’s PFL banner will earn up to 50% of PPV revenue! Thoughts on this? 

DT: “If they’re getting the cheddar then fair play to them! He’s got everyone talking about him and you’ve got to respect it whether he can really fight or not.”

Q: Any interest in fighting in the PFL in the future?

DT: “Maybe yeah. It’s absolutely growing so big right now. Brendan Loughnane obviously just won a million dollars and the PFL World Championship. They’re getting to sign some big names right now even from the UFC. So that could happen yeah. I could go and make some money there.”

Q: Would you ever fight a YouTuber?

DT: ”I’d have to say yes. That’s where the money is. Even if maybe I didn’t really want to, because it’s tough to turn it down financially. Close your eyes and say yes and sign on the dotted line!”

Q: Do you respect Jake Paul for what he’s done in the boxing ring so far? 

DT: “I think he’s training really hard and putting 100% into it now. Again we have to respect it but let’s wait and see when he gets some tougher fights against more accomplished opponents. He’s kept proving the doubters wrong so yeah, keep making the money and doing what you’re doing.”