Graham Boylan previews massive UFC 223 card, featuring 2 Cage Warriors alumni

UFC 223, one of the promotion’s biggest events so far this year, will feature 2 ex-Cage Warriors athletes in Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Artem Lobov. Cage Warriors president Graham Boylan previews the action below.

It’s been a wild week heading into UFC 223, with a change of opponent for Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event coming just a few days before fight night. After years of matching fights and putting on live events, I can tell you that’s a promoter’s worst nightmare. But, as the old saying goes, fighters fight: and it was classic Khabib to accept the new fight against Holloway without a second thought. That’s one of the things I love about working with elite level athletes. They put on the gloves to stamp their mark on the sport, and because they love to fight. Most of the time, everything else – the exposure, the money, the media, the talk, even the opponent – comes secondary.

I remember when we matched Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the first time with Cage Warriors. She was a scary Polish prospect with world-class level striking, who was proving a nightmare for everyone in the division. By the time she fought with us, she’d gone 5-0. We matched her with Rosi Sexton, who had 13 wins at the time including a tonne of submission finishes. We thought it’d be a really tight war that might have edged to a close decision. What actually happened was that Joanna put on a dominant striking masterclass, and managed to put Rosi away with a pretty brutal knockout in the second round. From then on, we knew she’d be hitting the top of the world rankings in the future.

Joanna meets Rose Namajunas for the strawweight title in the co-main this weekend, and it’s such a tough one to call. Rose caused one of the biggest upsets I’ve ever seen when she took Joanna’s belt, and has conducted herself as a true champ since. She’s fully focused on creating a legacy and it’ll take something special to pry the belt from her hands. But if I know anything about Jedrzejczyk, it’s that she’s one of the most competitive individuals on the planet and she’ll have been thinking about revenge every second since Rose’s hand was raised last year. Can’t wait for this one.

Artem Lobov is another fighter from the earlier Cage Warriors days that I remember dealing with very well. He’s gained quite a large following since, mostly from fans that realise what Lobov is: a fighter’s fighter, who doesn’t turn down a chance to step up and has taken every opponent offered to him. He did that in Cage Warriors and he’s doing it in the UFC too. His record reflects that. Some highs, some lows and plenty of all-out wars that have made him an exciting fighter to watch no matter the result. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do this time around, because when Lobov’s on form he’s proven he’s a force to be reckoned with.

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