Darren Till is just a month away from perhaps becoming only the second UFC champion from England, and the chance was given to him against his own wishes.
Till (17-0-1) defeated Stephen Thompson (14-3-1) last May in Till's hometown of Liverpool, England. After getting the nod from the judges, he made it clear that due to missing weight the day prior, he shouldn't be given the next title shot at 170 pounds.
Then came the call.
"I went to Vegas to speak to the UFC and have dinner," Till told ESPN. "I knew they were going to offer me a big fight and then I started to hear the rumors. The UFC called me and said, 'Tyron [Woodley] has now accepted the fight, we're just waiting for the contract back, but the fight is on.'"
Woodley (18-3-1) was expected to face the interim welterweight champion Colby Covington. However, due to Covington opting for surgery to take care of a sinus issue, the promotion turned to Till and the outpouring of support ever since has been immense.
"I had to turn social media off," Till said. "It was just crazy. Just to see the messages rolling through and people shouting, 'Till beat Tyron,' booking flights and booking hotels, that's becoming the norm right now. I can't wait to showcase all my years of hard work to the Americans and have all my fans with me, my family and people who've just been there for no other reason than to support Darren Till."
Remarkably, although the UFC is on the verge of celebrating its 25th anniversary, over the last quarter century only one man hailing from the U.K. has been able to climb the mountain and become UFC champion: Michael Bisping.
Till believes timing is everything and has an incredible level of confidence that he will be No. 2.
"I think it's got nothing to do with skill set," Till explained. "I think it just boils down to right place, right time and just being able to break them big fights. Maybe it wasn't England's time and right now I feel like it's England's time.
"We've got so many good fighters at the moment and I'm one of them, I know I am. Bisping deserved to be the first champion from the U.K. He paid his dues. Now it's me. I am going to be England's second world champion. There's no doubt about that whatsoever. Tell me any different."
Bisping's win over Luke Rockhold at UFC 199, just over two years ago, resonates with Till to this day, with special regard to the path his fellow Brit had to take -- which included fighting opponents with prior charges of using performance enhancing drugs.
"I believe he had a lot of setbacks due to other people's doings," Till said. "Bisping is a clean athlete and it comes down to whether you're clean or not. I'm totally against the use of drugs and steroids in the UFC and any performance enhancing drugs. Shows a lot about someone's mental state if they have to do that. I don't agree with it and Bisping never felt like he had to do it, so it's only right he won the world title when he did."
Till has traveled this week to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, back to England to get his visa and he's about to fly back to Las Vegas to set up his entire camp at the UFC Performance Institute. He intends to stay there until the fight in Dallas, Texas, on Sept. 8, taking some notes from Conor McGregor.
"It's about adapting as well. Being in America. Being in that heat in Vegas because Texas is a hot place as well," Till said. "When Conor was fighting Jose Aldo and then Chad (Mendes), he had the right idea. Take his camp out there and train there. Adapt to it."
When Woodley and Till faced off for the first time at the Los Angeles news conference last week before UFC 227, it was startling to see the size difference between the two men. Till downplays any "size advantage" he may have coming into this fight.
"It's funny because it's like I've tricked a lot of people," Till said. "Yeah, I'm a big guy but looking at attributes, Tyron's chest is a lot bigger than mine, his arms are a lot bigger, his legs are a lot bigger. It's just the presence and the way I made myself look in front of Tyron.
"Tyron has small, powerful, fast bursts. He's got a lot of power, so it's about how he deals with me and how I deal with him. We're both going to have to deal with each other's unique body types on that day."
Till said he's been impressed with Woodley's body of work but doesn't think he's been the most popular fighter on the UFC roster.
"I think he is one of the best welterweights of all time," Till said. "He's the kingpin of the division. I don't think he's been the best champion, but he is a champion and he's no pushover. He's beaten everyone. He's beaten top-level competition. He's beaten better competition than I've beat. That doesn't change the fact of what's going to happen on the 8th of September.
"I'm going to impose my will on Tyron Woodley, not the other way around. Tyron is a good fighter when he's coming forward and bullying people. I think his biggest strength is his mind. He's very intelligent and knows how to win fights but he just hasn't faced a person like Darren Till. He's faced many great guys but they're all different from me and I just don't believe Tyron can beat me."