Cage Warriors returned for the first event of their Trilogy series on Thursday the 24th of June, and it exceeded the European fight fan’s expectations. The first bout of the night set the tone for the fights that followed as the card provided swift finishes, back and forth battles, and the middleweight championship-changing hands.
I had the pleasure of catching up with featherweight Keir Harvie after a magnificent Cage Warriors debut.
Cage Warriors 123 preliminary card was over in a flash. If you blinked, had a toilet break, or left the room for a second, you missed the action. The four bouts on the prelims all ended in the first round. Higher Level MMA’s standout performer was Keir Harvie on the night, who took on a formidable and dangerous opponent in Manny Akpan and finished him by submission via arm triangle. Many doubted the 23-year old against Akpans skill-set, but that didn’t phase him one bit, and by the celebration after being victorious, he never doubted himself.
Is The Cage Warriors Contract In Sight For Keir Harvie?
After referee Dan Movahedi saw Akpan go limp and called the fight, a fired-up and bloody Keir Harvie pranced around the Cage Warriors octagon calling for his contract, and I think he may get it.
The fight started with Harvie walking forward, pressing Akpan’s back against the cage and trying to make the SBG Manchester fighter as uncomfortable as possible. Instead, Harvie adopted a robust and wide stance in the opening seconds of the bout, which allowed him to move in and out promptly and out the way of danger.
It took Manny Akpan some time to set himself and figure Harvie out due to his pressure. The Englishman looked the most uncomfortable we’ve seen him in his pro career, swinging wild haymakers and looking for the highlight-reel finish.
There was a moment in the opening two minutes where Harvie looked to follow through with a double leg against the fence and ate a barrage of elbows, being cut open, before successfully completing the takedown. That was the only real scare for Harvie, but he shrugged it off.
Both competitors fought for positions on the mat which resulted in Harvie in half guard, taking mount, transitioning into side control, and then sinking in the arm-triangle choke, with a squeeze so tight, shutting Akpans lights out. Debuts on major organizations don’t come much sweeter.
Both competitors fought for positions on the mat, which resulted in Harvie in half guard, taking mount, transitioning into side control, and then sinking in the arm-triangle choke, with a squeeze so tight, shutting Akpans lights out. Debuts on major organizations don’t come much sweeter.
What are the emotions like after such a great debut in a major organisation? Have you had time to take it all in with several more of your teammates competing over the weekend?
Keir Harvie – “Yeah, by the morning after it has settled in, it’s been a great experience, of course, but honestly hasn’t felt too different to any other fight. I never built it up in my head at all. My job is now done. I’m looking forward to watching the boys go out and do their thing.”
When preparing for the bout, was the game-plan put pressure on Akpan and walk him down from the get-go? Do you feel you implemented the game plan to full effect? I ask, as fighters are always their most prominent critics, especially after such a solid win?
Keir Harvie – “Yeah, the plan was definitely to pressure, as you saw, because it nullifies those wild attacks he was attempting. He didn’t like the pressure at all. Overall I am happy. I could have seen it going 2 or 3 rounds, so for it to be over in 1 is perfect. He’s swift, powerful, and athletic, so it’s hard not to get hit. I would have liked to have avoided those elbows to the side of my head, but it is what it is. I survived his onslaught and finished him as soon as I got the opportunity.”
Coming off a loss at the end of 2020, did you feel any pressure leading into this fight, potentially because of the occasion such as Cage Warriors, or were you just prepared, ready to go, and get back in there after 7-months out of action?
Keir Harvie – “Honestly, I wasn’t under that much pressure. A loss is never great, but Milad did nothing but lay on me for three rounds, and he was a lot bigger. I technically was better than him almost everywhere, and we knew Manny wouldn’t be able to do the same. I go out to finish, so it doesn’t surprise me. I’d get a shot on CW over a negative style like his, and I proved that. I hit the gym hard in January, so by the time this fight came around, I was more than ready to go.”
The short time you were in there with Akpan, is there anything that surprised you?
Keir Harvie – “No, I don’t think I was too surprised by anything he tried, if anything that he was so wild and sloppy.”
When you had Akpan against the fence looking for the double-leg when he fired multiple elbows to your head, was there any point where you were hurt and in danger, and or were you completely focused on securing the takedown? Also, was it the elbows that cut you?
Keir Harvie – “There was one of them that rung my bell, that’s when I moved my head but nothing too bad, was never out of it. Yeah, I got a little cut from one of them only got one stitch in it, but it was the nose that was bleeding more. That’s just a bloody nose, nothing major.”
The adrenaline must have been sky-high when the referee stopped the fight. You jumped around the cage calling for the contract. Without giving too much away, have there been talks yet, and can we expect to see you on CW again?
Keir Harvie – “Yeah, I’ve spoken with Ian Dean, and I’m sure they’ll have me back.”
The Scottish MMA scene has always been behind most countries, but it’s booming at the minute, and it’s great to see the fighters representing the country on the biggest stage. So how do you view the Scottish MMA scene at the minute, and where do you expect to see it in the next five-ten years?
Keir Harvie – “It’s just getting better and better, especially as more guys are coming up the amateur scene and moving to pro. I felt the love from Scotland last night. It was all of us against them.”
You looked so loose, fresh, and elusive out there. Everything about the performance seemed like a man full of confidence. I’m unsure of the extent of the nose or cut, so forgive me, but would you be looking to make a quick turnaround to build some momentum if the opportunity arises?
Keir Harvie – “I was. I had visualized a lot of it and just knew my style matched up well to his. I do have a few knocks, so I’m in no rush to get right back in. I think September or October time would be ideal.”
Lastly, what has the atmosphere and team spirit like in the gym with multiple guys training for the trilogy?
Keir Harvie – “The run-up to this event has been great, but I was happy to be out first, so I can now just relax and watch the boys.”
Featured Image Credits to: Higher Level MMA