They say it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock’n’roll. If you only recently caught wind of Jack Cartwright, the reigning Cage Warriors bantamweight champ, you’d be forgiven for thinking that was no longer true. In an incredulous performance late last year, Cartwright knocked out two top contenders in a row to wrap up the 125lb tourney deciding the new champ, crowning himself the division’s new king in what was his first ever Cage Warriors appearance. Not a bad first night on the job if you ask me.
But behind this seemingly overnight success is a lifetime of grind. With Cartwright set to defend his belt again in a matter of weeks, I thought I’d shed some light on the background of this young professionally-undefeated Mancunian.
Born in Bolton, Greater Manchester, Jack Cartwright seemed destined for a combat sports career from the word go. He vividly recalls obsessing over martial arts movies and Ricky Hatton as early as he can remember. At 5 years old, he started his first martial art, kickboxing.
Not satisfied with a single sport for long, Cartwright began wrestling three years later. He loved it and showed serious promise, but again, it wasn’t enough for the young martial arts maniac. So, at 13, he added boxing to the list too. It’s no wonder Cartwright can remember no time in his life where he wanted to do anything but martial arts. The lad’s been chipping away from day one.
Mixed Martial Artist
By 2013, Jack Cartwright had national championships to his name in both boxing and wrestling. He branched out from his main stomping ground of Saul Rogers MMA to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at SBG Manchester. Soon after, he was ready to make a proper go of MMA. Clearly, he was a force to be reckoned with before he ever set foot in the cage.
From his first few amateur fights, Cartwright had an air of confident conviction about him that’s always evident in young fighters who later achieve great things. His heavy-handed style was also there from the beginning. Cinder-block fists thrown with unflinching confidence and precision, his wrestling pedigree reserved for staving off desperate shots from discouraged opponents.
His amateur days turned out superb, if not entirely flawless. In 7 bouts, his single defeat came at the hands of a young Sam Spencer. Sam caught Cartwright in a watertight triangle choke after a round and a half of back-and-forth brawl. To this day, that is Cartwright’s one and only loss in MMA. He earned himself a variety of victories, but his penchant for early first-round finishes was already becoming apparent. This trend continued when he turned pro, and was part of what got him into title contention relatively early in his career.
Jack made his professional MMA debut against Kane Goldup in February 2017 for Tanko FC. He finished the lad in 36 seconds. His next fight with Alexis Giannakopoulos lasted only 10 seconds longer. A sneaky Guillotine choke from Cartwright forced a tap 46 seconds into the first round. Two fights in, less than two minutes cage-time. MMA doesn’t pay by the hour, after all.
Jack’s third bout was against Carl “The Honeybadger” Burton in the Full Contact Contender promotion. After a few back-and-forth strikes, Burton started grappling, pushing Cartwright to the fence and pining for a takedown. Jack’s wrestling credentials kept him on his feet long enough to chance a flying guillotine on Burton’s exposed neck. He ended up pulling guard to try and secure the submission, but the plan backfired, as Burton slipped out. He was now on top of Cartwright and in a right old hurry to capitalise on his advantage. Sadly for Burton, that advantage disappeared as quickly as it arrived. After a beautiful sweep and reversal from Cartwright, Burton ended up on bottom. Jack now had access to The Honeybadger’s back, which he took immediate advantage of, tying up a rear-naked choke and forcing a tap to finish the fight.
Compared to his previous fights, this was a long night in the office for Cartwright, lasting a whopping 1 minute and 36 seconds. Now 3-0, all of Jack’s pro fights were first-round finishes. His notoriety was growing.
Next came Almir Jose da Silva, clashing Cartwright early in 2019. A rare keylock choke earned Jack yet another first round stoppage. After Silva, Cartwright caught Damian Keres in a D’arce choke in (you guessed it) the very first round. 5-0, and the lad hadn’t seen a round 2.
For a fighter primarily known for constant pressure and throwing heat, Cartwright was also getting an interesting number of submission wins, something his SBG teammate Jake Bond has an interesting theory to explain:
“He’s got a mixed finish rate with knockouts and submissions”, Jake told the Cage Warriors camera crew in a recent “Day in the Life” video following Jack Cartwright, “and they’d all be knockouts, but they shoot on him because they feel the power, and no one wants to stand with him. You gotta be brave, or stupid, or both.”
I’m inclined to agree. Speaking to Jack later, he adds to Bond’s statement, and explains why his wrestling chops are mainly used for defence: “that’s what everyone likes isn’t it. I’d rather be a fan favourite than a boring little crotch-hugger”. Looking at how quickly Cartwright earned himself a title shot, it’s hard to fault his logic.
Cage Warriors – Get the Strap
With his boisterous personality, exciting performances and tendency for early wins, Jack’s contract with Cage Warriors was all but assured. Soon enough, he got it, and signed with the promotion to enter their bantamweight tournament to decide the new 125lb king. The belt sat vacant after Welshman Jack Shore left to sign with the UFC. Now, it was on.
As mentioned earlier, Jack fought twice that night. He first took on up-and-comer Scott “Boom Boom” Malone. Malone was 6-1 at the time, his only loss coming from former champ Jack Shore. A tough man to beat to be sure.
Related: Scott Malone: The Fighting Scotsman
An excellent grappler, Malone shot for a rapid takedown attempt 30 seconds in. It was a determined effort that I believe would have taken any other man to the mat, but a lovely sprawl from Cartwright quashed the attempt. After some unsuccessful scrambling around the cage, Malone realised it was going nowhere and disengaged, throwing a cheeky leg kick on the break for good measure. At this point, I don’t know whether he switched off for just a millisecond, or whether you just can’t blink when fighting Cartwright, but within a second of the kick landing, Cartwright had launched a crisp one-two down the pipe, landing on Malone’s chin and sending the Scotsman to the mats.
Cartwright seized the opportunity and pounced on Malone, tying him up in a couple of quick-fire submission attempts. To Scott’s credit, his crafty grappling enabled him to survive and rise to his feet again, but at this point it was all academic. Cartwright was ready, and as soon as Malone threw another shot, Jack again countered beautifully with another one-two. Just like that, his first fight of the night was over. With another first-round finish, Cartwright proceeded to his next fight with zero damage taken, barely out of breath.
Moving onto the finals, the Mancunian now had Marko Kovacevic (5-0) in front of him, after Marko won his first of the night in a dominating three-round performance against Josh “Crazy Horse” Reed. You’re probably sick of hearing this by now, but yes, Cartwright knocked the man out in the first round, in under two minutes, no less. This unassuming lad from Manchester was now the undisputed Cage Warriors bantamweight champion, with less than 15 minutes of cage-time to show for it. He made it look easy.
Jack’s dream, like many a European fighter, is to one day sign that fabled UFC contract. But until that happened, all that was now left to do was defend his belt and wait for the call. Jack’s first title defence was against Manuel Bilic on the 7th of March this year. This would be Cage Warriors’ final event before the pandemic halted us all in our tracks. In an interesting change of pace for the first round finish artist, the fight went the full 25-minute distance. It remained a dominant performance for the champ, but credit must be given to Bilic for eating everything Cartwright threw at him and staying in the fight. If there were any questions about Cartwright’s gas tank, since the guy hadn’t seen past the second round since amateur, consider them answered.
And now, we’re up to date. Jack Cartwright will next fight Gerardo Fanny, also 8-0, scheduled for Cage Warriors’ upcoming return to action in their trilogy series of fights this month. Seeing how many top prospects the UFC adopts from Cage Warriors, I don’t imagine it will be long before Cartwright joins Dana White’s army if he comes out on top again later this month. And with his unfiltered attitude and electric performances, I for one can’t wait to see him mix it up with some of the top bantamweights in the world.
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