Almighty: Welcome to the UFC, Arnold Allen

arnold allenMany (but not too many) years ago, I traveled to East London’s Troxy, home of UCMMA; the spiritual successor to Cage Rage. I don’t recall who headlined the show, but I’ll never forget the seventeen year old kid about halfway up the card who pulled off the evening’s most impressive and memorable feat. As I settled back into my seat after the intermission, I was expecting to see a highly touted Thai Boxer (who’d sold a lot of tickets) from a local gym tear somebody to bits. That somebody was Arnold Allen. I’d heard some whispers; Allen was legit, Allen was the real deal. He was born and bred into the fistic arts; his dad – Pacer Allen – was an old school scraper and notoriously tough as old boots, so said the likes of Luke Barnatt, and John Maguire of Cambridge’s Tsunami Gym. There was this kid – they’d told me – to keep an eye out for. Little Arnold. Things didn’t go entirely to plan. Arnold took his licks on the feet, for sure. But when he got his takedowns he passed the guard like a hot knife through butter. He wasn’t there to send someone else’s fans home happy. Still, as the round ended Arnold got caught; many a heart shot up into many a throat. And then, solace. The bell. A minute’s respite. Back into the fray. What happened next Nostradamus himself couldn’t have predicted. Backed up into the wire mesh by some wild Muay Thai, Allen looked to be in peril. His opponent smelled blood and pounced. It was over, surely. Finished. Time to go home and re-evaluate. Learn from the mistake. Come back stronger. Nobody had told Allen the script. As his man pounced, Arnold unleashed an overhand strike straight from the bowels of hell. The shot’s arching trajectory sent it sailing like a smouldering comet straight into his opponent’s jaw. Reality splintered and when it had re-ordered itself, Arnold stood hands high while the other man was a footnote on his Wikipedia page. Fast forward: Allen fought in the UK and Middle East for Cage Warriors, quickly becoming one of the promotion’s leading prospects. As a by-product of the Middle East MMA scene’s almost rabid nature, Allen became something of a local celebrity in Jordan. He would get mobbed at the mall and hassled for pictures at the public weigh-ins. When his image was displayed on the arena’s big screens, young girls screamed. In the cage he was always impressive. The sheer level of raw talent and ability appealed to the purists. His natural wit and the fact that his style – as matter of fact as it is – is so incredibly fun to watch, drew in the casuals. Simply put, if you were aware of the UK/European scene over the past few years, you knew the name Arnold Allen…for all the right reasons. With only a single blemish on his ledger, many questioned why Allen hadn’t yet received the nod. With the demise of Cage Warriors, those calls grew louder. At least one organization attempted to match him with fellow CWFC standout Paddy Pimblett, but a conflict of interest (they share the same management, and were both close to a UFC call up) put paid to that dream scenario. And then an injury. A gift. For Allen, one man’s misfortune was his opportunity to change his life. Little Arnold grasped it with both hands. Look out for his punches. Look out for his ground game. Look out for his takedowns, his guard passing and the fact that he’s tough as vintage leather. Be terrified that he is still a young man and could be half a decade or more from peaking. Fear his potential, for he has much. Forget his limits, for he has few. He is Almighty.

Written by Brad Wharton

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