Just two of Europe’s finest MMA talents have held two titles in top U.K. promotion Cage Warriors: the legendary and future UFC dual-champ Conor McGregor (22-4) and UFC title challenger turned commentator Dan Hardy (25-10).
Undefeated Welsh star Mason Jones (9-0) is looking to be the third man to hold such a distinction, and the third Cage Warriors dual-weight champion to graduate to the UFC.
Though the 25-year-old prospect already boasts a strong 9-0 record, he might be flowing under the radar with global MMA fans. But in his native United Kingdom, Jones is a touted as a future star set to one day break through into the UFC.
Jones is coming off of a lightweight title-clinching win against Northern Ireland’s Joe McCoglan (6-3-1) in Cage Warriors’ last event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jones won the fight, and the belt, with knees and punches in the first round, demonstrating his finishing ability and talented striking abilities.
Now Cage Warriors’ lightweight champion – a distinction that has seen all but two of its winners since 2012 arrive in the UFC – Jones will be fighting talented Englishman Adam Proctor (12-1) on September 26th for the vacant welterweight title as part of a three-event return to action for the promotion.
Proctor, 24, is also a highly-touted prospect to emerge from the region. Following a second-round submission loss to Aaron Khalid (9-5-1) in 2016, Proctor has been perfect inside the cage.
The welterweight title challenger has rattled off seven straight wins in Cage Warriors, Russian promotion Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB) – now Absolute Championship Akhmat (ACA) – and BAMMA.
With a win, Jones would cement himself as a consensus top prospect in Europe at the lighter weights, and, with Cage Warriors’ eye-opening track record of producing UFC and Bellator talents, all but punch his ticket to competing on a big stage.
In an interview with MMA-Prospects, a jovial Jones, sporting a large welt under his eye from “just a clash” in sparring, provided an update on his preparation for the title fight amid the pandemic.
“I’ve sparred with some really, really good people,” Jones told MMA-Prospects. Today I sparred with [UFC fighter] Nad Narimani (12-4), obviously, he fights in UFC. Craig White (14-11) was the there, the ‘Thundercat’… all Cage Warriors guys, all top tier guys.
“I was up in Belfast training with [former Cage Warriors champion] Rhys McKee (10-3-1), who obviously just signed with the UFC, and [former KSW interim titleholder and UFC veteran] Norman Parke (28-7-1),” among many others, said Jones.
“This is probably the best camp I’ve done.”
Jones’ camp also included time in Sacramento, California’s Team Alpha MMA, led by gym founder and UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber.
“I’ve been over like five or six times now, and they welcome me back. It’s just really good training; the amount of savages on the mat [is] unbelievable. We get guys from all over – I was training with guys like Tofiq [Musayev], who’s the RIZIN lightweight champion; Chris Gonzalez, who fights in Bellator; [Andre Fili] ‘Touchy’ Fili (21-7), who fights in UFC; Darren Elkins (24-9), who fights in UFC; Max Griffin… who fights welterweight in UFC.”
Concerning his upcoming fight with Proctor and the prestigious status a win would mean, Jones seemed methodical about his approach.
“To be fair, my prep is always good. I’ve got a good team around me, and we always get prepared. This is just going to be another fight and another notch on my win streak… I spar welterweights all through my camps, so I’m just seeing Adam as a big lightweight, and I’m just going to go out there and dominate.
“I can see myself finishing him in three rounds, to be honest. I’ve broken his style down a lot. I’ve seen how he likes to do things, and I think I’m in ever area and I’ll be too much for him. My pressure, my strength, my power… It’s gonna be a really bad night for Adam.”
Jones said that double champ status was not always on his mind, but he saw an opportunity to do so against what he views as a good stylistic matchup in Proctor.
“[I was] definitely focused on the lightweight belt. The welterweight step, I’ve only come because it was Adam who was fighting for the belt. If it was anyone else, I probably would’ve thought a bit more about it, but we knew Adam was going for it and we saw the gap there, the opportunity, so I went for it and I asked for that fight.”
For Jones, the second title opportunity marks yet another accomplishment to achieve.
“Obviously, one of my goals was by 25, I wanted a BJJ black belt and I wanted to win the Cage Warriors lightweight championship… It’s worked out for me, and the two straps are going to cement how good 2020 was for me.”
In the future, Jones hopes to join the ranks of the UFC roster and compete on the sport’s biggest stage, but is careful not to overlook the task ahead.
“I’m trying not to think about that, to be honest. I’m trying to not overlook Adam so much. It’ll come when it comes. [Fighting in the] UFC, to me, is inevitable… If I have to wait, then I’ll wait.”
“When it comes, it’ll come. That’s the way I look at it. It’s inevitable to me.”