New Year’s Eve is generally a night off for MMA, but not this past year. Last Saturday night, UK-based promotion Cage Warriors scheduled their last show of 2022, Cage Warriors 148, on the year’s last night. Initially, Cage Warriors 148 was supposed to have featured three title fights at the top of the show from Indigo at the O2 Arena.
Saturday morning, however, things changed.
Cage Warriors 148 Main Event Scrubbed on Day of the Event
The night’s itinerary was to have concluded with the battle for the Cage Warriors Middleweight Championship in the originally scheduled Cage Warriors 148 main event. Plans quickly changed upon news breaking that Jesse Taylor (33-16 MMA, 2-1 CWFC) would be pulled from the card due to his involvement in a hit-and-run accident late Friday night. Taylor was slated to compete for the middleweight championship for the second time under the Cage Warriors
Then-incumbent champion Christian Duncan (8-0 MMA, 8-0 CWFC), who was scheduled to have fought Taylor for the belt the next evening, was pulled from the card. Cage Warriors released a statement on the matter.
“The former champion was involved in a hit and run in London on Friday night, after which he was taken to a nearby hospital,” the statement read. “Taylor was kept in overnight and discharged on Saturday morning, but has not been medically cleared to compete.”
Due to the eleventh-hour cancellation of the originally advertised main event, what was to have been the Cage Warriors 148 co-main event for the light heavyweight championship between UFC alum Modestas Bukauskas (13-5 MMA, 7-1 CWFC) and Bellator MMA alum Chuck Campbell (5-2 MMA, 2-1 CWFC) was elevated to headlining status. Bukauskas reclaimed the light heavyweight title with a fourth-round knockout due to punches.
Graham Boylan Weighs In on Cage Warriors 148 Main Event Postponement
After the cancellation of the original main event for last Saturday night, Cage Warriors President Graham Boylan took to Twitter on Saturday morning to offer his thoughts about what transpired.
“Good morning, everybody,” Boylan began. “London, New Year’s Eve, 2022. Cage Warriors 148. Some breaking news for you: Jesse Taylor is out of the main event versus Christian Leroy Duncan. Jesse was involved in a hit-and-run on the mean streets of Greenwich at 1 am this morning. He’s been taken to hospital, he was kept in overnight, he’s had MRIs, he’s had checks and released this morning around 8:30 am.”
Boylan assured viewers that Taylor would be all right and had already returned to the hotel that he’d been staying at in London during fight week. Duncan was notified of the change in plans ahead of the fight’s cancellation.
“There’s never a dull moment and there’s always drama in this game,” he said of the postponement. “But the main thing is, everybody’s okay.”
While Duncan lost his opportunity to defend the title, he’d still come away as the night’s biggest winner over the weekend.
Christian Duncan Scores UFC Deal
Hours later, at the top of the broadcast of Cage Warriors 148’s main card, Boylan and Duncan appeared to deliver some breaking news.
“It’s not every day that we get a phone call at 8:30 in the morning to say that one side of the main event has been involved in a hit-and-run in London,” the former began. “But with Jesse recovering and being totally fine, with every cloud, there’s a silver lining. It’s rare that we bring on a champion to talk about not fighting.”
At that moment, Duncan told everyone watching the good news.
“First and foremost, I want to wish Jesse a speedy and healthy recovery,” Duncan said. “It’s a freak accident, what happened, you couldn’t write what happened. There’s a lot of things happening in this game (that are) out of our control, and unfortunately, this was one of them. I was looking forward to this fight. Jesse, one of the most experienced fighters on the planet in MMA, he would have been a great test for me, especially with the plans going forward to be going up to the next level. But saying that, at this time, I think we’ve made a decision. I’ll be handing this belt back to Cage Warriors, and then next year, 2023, London, March, be looking for me at my UFC debut.”
No Opponent Named For Duncan at Present Time
The UFC is scheduled to make a return trip to London on March 18 with UFC 286, the second pay-per-view event in three weeks from the promotion, after having made two visits to London in 2022. Since the news just broke last Saturday, there’s no word on who Duncan’s opponent might be for his promotional debut.
A day before the UFC returns to London, Cage Warriors 150 will be held at the same Indigo at the O2 Arena on March 17. No concrete details have been made for Cage Warriors’ second card of the new year. It should be an interesting weekend for MMA in London, as the main O2 Arena plays host to UFC 286 the next night.
At the core, Saturday’s announcement should come as no shock to anybody who follows the international MMA scene.
Duncan’s Promotion Clearly Earned
Throughout his eight professional MMA fights, the now-former middleweight champion has shown that he’s proven himself worthy of a contract in the sport’s top promotion. He didn’t just get to where he’s going to be in March overnight.
He’s fought eight opponents thus far in his career and has yet to taste defeat. Had the fight been able to go ahead on Saturday and Duncan won to run his streak to nine fights in a row, the argument could definitely be made that he’d be getting called up to the UFC.
Duncan on Dana White’s Radar Already?
It’s quite possible, if not likely, that UFC President Dana White would have had Christian Duncan’s name on the shortlist for a call-up to his promotion for some time before the events of Saturday night transpired. An eight-fight winning streak, with all of those wins coming under the Cage Warriors banner, is impossible to ignore.
Had Duncan fought and won against Jesse Taylor over the holiday weekend, Dana White would have definitely called the former up for a meeting to welcome him to the UFC. If there hadn’t been a decision to call up the former champion after Saturday night, it would have been a major error by White and the UFC.
There isn’t much more left to say about Duncan receiving a promotion to the UFC except this: Duncan is a guy whose call-up to MMA’s top promotion is richly deserved. He’s shown that he’s capable of coming through in high-stakes scenarios.
Now, with Duncan joining the UFC’s roster, the stakes are at their highest. If he’s able to string together wins in the UFC like he did in Cage Warriors, he’ll be the middleweight champion in short order.
Best of luck to Christian Duncan in his UFC tenure.
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