Peter Carroll speaks to the Cage Warriors title challenger
Highly touted light-heavyweight prospect Karl Moore will have a marquee equal to his trajectory as Cage Warriors make their return to Dublin on March 4 at the 3 Arena.
The promotion became synonymous with Irish MMA earlier in the decade when Conor McGregor, Chris Fields, Cathal Pendred and Neil Seery claimed world titles under the banner.
Many of the Irish charges signed to the Graham Boylan promotion went on to have success in the UFC, but with many of the big national names heading for pastures new, rival promotion BAMMA have commandeered the Irish market with three shows at the 3 Arena over the last two years.
With a special rate of €15 being offered for tickets for the comeback event up until February 9, Cage Warriors are definitely hoping to reignite their dominance in the market with a big crowd on the night as Moore looks to become the first person to hold the organization’s light-heavyweight title since UFC middleweight champion, Michael Bisping.
For Moore, that date offers him a chance to settle a score with the venue. In September 2015, in a battle of unbeaten prospects, the Fight Academy Ireland man met Paul Craig.
A rear-naked choke looked like it would finish the fight in Moore’s favour in the first round. However, after making it into the second, Craig forced a tap from Moore with a high elbow guillotine choke.
“It sickens me to watch that fight, to be honest with you,” said Moore.
“It was a hard one for me. The thing is, I can’t make any excuses about that fight. I was sharp and I was fit. It was just one of those things, I think I just froze in the moment and he caught me.
“From that moment everything changed. I’m a completely different animal. My training has completely changed, but it’s my mind-set that changed more than anything. Just the way I feel about fighting, it’s completely different now.
“I’m ready to fight the best now. I’m dying to get to face Paul Craig again. He’s still undefeated, so it would be really nice to take his ‘0’ if we fought again.”
After one more win, Craig went on to be signed by the UFC. His success has continued since with a debut win over Luis Henrique da Silva. Had Moore taken the win against the Scot in Dublin, it is likely that his name would have been on top of a list of potential signings for the sport’s flagship promotion. Yet, the loss to Craig produced the West Belfast man’s biggest growth spurt.
Moore packed on lean muscle and developed a stellar striking game, which was evident in his two first round victories since the Craig bout. He even spent time in Sacramento training with the team of legendary UFC bantamweight, Urijah Faber, who recently forecast big things for Moore when he eventually breaks into the UFC ranks, on a recent episode of the Talking Brawls Podcast.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” said Moore on the loss to Craig.
“If I had won that fight I probably would’ve been in the UFC. If I was signed by the UFC I would’ve tried to be as active as possible, and that probably wouldn’t allow me to grow the way I have. That loss has done more for my career than the seven wins combined. It’s crazy how this game works.”
Such is the respect that Moore garners on the international scene that UFC had him on “stand-by” when they visited his hometown in November. However, when the SSE Arena card drew closer and he still hadn’t received any confirmation on the bout, Moore opted to fight for Cage Warriors instead.
“The UFC rang us on a Monday and told us to be on stand-by for a heavyweight fight because there were two heavyweight fights on the card. I was excited and I really thought that it was going to happen.
“When I didn’t hear from them for a week, I got offered another fight with Cage Warriors and I just thought it would be better to fight and be active rather than to hold out for something that might not happen.”
Interestingly, Moore would have been fighting at heavyweight for the first time if he made it on to the UFC card, but it certainly wouldn’t have been a one-off situation. According to Moore, as soon as he wins the light-heavyweight belt with Cage Warriors, he will be requesting a heavyweight title bout from the organization.
Moore also insisted that he is ten times better than the last man who held the belt he will contest for, Michael Bisping.
“I think I’m ten times better than Michael Bisping. I told Graham Boylan that I don’t just want this belt. After I get this belt I want to go to the heavyweight and challenge for that title.
“That’s just not Cage Warriors, if I get to the UFC I want to fight for both belts too. I want to be a two-weight world champion. I want to be great.
“I feel really solid even before I do the weight cut now. I don’t think anyone can live with the power that I have.
“Really, when I fought Paul Craig, that version of me was a boy. Now I’m man, that’s the only way I can describe it. I was still coming into my own back then and now I’m at my physical peak.
“I walked into my last fight feeling completely untouchable and I know that’s how I’ll feel on March 4th. I’ve just found the right balance now.”
As the main attraction with a title on the line in a venue close to home, Moore has a lot to gain from a win next month. Given what’s on the line, he isn’t afraid to admit there are some nerves ahead of the date.
“Honestly, I’m trying not to let it get to me because I know that this fight and the platform it will give me makes it a massive opportunity for me. It’s a cliché, but I’ve got to just take it one fight at a time. I won’t even think of my next move until that belt is around my waist.”
Moore's FAI teammate Joe McColgan will also take to the cage on the night, which he thinks could result in a massive night for the gym.
“It’s going to be a huge night for Fight Academy Ireland. Joe McColgan is one of the most underrated fighters on the scene at the moment. Nobody really knew who he was until that big win over Peter Queally."
“This whole card could be huge for all of us. With BT Sports and UFC Fight Pass broadcasting the event, it gives us a chance to get our names out there. I really hope that me winning this title will put our gym on the map.”
While getting an opponent has proved difficult for Moore ahead of the 3 Arena show, he has been promised that the best available challenger will meet him on the night.
“I’ve had two guys pull out of the fight already. There was a Polish guy who pulled out and there was an English guy who pulled out. It’s a bit of a nightmare at the moment, but Graham has assured me that I will have the best opponent available for the night.
“That is one of the big advantages that would come along with fighting for the UFC. In Europe, the heavier weight classes just aren’t as deep, so I wouldn’t have the same trouble finding people to fight if I was with UFC.”