Could Arnold Allen follow in the footsteps of Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy to become Britain’s next great MMA star?
July 13, 2002, England’s own Ian “The Machine” Freeman stepped into the UFC’s famed Octagon on the promotions first excursion to the United Kingdom. As the cage door shut, Freeman was faced with imposing vision of Frank Mir standing opposite him, but the Brit was unfazed. As a former military man, Freeman had been forged for battle and even though he was a massive underdog, he bulldozed Frank Mir, scoring an early stoppage. Unbeknownst to Freeman, his acts in the cage that night set off a chain of events that would lead to the creation of a generation of elite British fighters that would follow in his foot steps and become UFC stars.
Ian Freeman’s heroics in the Royal Albert Hall on that July night acted as a catalyst for a new generation of fighting Brits. In the following years, the second wave fighters began to emerge. A tough-nosed Mancunian, Michael Bisping, led the charge of the modern day UK MMA fighter when he won The Ultimate Fighter season 3. He was soon followed by Rough House and their stable of strikers, which included Paul Daley, Dan Hardy, and “Judo” Jim Wallhead, who set the MMA world alight. But as the years have drifted by, the light began to dim and UKMMA became engulfed in a dark period.
The last 3 years have been among the worst for British fighters, with Dan Hardy’s hiatus and Michael Bisping’s faltering form, there has been a notable void in the British scene. No heir apparent has emerged to act as the figurehead for the fight movement and on a grass roots level, the quality of amateur fighters being produced around Britain has dropped in quality and has been noticeably eclipsed by the Irish amateur scene, which is quite shocking given the population disparity between the two nations.
For all the bad there is in the British fight scene there has been some good. Liam McGeary and Michael “Venom” Page have had some success on the international scene and Cage Warriors have acted as a decent cultivating system for inexperienced professional fighters, but the UK still hasn’t had a new star emerge within the world’s premier fighting organisation, the UFC. While Jimi Manuwa has shown glimpses of greatness over the last few years, he is on the wrong side of 30 and rather one dimensional. The next great hope for the British fight community emerged on Saturday night in Berlin.
Four years ago I heard rumblings about a young fighter from Ipswich who was going to be the “next big thing”. It’s not too uncommon to hear these things in MMA so usually I tend to err on the side of caution. As the months went by the whispers got louder, I began to take notice, YouTube clip after YouTube clip surfaced, of a teenager beating up grown men in both kickboxing and MMA bouts, but it wasn’t until I witnessed Arnold Allen manhandle Nathan Grayson, that I knew this guy was legit.
Arnold Allen isn’t a part time fighter – he eats, sleeps and breathes fighting. Allen didn’t fall into the world of professional fighting, this has been the calculated plan for the last few years. Allen decided against further education and college, choosing instead to dedicate his life to MMA under the tutelage of Jack Mason and BKK. Allen has immersed himself in the fight world as both a fighter and coach, in the process acquiring skills far surpassing his age.
On Saturday night Arnold Allen suffered adversity but this was to be expected. After all, Alan Omer is as tough as nails and Allen took the fight on a week’s notice. The measure of a man is his ability to deal with pressure, and Allen passed that test with flying colours by getting the late guillotine and now has got the difficult debut out of his way and is set to flourish.
Some might ask “what sets Allen aside from the rest of the young Brits in the UFC?” Well, Allen has age on his side. At just 21 years old, he is insanely talented with a BJJ purple belt under Lee Catling and some decent wrestling skills too, but it’s Allen’s personality that sets him aside. Like Ireland’s Conor McGregor, Allen is confident and funny but unlike the Irishman Allen’s ego is less inflated and far more relatable.
If Arnold Allen can sustain his growth as a fighter I believe he will come to the forefront of British MMA and act as the ambassador and inspiration that the UKMMA scene so desperately needs.