Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett was making waves even before he signed for the UFC but few could have predicted such a rapid rise to stardom.
The Liverpool fighter has already emerged as one of the promotion’s most captivating new stars, winning all four of his fights so far and combining that success with the kind of personality his paymasters dream of.
It must be said, of course, that the overwhelming positivity surrounding Pimblett took a hit at UFC 282 earlier this month, when many felt he was incorrectly given a decision win on the scorecards over Jared Gordon.
Paddy Pimblett has won four from four in the UFC and garnered plenty of attention
‘The Baddy’ pictured on BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year red carpet wearing jeans and a gilet alongside his fiancee Laura Gregory
Some fans have also criticised the UFC for giving the 27-year-old what they see as preferential treatment in terms of elevating his profile.
He slotted into a main event spot on a pay-per-view card with just his fourth outing in the octagon but there’s a degree to which the UFC are just playing the game of supply and demand.
Pimblett is in demand. Fellow fighters are desperate to take him on, seeing the hype around him as inflated to a level beyond his fighting ability.
Terrence McKinney is the latest to savage him, saying: ‘Drew (Dober) would flatline him – I would flatline him,’ McKinney said. ‘Honestly. He doesn’t want to fight either of us. Drew puts him out.’
Pimblett, pictured here during his win over Jared Gordon, took a decision win
‘[Paddy] was doing a good job of defending the punches with his face,’ McKinney said. ‘I really admire [that]. He was trying to break Gordon’s fist on his face. That’s an extreme technique. I’ve got to practice it more.
‘That [damage] just adds up. You can only do that for so long.
‘He is not at all [a top 15 guy],’ McKinney added.
Exactly where Pimblett’s talents will take him remain to be seen. He’s convinced he’ll be UFC champion one day, but others see enough weaknesses in his game to be badly exposed at the elite level.
Of course, it isn’t Pimblett’s fault that the judges scored his last fight for him over Gordon.
Some fans and fighters believed Pimblett was fortunate to get the nod on the scorecards
But fellow fighters, perhaps already envious of the regard in which he is held by Dana White and Co, piled on to call the decision a ‘robbery’.
Pimblett doubled down, insisting he clearly won the bout, saying: ‘I was sitting next to Dominick Cruz before, and we spoke about it. I said to him, ‘Control time means nothing’. Damage. Look at my face, look at Jared’s. I don’t care what anyone says, lad.
‘When you look back at the history books, I’ve got the little green marker next to my name with the W. Everyone else can suck me a**hole.’
That might not be popular with fans or fighters, who prefer a sheepish shrug and offer of a rematch.
But even if the incredible popularity of Pimblett wears off, the old Floyd Mayweather trick of getting people to tune in hoping you lose is just as effective. He provokes a reaction, positive or negative, and that’s what pay-per-view stars must do.
The Liverpool fighter remains undefeated in the UFC from four fights so far
Pimblett won his first three fights, including his debut pictured above, by finishes
Pimblett has spoken brilliantly on the topic of mental health, using his platform to send a powerful message for men suffering with depression to seek help.
He’s also said he wants to fight diminutive Manchester City star Bernardo Silva.
It’s similar to the wild schtick Conor McGregor has employed so successfully over the years, although inevitable comparisons between the two are not that insightful.
Both men appear to say exactly what they want, regardless of how people will take it.
A measure of Pimblett’s success is that a video of him on a woman’s video doorbell asking for water to clean up his dog’s mess was viewed millions of times and ended up on Sportscenter in the US within hours.
You might think that the perfect UFC record and skyrocketing fame embolden Pimblett but it seems to have sharpened the chip on his shoulder.
Pimblett and Molly McCann (right) took the O2 Arena by storm twice this year
The UFC star spoke to a woman through her video doorbell after turning up to her house to ask for water to clean up his dog’s mess
Being called a ‘hype train’ has left him determined to prove the doubters wrong.
Before the Gordon fight, he said: ‘When it comes to MMA there are levels. People think that I’m a hype train and that the UFC are pushing me.
‘They’re not, I just do the best content so the UFC use my stuff, that’s why I get more views than anyone, because I’m the new cash cow.’
Anyone in the O2 Arena for Pimblett’s two finishes on home soil this year would agree.
The crowd reaction and deafening reception to his walkout was unlike anything else on the stacked London cards.
He was unhappy with both performances, despite finishing both Jordan Leavitt and Kazula Vargas. Gordon was a step up in class and Pimblett was unable to show he was ‘levels above’ as promised before the fight.
Pimblett claims to have submitted Gordon twice in five minutes during a 2018 session but the US fighter denies it
So what next? The rise has been rapid but is Pimblett heading for a fall?
He’s entering a territory now where every opponent he faces will be a killer. ‘Pimblett gets hit too much’, is the primary criticism levelled but he’s so far shown the chin to get away with it.
It might be wise to rematch Gordon and attempt to make a statement, shutting up the doubters.
Or he may opt for someone ranked between No 15 and No 10, which would be the next logical move.
He will take some time to recover from a foot injury suffered against Gordon but could well return in the first quarter of next year.
The flaws in his game need tidying up, but in truth, nobody in the UFC has managed to capitalise on them so far by having their hand raised.
What he really craves is a credible win and faultless performance against someone highly regarded by fans. At 27, Pimblett has more than a decade left in the game if he retains the hunger for it.
The British fighter and his team could achieve big things in 2023 at the current rate of progress
But 2023 will be enlightening. If he maintains the current rate of progress, he could be flying towards a title shot in 12 months time.
That remains a big ‘if’ in one of the deepest divisions in the UFC. But despite what many believe, the promotion will not protect their best prospects for long.
The entire business model is based around the best fighting the best.
Pimblett will find his level sooner or later. Where exactly that is still remains to be seen but there is one certainty – the fans will tune in.