Thursday, December 2, 2021

Team England Looks To Win Two Straight At M1 Challenge 6/5



Amsterdam, Holland – When Team England first took the M-1 Challenge stage on April 29 at Differ Ariake in Tokyo, Japan, it was an underdog against Team Japan heading into their best-of-five series. But it was only an underdog to everyone but Team England.

Despite the fact that England had never previously competed in the M-1 Challenge, Ian “M-16” Butlin, the self-proclaimed best lightweight fighter in the U.K., boasted to a Japanese audience at a local press conference that England was going to shut out Team Japan by a score of 5-0.

Most in the audience didn't offer a reaction to Butlin's claim, dismissing it as an irrational display of arrogance. But to Team England, it was nothing more than an expression of confidence. The high level of self-belief allowed the Brits to come pretty close to making Butlin's prognostication completely accurate after they defeated the Japanese by a 4-1 score.

“We were ecstatic over the incredible performance of Team England in Japan last month,” said team manager and Cage Warriors UK matchmaker Ian Dean. “We all felt we could get the win but to win 4-1 in Japan against a very skilled Japanese side is a great achievement for any team, let alone a team in their first ever M-1 Challenge bout.”

With a 1-0 team record in the M-1 Challenge, England has its sites on moving to 2-0 when it faces Team France on Friday, June 5 in Kansas City, Kansas at the Memorial Hall.

On Monday, Dean revealed to the first four members selected to represent Team England on June 5 vs. France and to the surprise of no one, four of the five members who competed in Japan are back. The lone fighter not returning is light heavyweight Tom Blackledge, who was just recently scratched due to injury.

While Dean has yet to secure a replacement for Blackledge, he confirmed that Butlin (6-7), welterweight Simon Phillips (7-2), middleweight Matt Thorpe (11-7), and heavyweight Rob Broughton (9-4-1).

Despite his bold proclamation before the Japan event, Butlin was the line British fighter not to notch a victory at Differ Ariake. Following his armbar submission loss to Luiz Andrada, Butlin will look to get back on the winning track against Makhtar Gueye (4-4).

Dean believes that Butlin's strong competitive nature is a key to the strong chemistry that exists amongst the England team.

“It's a great help to the team as Ian's exuberance and confidence shines through and it takes the edge of some of the guys who are a little more low profile and are just soaking up the experience of fighting in the M-1 Challenge,” he said. “Plus, Ian is a real team player, I know he was disappointed by his loss but he put it behind him for the sake of the team and was still out there cheering his team mates on and I know there was no-one happier than Ian after seeing the team leave Japan with the win.”

Phillips utilized his strong amateur boxing background to knockout DEEP and Pancrase veteran Hidehiko Hasegawa just 20 seconds into their April 29 bout. On June 5, Phillips is set to face France's Gale Grimaud.

At middleweight, Thorpe, nicknamed “12 Gauge,” was able to improve to 11-7 after overcoming a slow start vs. Yusuke Masuda. Masuda was in a dominant position for much of the fight but Thorpe used his long limbs to give the Japanese fighter fits from his back. In the end, Thorpe pulled off the rally after tapping Masuda with a rear naked choke at 1:30 of round 1. He will look to go to 2-0 in the M-1 Challenge when he takes on Christophe Dafreville of France.

Broughton, a top heavyweight prospect who has recorded notable wins in his career over fellow prospect Martin Thompson, former PRIDE star James Thompson, and current UFC heavyweight Neil Grove, is set to face French heavyweight Soufian Elgarne (0-1).

While England's light heavyweight slot is still open, whoever fills it will be facing newcomer Johan Romming of Team France, who is stepping up in place of Christian Mpumbu.

Whoever is chosen to replace Blackledge, they can count on the support of their teammates, as Team England is perhaps the most closely nit team in all of the M-1 Challenge. Dean was asked how his team was able to bond so quickly despite the fact that many of the fighters train at different gyms.

“(Assistant head coach) David Butlin held team training sessions, which the guys did their best to attend,” Dean began to respond. “Plus the U.K. MMA scene is quite close knit and most of the guys either live near each other or train with each over apart from Simon Phillips, who lives in the Southwest of England while the rest of the guys are from the Northwest.

“Plus, I feel that in the U.K. we are used to team sports and are used to taking on other countries in sports like soccer, cricket and the like. There was also great support from hardcore fans on the Internet. But I guess the key things was that all the guys got on and helped each other through the whole experience and I think their team spirit will be one of the key things that will see them through this global tournament.”

For more information on Team England prior to its June 5 best-of-five M-1 Challenge match vs. France, please visit or

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