Image source: Graham Boylan Instagram (@graham_boylan)
The leading MMA promotion in Europe, Cage Warriors, have often paved the way for European fighters to get their shot in the UFC. Cage Warriors have had nearly 100 fighters make the move up to the UFC, so Cage Warriors President Graham Boylan has a solid idea of how that process works.
Cage Warriors have a range of budding prospects that are close to getting their shot in the big leagues with one of those fighters being Northern Ireland’s Rhys McKee. McKee has amassed a 10-2-1 record in MMA and is currently riding a three-fight win streak in Cage Warriors.
McKee recently made the jump up to welterweight in his last fight and was scheduled to fight for the Cage Warriors welterweight crown after getting a first-round knockout win. Many tipped McKee to win the welterweight title and then join the UFC ranks for his debut on the Dublin card, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works.
Boylan spoke to the Eurobash podcast and said he believes McKee will have to wait for his UFC debut as will many others. Reason being that the UFC will have a completely healthy roster of fighters that are all ready to compete and earn their next paycheck so all upcoming UFC events are likely to be stacked with fighters on the current roster.
“I think Rhys needs that belt, unless there is some last minute, seven-day notice fight that pops up on the radar that he can step in on, I think that fight for the belt, to get that belt and to move forward to there is definitely on the cards for Rhys.
The UFC’s roster, when they eventually get the green light to get a show on, is going to be a full roster. And when I say full, there’s got to be at least 30 percent of the UFC’s roster out injured at any one time. Everybody is coming back uninjured; everyone is coming back ready to go. Now, if everyone is ready to go, and events are every other week or every week, there’ll be a backlog of guys looking to get fights in because they haven’t fought.
Somebody who hasn’t fought since November or December of last year, it could be a year before they fight again. If they got injured in December or November last year, they’re now going to be fully recovered, ready to go and rehabbed come July or June of this year. So, they’re going to have a full roster, no injuries, a full roster to choose from. How in the name of God does anybody get into the UFC for the rest of this year?”
Many UFC newcomers get their shot in the big league by stepping up on short notice to fill in a slot on the card. However, Boylan doesn’t even see that as a possibility with the sheet volume of athletes the UFC will have on standby.
“Where is the door open? There is no door open. If they need a replacement, everybody is going to be ready, everyone is going to be coming in injury free, everyone is going to be rehabbed. All they’re going to be doing is coming in and getting their spar in. They’re all going to be fit because there ain’t no UFC fighter on the roster right now that’s not doing their training, their S&C and their cardio work which they can do at home in their garden, or go for a run, or whatever they’re doing.
When this starts up again, you’re talking a full, complete, uninjured roster. What room is there to bring new guys in when you’ve got everyone to choose from on your books, on your cards, fit and ready to go?
I honestly do not believe anyone’s getting into the UFC or there’s a UFC contract going out this year.”