Regardless of what happens on Saturday night UFC sophomore talent Paddy Pimblett is bound to steal the headlines. The upstart Liverpudlian came into the UFC with plenty of fanfare and that hype has only increased since then.
Part of the reason for all the excitement is Pimblett’s method of promotion, which includes plenty of puffery and put-downs. Not everyone is enjoying the Paddy Show, though.
Earlier this week Pimblett was confronted by fellow UFC lightweight Ilia Topuria, who was incensed over Pimblett’s comments regarding Georgian fighters. Specifically, Topuria—and many others—have taken umbrage at Pimblett invoking memories of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, a conflict that killed scores of Georgian soldiers and civilians.
That confrontation saw Topuria swing on Pimblett, forcing the pair to be separated. Topuria appeared on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani a day later to discuss what went down.
“It didn’t happen because he called me something yesterday. It comes from a long time ago,” he said. “He was arguing with one of my close friends once on Twitter and he posted [something] like, ‘Now I understand why Russia destroyed Georgia, because you’re dumb,’ and it makes my blood boil. When I saw it, I was surprised. I didn’t believe it when I saw that tweet, because in 2008 I was living in Georgia when the war happened, and it was a very difficult time for me, for my family, for all my friends, for my country. A lot of innocent people, kids, were dying in that war.
“And to see how someone is joking about that, it makes my blood boil. So I texted with him, I don’t remember what I tweeted, and when they gave me the fight in London, he text me like three weeks ago, like, ‘I can’t wait to see you in London. We’ll see if you have the balls to tell me everything you texted me on Twitter.’ Bullshit!”
You think that’s funny?! In that attack by Russia against us, many innocent people lost their lives, including children! The one who supports terrorism and racism is one of them! This tweet will haunt you for life!@PaddyTheBaddy pic.twitter.com/IxRvn6FkXK
— Ilia Topuria (@Topuriailia) April 1, 2021
“He wanted to shake my hand,” Topuria continued. “He didn’t come [toward me], but he looked at me nice, you know? I threw the bottle at his face, he threw it back to me, but I don’t know what, I slip and I give him a proper right hand — and that is why, the video, you saw it. Everyone saw the video, what happened. So it’s hard. You have the Ukraine flag [in your studio], can you imagine if I started to make some jokes about the war, where their children are dying, where people are suffering? You can’t talk about that. So this is why.
“The same situation [happened to us], we were living in Georgia in 2008. The same situation. I was living there, and a lot of guys from my class, my friends, I saw all of them out there, their parents were dying in the war, and crazy situations — I can’t even explain how the situation was at that time. [It bothers me] when I hear someone joking about that.”
The Russo-Georgian War bears many similarities to the current situation in Ukraine. Just like in Ukraine, Russia sought to destabilize its neighbour by supporting separatist groups within the country. In Georgia’s case, this resulted in the provinces of South Ossetia and parts of Abkhazia declaring independence from Georgia. This independence was then recognized by Russia (just as Russia has recognized the Ukrainian breakaway states of Donetsk and Luhansk).
When talking about Pimblett, Topuria proclaimed that he is now desperate to face the Englishman in the cage and to make him pay for what he has said. Topuria added that he’s also confident that he has the beating of Pimblett.
“I saw this interview today that he was saying, like, ‘He is nobody. He’s small.’ Something like this. Who the fuck is he? Who the fuckis he? This guy has just one fight in the UFC. And yes, maybe I’m not so tall, but I need just one punch and I can put my balls on his forehead. So, if he gets the win, I really want to fight with him. Even if he doesn’t get the win, I want to fight him, because of my people, because of me. I want to take his head off.
“If they give me the chance to be with him alone in a room, I’m going to kill this motherfucker.”
Topuria’s record currently stands at a perfect 11-0, with his last three victories coming inside the UFC Octagon. He made his promotional debut in 2020 with a unanimous decision over Youssef Zalal. He followed that up with a first round TKO victory over Damon Jackson.
In his most recent contest, Topuria handed a first round TKO to the previously undefeated Ryan Hall. After fights with Charles Jourdain and Movsar Evloev fell through, Topuria was booked to face Jai Herbert at this weekend’s UFC London.
Topuria vs. Herbert is scheduled to open the main card on Saturday night. Pimblett is slated to go a few fights further up the card. He’s taking on Rodrigo Vargas.
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