TNT Sports Reload - Episode 11Sep 26
An Almighty Effort
Arnold Allen has the chance to deliver on his potential as Britain’s next UFC championship hopeful when he makes his Octagon walk this Saturday night.
The softly spoken man from Ipswich has taken the scenic route to title contention since joining the UFC in 2015, crawling towards the top five in no great hurry despite amassing one of the promotion’s most impressive winning streaks.
Allen has only fought more than once in a calendar year on two occasions since making his UFC debut – but every time the 29-year-old has stepped foot into the hallowed Octagon, he’s made it count.
Having seen off the challenge of Calvin Kattar in October, that streak now runs into double digits (10), a fact that may surprise some given Allen’s relative lack of profile compared to others who have pieced together such a stunning run of form.
However, there’s no doubt Allen’s reputation will skyrocket if he triumphs on Saturday night in what is sure to be the toughest test of his title credentials yet, taking on the former pound-for-pound king and 145lb legend Max Holloway.
Allen, who works under the tutelage of revered MMA coach Fires Zahavi, has also struck up an allegiance with UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards in recent years, training alongside “Rocky” at the red-hot Team Renegade gym in Birmingham.
You see the champ in the corner sparring, it spurs you on a little bit more
- Arnold Allen
Speaking to the Kings of Anglia podcast recently, Allen discussed the benefits of spending time on the mat alongside one of the most talented men in the UFC.
"It's very good. Anytime you're in camp and there's a champion there, the levels are a bit higher,” he said.
“The work rate is a bit higher. Everyone's pushing a bit more. You see the champ in the corner sparring, it spurs you on a little bit more.
"That's a special thing to have, someone in the gym who's got a world title, who's achieved your dream, and shown it can be done. It makes it feel a whole lot more attainable when you see the guy coming in the gym with his belt and you see the work he puts in.”
It’s not the first time Allen has trained alongside one of the sport’s champions though having spent most of his early UFC camps working under Zahavi at the Canadian coach’s Tristar Gym in Montreal, watching the former two-weight UFC champion Georges St-Pierre up close and personal.
Allen will be hoping to some of that stardust has rubbed off on him over the years when he steps up to the top table to face an elite opponent on Saturday night.
Can Allen cause an “Almighty” upset – or will Holloway close the door on another surging contender in the featherweight division.
It’s feels like a while since the Blessed Express rolled into town – and for one of the UFC’s previously most active superstars, it has been.
Max Holloway has fought only once since November 2021, defeated by long-time rival Alexander Volkanovski to close their trilogy decisively last July and leave the beloved Hawaiian staring at an uncertain future in the sport.
Down 3-0 against the champion but demonstrably levels above many of those who occupy the rankings below him, Holloway was in a sticky spot before the ascent of Arnold Allen up the featherweight ladder.
The Brit has arrived at the perfect time for Holloway; fresh competition and a chance to prove himself as the top contender in the division once again.
I think he’s an animal man, you’ve gotta be 10-0 [in the UFC] for a reason
- Max Holloway
Holloway knows that even with a victory over Allen, it remains a long way back to contention – but the 31-year-old remains upbeat about the prospect of reclaiming the title one day soon.
“Anything can happen man, I go out there and make a statement, who’s to say what happens?” Holloway said at this week’s media day.
“We’re still here man. I’m just reminding people. I guess I got a little Roy Jones in me right now you know? Y’all must have forgot.
“I’m hearing everybody talking, I’m hearing the critics, hearing all the people on social media talking and I just can’t wait to go out there and show out.”
Among active fighters, Allen is behind only Jon Jones, Islam Makhachev and Leon Edwards for consecutive wins in the UFC having racked up 10 straight over the past few years.
As such, Holloway said he would show the surging contender the respect his record shows when the Octagon door closes on Saturday night.
“I think he’s an animal man, you’ve gotta be 10-0 [in the UFC] for a reason,” Holloway continued.
“He’s standing across from me for a reason. I’ve been there. I’ve been that hungry guy, 10-0. I’m hearing a lot of talk saying I’m old and stuff… I think I’m only two years older than him. People keep calling me a vet vet! I’m a vet, I love being called a vet – but I’m literally only two years older than this guy!
“He has a lot of questions, I have a lot of questions, we all get the answers on April 15.”
A featherweight firecracker
Two all-action 145lbers throw down in a co-main event that cannot fail to entertain as the legendary Edson Barboza takes on Billy Quarantillo in Kansas City.
Barboza, a stalwart of the promotion since 2010, returns to action following more than a year out rehabilitating a serious knee injury suffered during training last year.
The break may have come at a welcome time for the Brazilian veteran too, giving Barboza a chance to reassess his position in the promotion following a tricky spell in recent times.
Now 3-7 in his last 10 appearances, it’s been tough going for the 37-year-old who was once considered a legitimate title contender in the 155lb division.
Campaigning in recent times down at featherweight, Barboza briefly rediscovered winning form with two wins from his first three appearances at 145lb – but the legendary striker comes into this bout on a two-fight losing skid against a game opponent in Quarantillo.
I'm super excited about this one
- Billy Quarantillo
Always fun to watch, Quarantillo secured himself the biggest fight of his relatively young UFC career with a performance-bonus victory over Alexander Hernandez in December, stopping the 30-year-old in the second round at UFC 282.
The 34-year-old New Yorker now believes the time has come for him to seize the opportunity he has been craving against
“This fight has the potential to do the most for my career to get me to that next level,” he said.
“This could get me even bigger names down the road, that top 15 ranking, so obviously I’m super excited about this one.”
Barboza is renowned as one of the most accomplished kickers in the game while Quarantillo doesn’t know how to take a backwards step. Don’t miss this one!
Blood and thunder at 205lb
It’s set to be a similar story in this light-heavyweight clash as two brutes of the 205lb division go head-to-head when Dustin Jacoby faces the imposing Azamat Murzakanov.
Jacoby had gone seven undefeated in the UFC until coming up short against Khalil Rountree Jr on the scorecards last time out in a fight many feel “The Hanyak” was unlucky to lose.
But the 35-year-old can bounce back in perfect style this weekend by taking the undefeated record of Russian knockout machine Murzakanov.
Stoppage wins against Devin Clark and Tafon Nchukwi to begin his UFC career saw Murzakanov earn a ranking in quick time – and the man from Nalchik can take another leap up the ladder with a third win on the spin here.
Expect heavy leather thrown from the off with a combined 20 knockout victories from their 30 career wins.
We can’t wait!