The UFC’s Scottish debut couldn’t have gone any better for local heroes Joanne Calderwood, Robert Whiteford and Stevie Ray as all three fighters picked up impressive victories in front of a sold out SSE Hydro arena in Glasgow on Saturday. All three of the Scottish fighters received an ear bursting reception from the crowd as they made their way to the Octagon, and neither fighter let the fans down.
First up was Robert Whiteford, who made his way to the Octagon to the sound of the Scottish national anthem, a move that set the tone for the rest of the night with every Scottish fan now in full voice. Whiteford promised a first round KO and that’s exactly what he delivered as he made short work of tough Irishman Paul Redmond. The emotion of the moment got to the man from West Lothian as he leapt over the Octagon and jumped into the crowd, reminiscent of Jose Aldo in Brazil. Robert said afterwards: “The hairs on the backs of our necks were standing up when we heard the crowd. Dreams come true. We’re a small country but people from Scotland can fight.”
Fife’s Stevie Ray opened the main card in a much anticipated lightweight bout with the very dangerous Brazilian Leonardo Mafra. Like fellow countryman Whiteford, Stevie finished the fight in the first round, in devastating style, as he pounded Mafra with heavy shots until the referee had seen enough – a performance that earned him the $50,000 performance of the night bonus and a cheer that could probably have been heard from the UFC’s HQ in Las Vegas. On the evidence of Stevie’s two UFC fights so far, the Scotsman is certainly one to keep an eye on in the lightweight division.
The biggest cheer however was reserved for home heroine Joanne Calderwood. Coming off the back of an unexpected loss in Poland, there was a lot of pressure on Calderwood’s shoulders to perform in front of her home nation but the Scottish strawweight contender certainly delivered, taking the win over a very tough Cortney Casey-Sanchez via unanimous decision. Cortney may have been a last minute replacement for the injured Bec Rawlings but make no mistake, this girl has is super tough and has a big future in the UFC. After pocketing the $50,000 fight of the night purse, Calderwood spoke of the emotion of finally fighting for the UFC in Glasgow: “The fans, and the event being here in Scotland, really helped. It was very emotional. It felt as if this is where I want to be and I’ll never forget that feeling”
The support and encouragement Joanne received from the crowd throughout her fight was awe inspiring and every now and again she would burst into a beaming smile during the fight demonstrating exactly what this night meant to the super popular Scot: “I was just enjoying it so much out there. As long as I put on a good performance for the fans, that’s all I want. I’d like to thank all the fans. They made the UFC come here. So thanks also to the UFC for eventually answering everyone’s prayers”.
Scotland is now praying Saturday’s success will convince the UFC to make Scotland a regular feature on their European travels. Calderwood said: “I hope we’ve made enough noise. The three of us won, we’ve shown the world we can fight. That was the plan.”
Joe Carr, UFC’s international vice president, praised the Scottish fans at the post fight press conference saying: “The fans are the reason we brought an event here to Scotland and their support has been incredible from the day we announced. Tonight they have raised the bar and the fighters have put on an unforgettable show, especially our Scots who went 3-0 for the home crowd. We’re excited to come back to Scotland soon.”
UFC president Dana White took to twitter following the super successful evening that seen 6 of the 12 fights end in 1st round stoppages, White wrote: “What an AMAZING event, thank you Scotland, you guys are incredible.”
Full breakdown of results is as follows:
Daniel Omielanczuk beat Chris De La Rocha via TKO/KO, round 1
Jimmie Rivera beat Marcus Brimage via TKO/KO, round 1
Robert Whiteford beat Paul Redmond via TKO/KO, round 1
Ilir Latifi beat Hans Stringer via TKO/KO, round 1
Mickael Lebout beat Teemu Packalen via decision
Paddy Holohan beat Vaughan Lee via decision
Stevie Ray beat Leonardo Mafra via TKO/KO, round 1
Leon Edwards beat Pawel Pawlak via decision
Joanne Calderwood beat Cortney Casey-Sanchez via decision
Joe Duffy beat Ivan Jorge via submission, round 1
Evan Dunham beat Ross Pearson via decision
Michael Bisping beat Thales Leites via split decision