5 Cage Warriors fighters who went on to become UFC stars

Image via Instagram @danhardymma Image via Twitter @Cagewarriors
Image via Instagram @danhardymma Image via Twitter @Cagewarriors

UK MMA promotion Cage Warriors has been one of the UFC's go-to talent pools for upcoming European fighters for the past decade. Some of MMA's biggest stars began their careers in the organization and there will without a doubt be many more to come.

Cage Warriors has another trilogy of events coming up shortly, with a plethora of European talent being showcased. With that in mind, there is no better time to take a look at just how successful some of the UK organization's alumni have been.

A number of former Cage Warriors fighters have signed with the UFC, who currently come under the category of rising prospects, including Jack Shore, Mason Jones and Cory McKenna. They may well feature on a future list, but will be omitted from this one, as we instead focus on fighters who have at least broken into the top 10 of their respective divisions.

#5 Jack Hermansson - UFC middleweight

Hailing from Sweden and Norway, Jack 'The Joker' Hermansson is one of the top middleweights in the world right now. He is currently ranked sixth in the UFC's 185-pound division, having recently defeated Edmen Shahbazyan via unanimous decision.

Hermansson competed multiple times for the Cage Warriors promotion, with his third professional fight being for the organization. Whilst he did take occasional breaks to fight for other promotions such as Bellator, Hermansson ammased a record of 7-0 for Cage Warriors, which saw the UFC take notice and offer him a contract in 2016.

#4 Dan Hardy - Former UFC welterweight

Dan Hardy is one of the earliest examples of a fighter using the Cage Warriors platform to build up his notoriety and propel himself into the UFC. Hardy had the chance to become one of only two English UFC champions when he took on Georges St-Pierre in 2010, although as so many others did, he came up short against the Canadian legend.

Similar to Hermansson, Hardy's third pro fight was with Cage Warriors, where he forced Andy Melia to tap to strikes. He went on to have a highly successful Cage Warriors career, competing multiple times and eventually capturing the promotion's welterweight title.

#3 Joanna Jędrzejczyk - UFC women's strawweight

Unlike Hardy and Hermansson, former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk only competed once under the Cage Warriors banner. Prior to that appearance, Jędrzejczyk had competed in a host of regional shows such as Fight Nights Global, PLMMA and Arena MMA.

But it was her performance for Cage Warriors that served as the final catalyst for her ascent to the UFC. She was able to finish UK veteran Rosi Sexton in the second round, guaranteeing her ticket to the big show. After signing for the UFC, Jędrzejczyk wbuilt one of the greatest winning streaks in women's MMA history, capturing the title and defending it multiple times.

#2 Michael Bisping - Former UFC middleweight

Before signing with the UFC, Michael Bisping was dominating the UK regional scene, picking up wins in multiple promotions. But it was at Cage Warriors where he truly made a name for himself.

'The Count' captured the light heavyweight belt in 2005. He then defended it three times, as well as picking up the FX3 light heavyweight belt along the way. It was this run of dominance that saw him picked to be a contestant on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter.

He won the tournament and was instantly signed by the UFC. After a career of ups and downs that saw him come tantalizingly close to winning the belt, many began writing the Englishman off. However, in 2016 he stepped in on short notice to face his long-term rival Luke Rockhold for the 185-pound gold. The rest is history, as 'left hook Larry' was born, and England had its first and only UFC champion.

#1 Conor McGregor - UFC lightweight

That's right, MMA's biggest star came up from Cage Warriors. Not only did McGregor use the promotion to build his name, he took two of its belts home with him.

He actually began his Cage Warriors career with a loss against Joe Duffy, another Cage Warriors fighter to go on and compete for the UFC. Duffy submitted McGregor, which seemingly lit a fire under the Irishman. He tore through the promotion, picking up six straight victories and competed for the promotion's featherweight title.

He won the belt via submission, the only one of his career. McGregor then moved up to lightweight, where he faced Ivan Buchinger for the lightweight belt. Buchinger didn't get out of the first round as McGregor artfully KO'd him, securing both the Cage Warriors belt and a UFC contract.

Since then he has become the biggest star in the history of MMA, winning both the 145 and 155-pound belts, moving up to 170-pounds to face Nate Diaz twice and even crossing over to boxing for a multi-million deal fight against Floyd Mayweather.

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Edited by Harvey Leonard
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