Hereford MMA fighter scores 30-second KO on debut

Pre-fight photos taken for Apothecary 87, a beard oil company who, along Darren Thompson's Asylum gym and Hereford's Combat Academy, support MMA fighter Liam Herbert.

Pre-fight photos taken for Apothecary 87, a beard oil company who, along Darren Thompson's Asylum gym and Hereford's Combat Academy, support MMA fighter Liam Herbert.

Pre-fight photos taken for Apothecary 87, a beard oil company who, along Darren Thompson's Asylum gym and Hereford's Combat Academy, support MMA fighter Liam Herbert.

Pre-fight photos taken for Apothecary 87, a beard oil company who, along Darren Thompson's Asylum gym and Hereford's Combat Academy, support MMA fighter Liam Herbert.

Hereford fighter Liam Herbert gets his hand raised in his MMA debut in Bristol last month.

First published in Sport
Last updated

WITH a devastating 30-second knockout in his Octagon debut, Hereford fighter Liam Herbert backed up his pre-fight slogan and gave the mixed martial art scene reason to take notice; you need to ‘Fear the Beard’.

The hirsute Herbert dominated fellow newcomer Jake Oliver from the bell at the Knuckle Up event in Bristol last month.

Videos of the stoppage were all over social media within hours, with the former rugby star landing a flurry of punches before taking down Oliver for a ground and pound finish.

A brutal amateur debut for the middleweight, Herbert secured a clinical TKO for a fighter so new to the sport.

Herbert said: “To me finishing fights is natural. It’s an instinct. Some people have it and some people don’t.

“It’s how I got the fight.”

The 25-year-old former Bishop of Hereford Bluecoat School pupil had built a promising career as a rugby player before walking away from the game two years ago.

With England caps at age-group level and national league experience as a senior player, Herbert was well-known as a hard-hitting back-row.

Since stepping away because of injury, fatherhood has found him.

And he cites his two-year-old daughter, Lilah, as the driving force behind the sacrifices he has had to make both in the gym, and in his life.

“I fight with her in mind,” said Herbert.

“One of the last things my cornerman said was ‘you’ve been training hard now, and you’ve missed out on time with your daughter to fight this lad’.

“That was it, in my head, I was ready to go. I said to myself, this guy’s going to pay for that.”

His opponent stepped in eight weeks ahead of the event, following the withdrawal through injury of Herbert's initial opponent; and scrapping much of the game planning his coaching team had put in place.

Oliver also stood at 6’4, five inches and change taller than the Hereford fighter.

“On the morning of the fight I got to the venue and there was only two people there , me and the guy I was fighting,” Herbert said.

“And he is huge.

“In the warm-up area we were separated by a curtain – and all I could hear was him hitting the pads, hard.”

For both fighters – the only amateurs on a professional card - the opening bell would be their first impressions on the fight game.

“For rugby there were times I’d get so pumped up before kick-off that I’d be trailing off when it mattered.

“When you’re fighting, you’re the only one out there. You’ve got to get it just right.

“I walked out there and I didn’t even see the crowd – you can’t hear them, you can’t hear the music ¬– your world reduces to this tunnel in front of your eyes.”

When Oliver stepped into the cage, Herbert made sure he got eye-contact, a technique learned from reading up on Mike Tyson.

“When he looked away – that’s when I knew I had him,” Herbert said.

“If anything, I wish the fight went longer – I wanted to show what I can do besides striking.”

With several offers for his next bout, he will soon have the chance to do just that.

Herbert wants to keep several months between fights – to continue training and learning from Dave Coles and Simon Small at Hereford’s Combat Academy ¬– but aims to have two more fights under his belt by the end of the year.

And his next fight will, he hopes, be within range of his hometown, as, unlike rugby, the onus is on the promoter, and the fighter, to fill the stands.

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