A pioneer of MMA in the North East, Curt Warburton bids farewell to the sport he’s loved for more than a decade on Friday night at BAMMA 33.
Warburton (13-6), who turns 37 on Friday, will fight for the first time in three years after taking an extended hiatus from MMA.
Speculating it will be his final fight, Durham’s Warburton faces off against Warren Kee (8-6-1) in his backyard of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
A three-fight veteran of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Warburton is one of the North East’s most decorated MMA fighters, having also held the BAMMA British Lonsdale and Cage Warriors championship titles.
His match-up against Kee on December 15 will serve as his first since a November 2014 drubbing to Stevie Ray, who now resides in the UFC.
That fight; for the Cage Warriors lightweight title, was a turning point for Ray, who was picked up by the UFC five months later. Consequently, that was Warburton’s unofficial swansong, as he elected instead to take a hiatus from MMA and focus on his full-time job.
“If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it,” Warburton told MMA Plus when explaining his decision to return to the cage at BAMMA 33. “I just started working then full-time, so it was pretty hard in camp leading up to that fight because I was in two minds, stay full-time [MMA] or get a job.
“I ended up getting a job just before that fight which looking back, I don’t know if it was a good thing or bad thing because it got us money but really I should have just held off that extra couple of month and trained like mad for it because obviously, Stevie went to the UFC after that didn’t he?”
The War is over for Warburton as he announces BAMMA 33 as his final fight
Opening the BAMMA 33 preliminary card on UniLAD, Warburton confirmed that he has told friends and family that Friday will be the final time he steps inside a cage as a fighter.
Nonetheless, with BAMMA returning to the Tyne and Wear for the first time since he won the British title in March 2013, it seems the perfect setting.
“I never really said I was retiring but I think I’ve been talking to people this time and I’ve said I might just make this my last one and I have a good following in the North East anyway,” he said. “So, I’ve just told my friends that it’s definitely my last one and I want to go enjoy camp because before I was absolutely killing myself just to get down to weight, putting a lot pressure on myself for the fight.
“Now I’m just trying to enjoy this because I think it definitely is going to be my last one.”
Warburton details graphic weight cutting and serious health problems
After spending the entirety of his career at lightweight, Warburton gave a graphic description of how severe weight cutting had brutally impacted his health.
“All I’ve ever fought at was lightweight, so making 70 kilos, my hearing used to go, blurry vision.
“I wouldn’t even have anything to eat, 24 hours before the weigh-in. Wake up before the weigh-in, I’d still have six-seven kilo to cut. Even after the weigh-in, I couldn’t have any food, I would have to go to bed with stomach cramps and I just want to know what I’d be like, walking in fresh.”
Now much wiser, Warburton will fight Kee at a catchweight of 175lbs.
For the first time, possibly ever, Warburton claims he has enjoyed his training camp, opting to train under Alex Enlund at SBG South Shields. It seems like it’s been a great fit for the 36-year-old, with top SBG prospect Adam Proctor signed to fight Nathan Jones also on the billing.
He said: “It’s funny because this camp, it doesn’t feel like I’m in camp because I’ve just been eating what I want and I’m thinking ‘should I be doing this?’ because I’m usually killing myself and going training with hardly eating anything.”
What does Curt Warburton think about Aaron Chalmers?
Despite his admirable reputation on the UK MMA scene and his past achievements, Warburton’s final contest will open the preliminary card. It’s a stark contrast to his last stint in BAMMA, where he featured on the promotion’s main card and on Channel 5.
Instead, the emphasis this time around is fixated on reality television star, Aaron Chalmers, who will face Karl Donaldson in his third pro fight.
Geordie Shore’s Chalmers has received a lot of backlash since signing with the promotion earlier this year, but with his mainstream popularity bringing attention to the likes of headliner Ryan Scope and other upcoming talents, Warburton remains indifferent.
“From a personal point of view, I’ve come to the end of my career now, as someone who’s still in there and has been grafting for years from the breadline, getting paid and the pay only pays for the next camp, the grind, it never stops.
“On the other end, [Aaron Chalmers is] getting publicity to MMA and hopefully it can do good, there’s Ryan Scope, I know he’s main event, but people are going to tune in to watch Aaron but after his fight there’s Ryan on and he’s been doing MMA years and years.
“Would he be on ITV4 if it wasn’t for Aaron? And I don’t think he would. So hopefully the diehard lads who’ve been doing it for years will hopefully be there to get something out of it. So, there’s got to be something good to come of it.”
Looking back at his illustrious career, Warburton – who had never actually intended to pursue a career in martial arts – was proud of his achievements. He is the first British born fighter to win in the UFC, BAMMA, Cage Warriors and KSW, an incredible feat to say that he only began training just over a decade ago.
“I think I’ve done pretty well, because all I’d done is play football since growing up, I was playing Northern League at the time and it was pre-season and I just went up to my local MMA gym to keep fit and I was only 25 then and I’d never done any martial arts whatsoever. Then I ended up liking it and about a year later I packed in football and just started training full-time.
“So really, I didn’t start until I was 25, then four-five year later I got to the UFC, some people train all their life and I’d done no martial arts whatsoever and worked my way up. I fought for titles in Cage Warriors, titles in BAMMA, been over to KSW, I don’t think I’ve done pretty bad.”