Dean Garnett and Chris Fishgold are set to make their long-awaited return to the cage at Hexagon MMA 6 on 22nd January.
Fighting out of Aspire Combat Academy in Stoneycroft, the Paris billing will see the duo face off against French natives Miguel Haro (9-9) and Yazid Chouchane (8-3-0) as they look to kickstart their remaining competitive years.
“Financially, they offered me a good deal, but Hexagon is a massive show too. It’s only just arrived in France, the audiences they’re getting are ridiculous”, said Fishgold, speaking exclusively to the ECHO.
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“With Dean fighting on this card, it was good to get back in there with a teammate, someone you started with; someone you put in the work with. It just works better.
“I’ve signed for fights before where you’re going out there on your own, you don’t know the language, you don’t know anybody there! This will be cool to be there together. We’re all trying to get the same end product.
“I’ve fought a few French (fighters) over the years. Of those I’ve fought, I’ve stopped every one of them inside two minutes, apart from Olivier Pastor back in 2013 when I got the unanimous decision. Apart from that, any French I’ve fought have just been in and out. I’m hoping this’ll be the same.”
Also speaking to the ECHO, Garnett inserts: “The deal I have with Hexagon is non-exclusive.
“I can sign for these big promotions, I just can’t sign for another promotion in France. Let’s see what happens in Hexagon. If I win their belt and they pay me good money, I’m happy to fight there.
“I just wanna take each fight as it comes at the moment. There’s been a lot of time off, there were questions about whether I’d even return. Now that it’s come back to me, I just wanna enjoy it.”
After edging former Cage Warriors bantamweight Dominique Wooding in a split back in May 2018, a fractured jaw followed by the complications from the Covid pandemic forced Garnett to the sidelines.
Nearly five years later, the 5’6” technician concedes his peak physical years may have been lost in the interval.
With the 61kg bantamweight limit proving harder to match as the years roll by, the 64kg catchweight in Paris will prove a testing ground for the 34-year-old contender.
Despite the long absence from competition, Garnett remains self-assured the recess will have minimal impact when he takes stage in The City of Light.
“I wouldn’t say I believe in ring rust as such, but I’ve always been on the mat”, affirms Garnett. “I’ve not left the sport, and I’ve not been working another job.
“I’m a coach; I’m completely full-time with the sport of MMA - it’s all I do. I’ve been improving still; I’ve just got to bring my physiology up to the level of performance it was at previously.
"I might be just shy in this fight, but I’m sure by the time I have my second one with Hexagon, I’ll be back to where I was and fighting for a title.
“Throughout my fight career, I’ve always been held as one of the top British pros. I was always ranked highly, I spent a good few years in the top five in the UK.
“I’m one of the best guys on the UK scene, definitely. Now I’m one of the most experienced guys on the UK scene. A couple of good wins and I’m right back in there, I’m talking about the biggest promotions in the world.”
In August 2020, a unanimous decision loss to Paddy ‘the Baddy’ Pimblett’s recent opponent Jared Gordon saw Fishgold axed from the UFC. Since then, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has reinvented himself as a bare-knuckle boxer, chalking up a 1-1 (wins-losses) record in ungloved warfare.
Yet the former Liverpool city centre bouncer insists the stint between the ropes acted more as an amusing side hustle than a long term venture. After turning 30 last year, Fishgold feels his best MMA performances may still be to come.
“My prime years haven’t even started”, insists Fishgold. “If you knew the lifestyle I lived beforehand, even through the UFC, compared to now - I never really lived the ‘pro life’ as I should have been.
“I’m starting to get in the right place now. You don’t reach your peak until you’re 33 to 35 in this sport. I’m still five years away from that. I still feel young. I’ve had over 20 pro fights now and I still feel switched on.
At four years his senior, Garnett, however, admits: “I’m probably just about to come on the downward slide in my physical prime but MMA isn’t a wholly physical sport, it’s a smart man’s sport.
“I’ve only gained more experience and knowledge in the last few years. You only have to look at the level of the amateurs that I’ve brought through, like (Muhammad) Mokaev, Liam McCracken, Marlon Jones - that’s what we’ve been working on in the gym.”
“Now, these guys are starting to show their world-class level. It’s gonna show when I’m in the cage with Haro.”
The Paris pay packet may have enticed the veterans to return but as the two encroach on a pivotal moment in their respective careers, legacy still plays a driving force in their pursuit of glory.
“I wanna be remembered for all the different things I’ve achieved, not just as a fighter”, declares Garnett. “I wanna be remembered as a man who had a lot of strings to his bow, who had a lot of sides to him. I think I’m multifaceted as a man and I like to demonstrate that.
“But I certainly wanna be remembered as someone who was game, someone who would take tough fights. That’s what I’m about.”
Fishgold concludes: “I just wanna be remembered as someone who’d fight anyone. Someone who, every time they fought, you knew you were watching something exciting. From the feedback I get, people have always understood that.”