Craig White signs with the UFC, set to make debut at UFC Liverpool

Craig White

Craig White has signed with the UFC, becoming the 86th fighter from Cage Warriors to make the jump.

UFC broke the news on Tuesday afternoon, confirming White’s debut for May 27 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. White also confirmed to DreySports the deal extends to four fights inside the Octagon.

A late notice call-up, White (14-7) walks straight into the co-main event slot of UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Till against Neil Magny. 

A knee injury requiring surgery saw Magny’s original opponent Gunnar Nelson withdraw from the card, paving the way for Cage Warriors welterweight title contender to sign with the world’s premier MMA organisation.

Not many people get the chance to co-headline for their debut for the promotion,” White told DreySports after the news broke. “The fact that I’m having that chance, it being against such an accomplished fighter and for the UFC, well come on. What more could you ask for?

“Magny has fought the best for years now, he’s a great fighter and I’ve always been a fan of him. We all know it’s a huge step up in terms of opponent but that’s what I love most about this game, getting to prove yourself against such quality athletes. And I’ve always said I’ll fight anyone right?”

After winning four fights on the bounce, White sacrifices a guaranteed Cage Warriors title shot for a crack at the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He was initially booked to fight for the vacant gold at Cage Warriors 95 in London on July 21.

From the 2,000 capacity Indigo at the O2, to the sold out, 11,000 seater Echo Arena, White reacted: “I am genuinely gutted I miss out on the Cage Warriors title. Not that I was really aiming for it at the start, but I felt like I really did earn my shot at it and to actually get the opportunity to fight for it was a great feeling.

“I had a lot of support ready to come to London and watch on July 21st, so much that wasn’t allowed any more tickets to be sent to me. It is a shame I won’t get to fight for the title but fighting in the UFC, I’m sure I can settle for.”

Craig White: I was planning to have a BBQ for the bank holiday but that’s now completely gone down the drain.

Signing to the UFC can be life-changing, and as we have seen before with the likes of Brett Johns and Molly McCann, getting such news can be utterly emotional. For Craig White, however, it took a short while for its severity to sink in.

“To be fair it didn’t really register at first. All I went back with was ‘yeah, I think can fit into my busy schedule so don’t see why not’ and followed it up with a shoulder shrug,” he joked. “I was planning to have a BBQ for the bank holiday but that’s now completely gone down the drain. It was probably the most nonchalant reaction you could expect given the circumstance.

“Then over the next few minutes, as it started to sink in more, me and my coach Dave Matthews just couldn’t help but smile as we both realised what was actually happening. It really is a lot to register in a short space of time, especially when it comes down to it you don’t actually have much time to make the decision. Yeah, you get offered the chance to think about it. But what more is there to think about? It’s a simple, YES!”

Craig White

Craig White

As he discussed on an episode of Reflections earlier this year, White does not hide from the fact that he cuts a significant amount of weight to make the 170lb, welterweight limit. So with only two weeks to complete this cut, for the highest stakes of his career, how is White doing?

“The minute the fight got offered, I was straight to cutting weight as with those timescales, you really can’t afford to waste any time,” he said. “Obviously, it wasn’t a set thing at that point but any delays would have just made it far less achievable to make the weight. As a reassurance to everyone, I am very much on track for weight, despite the short notice, and didn’t even once consider requesting for a catchweight. Unlike some fighters.”

Training out of LD Fighters in Exmouth, White became more a CW fan favourite by defying the odds everytime he stepped into the cage. Until his most recent fight against Alex Montagnani, “The Thundercat” was the bookies’ perennial underdog.

The odds will be stacked against him once again on May 27,  especially with Magny’s record boasting names like Kelvin Gastelum, Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit. But if his journey to this moment is anything to go by, it’s that you should never, ever count out Craig White. 

“They’ve been the most eventful and successful of my MMA career without a doubt. And to think, it all started just because I stepped in for Che Mills against Thomas Robertsen at Cage Warriors 80. Like you said, a fight I wasn’t meant to win on paper. And that was definitely the most challenging fight of the four I had with Cage Warriors over the last 15 months. I see signing to the UFC the result of all the hard work I’ve put in since starting martial arts at age 11, although this wasn’t necessarily the goal back then.”

Images credit, Cage Warriors.