This weekend at UFC Copenhagen, one of Cage Warriors’ most celebrated fighters will make his highly-anticipated UFC debut, as Wales’ Jack Shore steps into the octagon for the first time, facing Nohelin Hernandez.
After rising up through Cage Warriors’ ranks, the undefeated prospect announced that he had followed the likes of Conor McGregor, Michael Bisping, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk in signing with the UFC, and his promotional debut was booked weeks later.
“The Tank” is known not just for his impressive grappling and exceptional cardio, but also for the atmosphere that he creates on fight night, and in a recent interview with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock, Shore promised nothing would change at the Royal Arena on Saturday Night.
“I see it going how all of my fights go,” Shore said. “It’ll be a big atmosphere and a fun fight to be involved in, and to watch. I just envision me bringing the pressure, setting a good pace and dominating the fight wherever it goes.
“He’s a great opponent, he’s tough everywhere, but I just think I’m a little bit better in each area and I think on the night that’s going to come through and give me the victory.”
Despite being just 24-years-old, Shore has already competed on some of MMA’s largest stages, both professionally and as an amateur. In fact, after his UFC debut, Shore will have had as many fights as he has had birthdays and it is obvious that such experience has provided him with a temperament that would rival even the sports most seasoned veterans. He is aware of Hernandez’ skills and knows he could be in for a tough night; while other rookies might be eager to look past their debut, Shore refuses to make the same mistake.
“Hernandez is very good. He comes from a great gym and is obviously a very good striker and kickboxer, but coming from the gym he comes from, he’ll be able to wrestle and grapple as well. It’s a tough fight, he’s a good all-rounder, but I’m at the stage in my career now where my last five or six fights have been tough fights and I’m not here to take easy fights. Fighting in the UFC, you’re not going to get any easy fights.”
“There’s no real rush for me. Although I want to advance up the rankings, I don’t like to look too far into the future. I’ll focus on the fight that’s in front of me and when that’s out the way, go from there and decide what the next step is.”
Shore, who trains out of Tillery Combat in Wales, first made headlines in 2015 when he became champion at the IMMAF European Open, picking up three first-round submission victories in the process. In an amateur career spanning three years, Shore was undefeated in 12 fights and after competing seven times in 2015, it was time for the Welshmen to turn professional.
When asked about what he learned from such a stellar amateur career, Shore was candid about the struggles that face amateur fighters, with late pull-outs and last-minute match-ups. But after dealing with these problems in the lower-tiers of the sport, Shore rose up the ranks as a far more adaptable fighter than some of his contemporaries.
“Obviously, as an amateur, I learned you’ve got to be ready to fight anyone at any time. Especially on the UK amateur scene, there’s a lot of late pull-outs and last-minute pull-outs; there were fights where I had an opponent change a couple of hours before the fight.”
“That definitely put me in good stead for when I went pro because the first couple of pro fights I had, I wasn’t getting matched-up until a week or two before a fight and I’ve had pull-outs three days before a fight, so it definitely gave me that mentality of ‘let’s just prepare myself and get ready to fight whoever they put in front of me and not worry too much about the opponent’.”
Shore is particularly proud of his victory at the IMMAF European Championships, a tournament that allowed him to compete against some of the brightest prospects in the continent. In his first three bouts, Shore fought for a total of 5 minutes and 4 seconds, with wins via rear-naked choke, triangle choke, and armbar. In the final, Shore was victorious once again, this time via unanimous decision.
“The IMMAF tournament prepared me for the upper-echelon and the top level of the pro-guys. I was going to go pro before I did the tournament, but then the opportunity came up and I truly fought some for some of the best amateurs in Europe; I fought Bulgarian guys, Irish guys, Norwegian guys and they were all top class and a lot higher level than the guys that I initially fought in Wales in England.”
“The tournament got me used to fighting those top-level guys so that when I went pro, I knew the level I was at and it just filled me with confidence as I moved through the ranks.”
Cage Warriors “Poster Boy”
Since its conception in 2001, Cage Warriors has produced some of the finest European talent in MMA today. It’s fair to say, after such an impressive amateur career, Shore was a perfect fit for the UK-based promotion; young, talented and hungry to reach the summit of the sport. After making his professional debut at Pain Pit Fight Night, Shore signed with Cage Warriors and set about realizing his own championship ambitions.
Initially, “The Tank” competed at featherweight, and in his first six fights, picked-up six finishes, four by way of first-round submission. In 2018, Shore decided to drop to bantamweight and after defeating UFC-veteran Vaughan Lee and Weslley Maia, earned a shot at the newly-vacated 135-pound title.
“I’ve got to be fair, when I signed with them, they promised me a lot of things like good exposure and to match me correctly, and they were true to their word; everything they promised me, they did. It definitely helped me grow as a fighter because although I was fighting a tougher test every time, it was the right step-up.”
“I said to them when I signed, ‘I don’t want to be one of these guys who pads their records for 1o or 11 fights and then starts fighting tougher tests’. Although I was only 1-0 and young in my professional career, I had that amateur experience and I wanted to get straight into the mix and straight into fighting the top European guys and they did that.”
Shore’s title fight against Mike Ekundayo, and subsequent defense against Scott Malone, were the bouts that finally made him believe he could compete in the UFC. Instead of competing against less experienced and less talented fighters, Shore faced two of the UK’s best bantamweights and picked them apart.
“The way [Cage Warriors] matched me led then to about a year when I got a title fight and it’s just blown up ever since then. I took out the last two best guys behind me in Europe. Although I was sort of their poster boy so to speak, they were never shy about putting me in against stern competition, who had every chance of beating me… So, the last two fights definitely elevated my confidence and made me realize that I was capable of fighting the best guys in the world and beating them with the skills I’ve got.”
Signing across the pond
A month after his victory over Scott Malone, it was announced by Cage Warriors President Graham Boylan that Shore had signed with the UFC, following in the footsteps of other former bantamweight champions Nathaniel Wood and Brett Johns.
While there was some confusion as to when Shore would make his first UFC outing, it was later confirmed that he would debut at UFC Copenhagen, in front of a partisan European crowd.
“Before I got the call, I was planning on going on holiday to Mexico and we didn’t know if I’d have to cancel the holiday because there were talks of me fighting in July or August… I had 10 days away and as soon as I came back, I’ve been training ever since. I got told I was fighting in Copenhagen about 8 weeks before, so I was in shape by the time I got the call to fight and it was just a matter of fine-tuning things and making it more specific to my opponent.”
After returning from holiday, a jet-lagged Shore enjoyed an early visit from USADA, a reminder that fighting in the UFC isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. While Shore certainly didn’t enjoy the early start, he is also a huge believer in keeping the sport clean, and although the constant testing can be annoying, it’s part of the job.
“I landed on the Sunday morning and usually I go to the gym on Monday morning, but I was jet-lagged so I didn’t go. At 6 AM, I had about four hours of sleep and there was a knock on the door and my mum said ‘It’s USADA, they’ve come to test you.’
“So far, I’ve had three tests and I haven’t even fought yet, so I don’t know if anyone’s trying to get me in trouble, but they regularly visit me at the moment. But I’m all for it, it can be a pain in the arse, but a clean sport is better for everyone involved. The sooner the get rid of all the cheats in the sport, the better.”
Jack Shore faces Nohelin Hernandez at UFC Copenhagen on September 28. The card is headlined by a middleweight clash between rising contenders Jack Hermansson and Jared Cannonier. In the co-main event, Danish Olympian Mark Madsen will make his UFC debut against Italy’s Danilo Belluardo. Other main card bouts include Gunnar Nelson vs. Gilbert Burns, Ion Cutelaba vs. Khalil Rountree Jr. and Nicolas Dalby vs. Alex Oliveira.