Darren “The Gorilla” Till has been Britain’s biggest MMA star since hall of famer Michael Bisping decided to hang up his gloves for good back in 2018. Born and raised in Liverpool, the now 27 year-old scouser bears a 18-3-1 record, and his meteoric rise through the UFC ranks is an incredible story.
Till started training in Muay Thai as a child, and his technical ability as a striker, along with his use of the clinch shows how it remains the core of his game today. He turned pro at the age of 15, becoming a K-1 kickboxing champion before transitioning to MMA two years later.
Yet after being stabbed twice in a nightclub brawl, Till’s long-time coach and mentor, Colin Heron, urged him to move away from distractions in Liverpool to continue training under Marcelo Brigadeiro in Balneário Camboriú, Brazil, aged just 19. Till claims that doctors thought one of his wounds was an extremely short fraction away from a position that would have caused certain death.
While in Brazil, he learned to speak Portuguese fluently, and built his MMA record to an impressive 13-0, finishing 11 of those fights. He has embraced Brazil as a crucial part of his identity as a man and development as a martial artist, bearing both the Union Jack and the Brazilian green and yellow on a few of his walkouts.
Despite his nationality, Till has fought many more times professionally in Brazil than he has in the UK, having only fought once in Liverpool and once again in London.
He arrived in the UFC in 2015 as a huge welterweight, towering above most of his opponents. His personality, drive and fighting ability quickly got him over as a potential star and title contender.
Okay, so no more monkeying around, let’s swing onto the vine of The Gorilla’s career and his Top 5 MMA Finishes (in descending order)!
- Vs. Dai Cook – AFC 7 (April 7, 2012)
- Vs. Wendell de Oliveira – UFC 67 (May 30, 2015)
- Vs. Richard Taylor – OMMAC 14 (July 28, 2012)
- Vs. Junior Dietz – Super Fight: Forja de Campeões (May 4, 2013)
- Vs. Donald Cerrone — UFC 118 (Oct. 21, 2017)
We start off our countdown with one of the very first clinical showcases put on by Till. Competing as a nineteen year-old amateur, only a few months before a life changing incident saw him move countries, he demonstrated that regardless of training, he was built for combat.
A very small cage gave him the opportunity to unleash his tenacity as opposed to his footwork and technical ability. He exploded out of the first round, eventually finding a right hand counter to put Cook down with, finishing the fight via TKO.
At his UFC debut, it was clear that the twenty two-year old Till had the adversity of nerves to overcome. He started the fight off quite slowly, showing a lot of patience in finding his shots, receiving a few punishing leg kicks from Oliveira, and perhaps losing the round.
However, round two saw the real Darren Till open up, immediately engaging in the clinch and securing a takedown, where he was able to finish off Oliveira via ground and pound elbows.
Brian Stann, UFC color commentator at the time, noted it as ‘the most dynamic performance to date’ from Till.
Going back to his amateur years again, Till’s bout against Rich Taylor saw one of his most vicious displays of Muay Thai to date.
Much of the early part of his career was packed with first round finishes, with Till being so far ahead of all of his opponents in the stand-up realm.
After a steady back and forth, the signature Muay Thai clinch was all Till needed to bring the contest to a close. He landed numerous knees, until one managed to hoist Taylor off of his feet, knocking him down and rendering him unable to continue.
In his third professional fight, Till showed off a solid roundedness to his approach in less than a round.
From the clinch he was able to secure double under hooks and subsequently a powerful throw, giving him the opportunity to show the development of his ground game. He passed Dietz’ guard repeatedly, achieving full mount briefly before returning to the feet.
In the end, it was Till’s bread and butter Muay Thai that earned him the finish, landing vicious knees in the clinch and a heavy right hand on Dietz, putting him out for a TKO stoppage.
Certain fighters will have career-defining performances that make them megastars in combat sports. For Darren Till, he knew the opportunity to fight the legendary “Cowboy” Cerrone would give him that gigantic promotional push that young, up-and-coming stars crave.
In the eyes of many casual fans, little was known about Darren Till heading into this fight, contrasting with Cerrone’s far more extensive legacy inside the octagon. Straight out of the gate, it was easy to acknowledge how big Till was at welterweight, towering over his opponent and walking him down.
Till showed strong takedown defence, and looked as comfortable as ever as he landed more and more blows with Cerrone pressed against the cage. It eventually became too much when Till landed a strong elbow and left hand, breaking Cerrone’s nose and finishing him in the first round. Till earned his first Performance of the Night bonus and became one of the better known fighters in the UK, and has remained in the top ranks of the UFC ever since.