David Bear’s Cage Warriors debut was surely a memorable one.
One of France’s brightest prospects, Bear (9-1 MMA) took on former BAMMA and Cage Warriors welterweight title challenger Nathan Jones at Cage Warriors 113 this past Friday. He used his grappling to control the fight en route to a unanimous decision.
There was plenty of uncertainty surrounding the event after most major organizations, including the UFC, were forced to cancel shows in response to the global coronavirus outbreak. But Cage Warriors insisted on making things work and moved its event from London to Manchester just days before the card.
Bear wasn’t only dealing with the obstacles of the U.K’s laws, but also those of his home country of France, where he was patiently waiting word on what would happen. He said at one point, he had given up hope that the card would continue.
“I saw events getting canceled day after day,” Bear told MMA Junkie. “My friends told me, ‘Don’t worry – if football is still running in the U.K., you will have your fight.’ And the next day, we see (soccer) getting canceled. So I had to contact Cage Warriors, who told me not to worry because the UFC is still hosting their London event, so it would be impossible that Cage Warriors would cancel. The next day, I see that the UFC London card is getting canceled. Even After this, Cage Warriors asked us if we were still wanting to fight, and if so, that they will do everything in their power to make it possible. Of course, my answer was, ‘Hell yeah, I want to fight.’
“And then another road block occurred. The French president stated on Monday at 8 p.m. that the country is going to be in confinement starting Tuesday afternoon – and I was meant to leave Wednesday. So all my teammates were saying, ‘OK David, you can eat now. Your fight is over.’ I was starting to eat my wife’s plate of lasagna when the president of Cage Warriors (Graham Boylan) called me and asked, ‘If I can get you on the first train tomorrow morning, could you make it?’ I almost choked. I said, ‘Yes, of course.’”
While some of his friends and family advised him against going, Bear had the support of his wife and two of his best friends, who didn’t want him to miss out on such a big opportunity. Due to everything being put together late, Bear only had one man in his corner – his teammate and UFC veteran Mickael Lebout.
The next day, Bear and Lebout took an 8 a.m. train from Paris to London, then from London to Manchester.
“My biggest fear was that the border between France and the U.K. will be closed before or just after the fight and that I will be blocked from returning to my wife and family,” Bear said.
With heavy criticism weighing on Cage Warriors for proceeding with the show, Bear commended the promotion for all the precautionary measures that it took to ensure everyone’s safety.
“Cage Warriors worked extremely hard to preserve the safety of the fighters and the staff,” Bear said. “The weigh-ins were broken into three groups, and we had more than one bus to go to the venue. We had our temperature checked repeatedly, and every single person was checked, even the security officers. Nobody could watch the fights (cageside) – not even the fighters.
“I really want to thank Cage Warriors president Graham Boylan and his staff for making this event possible and safe. They must have had so much on them, more than anyone else.”
Once it was fight time, Bear, who hadn’t competed since a knockout win over Pawel Kielek in December 2018, didn’t show any signs of ring rust. He stifled Jones’ offense and took the fight to the mat repeatedly.
Crowd or no crowd, it’s something Bear had previously been preparing for when he tried out for “The Ultimate Fighter.”
“In December of 2017, I went to the ‘TUF 27’ undefeated tryouts in Las Vegas,” Bear said. “Unfortunately, they did not select our weight category at the final stage, so I have always been ready to fight without the public. Inside the cage, it is me against him and it won’t change anything if zero or a million people are outside the cage.
“Moreover, I think that French fighters are used to fighting in hostile territory as we always have to go to our opponent’s country to fight them. So it was more of a disadvantage for Nathan Jones than it was for me.”
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But with the legalization of MMA in France, that might change very soon for Bear. Cage Warriors has been a springboard to the UFC for many fighters, and Bear hopes to join that list when the UFC finally makes its trip to France.
“Yes, it is my goal,” Bear said. “I am 9-1 and ready to represent France in the best organization in the world. I am looking forward to when the UFC announces their first event in France.”
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