Cage Warriors bantamweight champion Jack Shore spoke to Pundit Arena MMA as he gears up for the first defense of his title at CW104 on Saturday night.
Shore represents perhaps the most promising talent of all of those at forefront of the growing Welsh mixed martial arts scene at the moment, joining UFC stars Brett Johns, Jack Marshman, and John Phillips in leading the country’s charge on a global scale.
Speaking to us here at Pundit Arena MMA, he explained how this recent surge in the national scene can be felt on many levels.
“Welsh MMA is booming. There’s a big buzz around the sport at the minute. There are local people now who have probably never watched MMA but now everyone knows who Jack Marshman, Brett Johns, and John Phillips are.
“My name is out there now with the local shows. I’ve done interviews with BBC, ITV where three years before it was unheard of – them covering MMA events. So it’s getting bigger and bigger. It’s a great time to be involved. It’s a pleasure to be a part of and contributing to that.”
Since capturing the promotional bantamweight strap that was once held by UFC rostered 135lb-rs Brett Johns and Nathaniel Wood, the question has become closer to ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Jack would be called up to the UFC.
In his eyes, it does seem to be an inevitability but even still, he explained how winning his first world title in Cardiff is something that will not soon be topped.
“It was perfect. It was a long time coming. I was due to fight for the belt in September, but due to pullouts it couldn’t happen. So to then fight for it in December in front of a home-town in what was, at the time, Cage Warriors’ biggest card to date – it was massive.
“To main-event is something that will never be taken away from me. I’m grateful for the event and the opportunity but now, it’s on to bigger and better things.”
There’s a healthy level of ambition to be found in the words of Jack Shore and a general acknowledgement of where his career trajectory will take him.
The bright lights of the UFC will undoubtedly be arriving soon for the 24-year-old if he continues to win as he has won up until this point.
A few years ago, however, that opportunity came around for Shore in a moment that, in hindsight, could well have seen him under that spotlight too early.
The UFC called upon his services about three or four years ago – an offer the future CW champ would turn down. In explaining the decision, he made it clear that he believes that the correct choice was made.
“I have no regrets, I was very young at the time. I was 20 years of age or 21 years of age, had only three or so pro-fights to my name. To go there at the time would have been too much too soon for me. Now, I feel like I’ve gained valuable experience and I’ve gotten fights against very high-level opponents where I continue to perform and prove the level that I’m at.
“No regrets on that front and obviously I am sure that the opportunity will arise in the future.
“Obviously as a young kid the UFC was always the dream. At the time, I wanted to jump on it, but that’s why I have my managers my coaches there to advise me correctly and not allow me to make rash decisions. They play a big part in my career so when they said ‘look let’s leave it, let’s get more experience’, I trusted in their judgement and the choice they made.
Now 10-0 and with the opportunity to move to eleven-straight wins on Saturday night, Shore cites those added fights on the regional scene as imperative steps in his growth towards maturity.
As a 3-0 prospect, thrusting himself into the wild world of the UFC could well have done irreparable damage to the natural rhythm of his rise. Adamant that he has used this time well, Jack’s confidence in the path he has walked has been evident for quite a while now.
“It’s just getting that cage-time in. I’ve got a high finish-rate and I feel like every performance I’m showing the world that I’m just getting better and putting on better performances. But I’m also doing it against better level guys. I’ve fought UFC veterans, I’ve fought unbeaten guys.
“I’ve dominated and put on class performances against those people. So that little bit of time to mature as a fighter, I think is only going to do good things for me when I look back on it.
Gegard Mousasi, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy, Conor McGregor.
All huge names who had at one time or another fought under the Cage Warriors banner. All fighters who eventually used the platform as a springboard into the mainstream eye.
And while the pressure of knowing that your big break is just around the corner could be a weight on the shoulders of some, Shore seemed to enjoy the idea of measuring himself against the standards set by these CW alumni.
“It helps me to put into perspective the level I’m at. You look at some of the guys who have won the Cage Warriors belt and where they’ve gone. Anyone who gets their hand on that title is obviously at a good level and deserves to be where they are.
“For me, it has always been one fight at a time. This is just another fight to me, another tough opponent and another stepping stone to push me further up that ladder.”
Cage Warriors 104 will see Shore step in there against Scott Malone, another hungry, streaking divisional contender who proved his elite-tier pedigree with a first-round submission victory over Josh Reed at December’s landmark CW100.
Although full of praise for Malone as a worthy opponent, ‘Tank’ has no doubt that the finish will come for him.
“I’m always in there to finish, it doesn’t matter who I’m in there against. If you aren’t, you’re not going to get anywhere in this sport. People love to see decisions, they don’t want to see drawn out decisions.
“You can expect to see more of the same as my career progresses. I’ll always be looking for that finish. Scott [Malone], he’s tough, he comes and brings the fight, he brings the pressure and I think we’re going to clash. It’s going to be a good fight for the fans.
“I do see myself getting that finish. I’m better in every area and I’m looking forward to showing that.”
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena