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Graham Boylan Discusses Cage Warriors, Year That Was, Year Ahead

January-03-13
Harry Williams talks to Cage Warriors CEO Graham Boylan about the promotion's biggest year to date, and what's to come.

Author: Harry Williams (@Harry_Williams)

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When you think of Cage Warriors, CEO Graham Boylan isn't the first person who comes to mind. However, he is the man responsible for the rebirth of the organisation who works vigorously hard behind the scenes to make these events go according to plan.

Looking back at 2012, Graham is very proud of how Cage Warriors has not only dominated the UK scene, but the Middle East also, awarding it as the promotion's most successful year to date.

"It was undoubtedly one of the biggest years in the history of Cage Warriors," noted Boylan. "We held one hundred and eight professional fights over the course of twelve events, created over forty jobs and kept fighters busy and paid.

"We visited nine different countries, with each show being broadcasted on television to one hundred and five million homes, as well as worldwide on MMAJunkie.com, and put the spotlight on the fighters.

"For me, I think that’s as successful as you could possibly get for a promotion that was dead eighteen months ago. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are only three organisations in the world that do over ten shows in a year: the UFC, Bellator and now Cage Warriors."

Having gained more popularity in the last year with additional events taking place overseas, Boylan et al plan to do the same in the next twelve months. He revealed,

"In 2013, we’ll be staging as many shows in the UK and Ireland as we'll have in the Middle East. We've already locked in which cities we want to bring the promotion to. There will be two or three new destinations that we haven’t been to before.

"One of those I’m looking at is Belfast. I believe the people of Belfast are in need of a real, professional MMA organisation to show them what the real deal is."

In the last twelve months, we've seen shows worldwide have fight cards ripped apart due to injuries. Just like the big leagues, Cage Warriors caught some of the injury plague that was in the air, sustaining injuries to competitors such as John Phillips, Conor McGregor and Jim Alers.

Having caught the bug, CWFC worked as hard as possible to make sure the events were not weakened.

"Injuries are, unfortunately, a big part of this sport, but the show must always go on," told Graham. "We rematched ninety percent of fights that suffered from an injury last year and we will always work our asses off to make sure we can adequately fill a spot.

"On the rare occasions it happened, it killed me inside to tell a fighter, 'Sorry, you’re not fighting on this one,' because these guys train extremely hard every single day. Injuries are just a part of their lives, that will always be the case and the knock-on effect when the fighters get injured changes everything.

"All you can do is everything in your power to get the remaining fighter matched up with a worthy opponent and I’m happy that we managed to do that in the vast majority of instances."

With the aforementioned injury bug and cards having to be fixed, the CEO feels matchmaker Ian Dean has been terrific throughout. Even though it may pack some frustration, Boylan is happy to have Ian on board.

"Matching fights every day, this is the dream job that Ian has always wanted and he’s doing it fantastically well," praised Graham. "In the past, Ian only had to match two or three events a year, but it’s now very much a full-time role due to the amount of shows we’re doing.

"We have our little debates from time-to-time, sometimes they can get heated and he ends up wanting to kill me, but we tend to meet in the middle."

With Ronda Rousey boosting the interest in women's mixed martial arts, it is no understatement to say there has been a lot more spotlight on the female side of the sport. Cage Warriors have had a lot of legit women enter their promotion in 2012. Although Graham is satisfied with the level of competition in women's MMA, he thinks there is still a long way to go before they have a solid division.

"Cage Warriors has put on some great female fights this year and we will continue to match high-quality female fights," promised Boylan. "But a stacked and strong division? I’m not sure if we’ll see that yet but we’ll certainly keep providing opportunities on our cards for female fighters, as long as they’re available to compete."

When the CEO announced on several media outlets he had ideas of hosting a New Year's Eve show, he received a lot of negative feedback. With a lot of mixed responses, Graham decided to ignore the bad comments and to go ahead with it anyway, and he is delighted the year ended with the way it did.

"'Stupid idea, it’ll never work.' - That’s the kind of feedback I got on Facebook and Twitter when the show was announced," admitted the Cage Warriors reviver. However, ask yourself one simple question: if there was a high-quality MMA event in your area on New Year’s Eve, would you go? Of course you would.

"It's the most overrated night of the year where people go to ridiculous lengths to get into some over-crowded party or nightclub, but nobody is actually doing a show. So where are all the MMA fans? Would they prefer to watch a live show instead of trying to figure out somewhere to go? It all made sense to me and in the end it worked out even better than we could have  expected."

After ending the year with a bang due to a super performance in the main event by Conor McGregor to gain the vacant lightweight title, Graham sees big things in the future for the Irish standout.

"Conor is a great talent," opined the Cage Warriors CEO. "He's destined for great things and will only get even better given time. There are still a lot of very good unsigned fighters out there who are knocking on the door of the UFC, just like Conor.

"What the UFC do about him, we’ll have to wait and see, but I think he’ll be there very soon. 2013 will be an even better year for him as he matures and develops even more. I look forward to seeing how great he will become."

Wrapping up the year in review, Boylan had a message for fans and crew at the promotion.

"I’d like to thank all the fans, fighters, managers, clubs and the CWFC crew for all the hard work they’ve put in to make Cage Warriors what it has become to date. I like to look at CWFC as a Formula One team: I’m just the driver of the car, without all the mechanics and pit crew, we’d have no car to drive.

"Thank you to everyone who has played their part in the rise and success of Cage Warriors Fighting Championship, the third busiest promotion in the world. The future of CWFC will feature more of the same from 2012; keeping fighters busy, visiting different countries and developing more MMA talent."

What has been your Cage Warriors moment of the year? Let us know at www.facebook.com/yourmma and follow @CageWarriors and @GrahamBoylan on Twitter.

You can find our writer Harry at @Harry_Williams.

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