I first crossed the path of Tom Breese in early 2012 in a West Midlands town called Dudley. He was immediately affable, albeit possessing an imposing aura. Little more than three years later he’s secured a contract with Dana White’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) behemoth Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), taking with him an unblemished professional CV.
At 6 foot 3 and with barely an inch of fat on his body, he had already made waves in the MMA world at the time of our initial encounter, having fought his inaugural amateur bout a full three years earlier when aged just 17.
An undefeated 8-fight amateur career under the watchful tutelage of Mick Broster usually saw fights end via submission, with the triangle choke and armbar favoured finishes for the talented, increasingly confident teenager.
Breese signed up with the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) in 2010, taking his pro bow later that year at BAMMA 4 on the eve of his 19th birthday, vanquishing the handy and experienced Shahid Hussain via submission in the second round.
“My ultimate goal is to become champion and the first British fighter to hold the UFC Title but I will take it one fight at a time,” Breese told me shortly after having forced a tap-out from fellow high pedigree youngster Thibaud Larchet in possibly his final contest on UK soil last November, inflicting only a second defeat on the 22 year-old Frenchman following four competitive rounds.
And what of the influx of professional wrestling talent into MMA? Former UFC champ Brock Lesnar remains an anomaly, with the likes of Dave Batista and Bobby Lashley proving leaden footed inside the octagon, despite being able to afford the best possible training.
“I don’t mind them coming into MMA as long as they can fight. CM punk signing to the UFC is a little controversial as he has never fought, I would have liked him to have fought outside of the organisation first but it is what it is.”
British fighters have generally struggled to make an impact in UFC, with Michael Bisping probably the stand-out, although an impressive 26-7 record at the top level is undermined a tad by recent events; the 36 year-old suffering losses in four of his previous seven contests, as an increased calibre of opponent, father time (and some painfully wooden acting as a guest star on Hollyoaks) have all seemingly conspired to make him less effective than during his mid-2000 pomp.
At just 23 years of age, Breese could provide the remedy for the current British malaise over the pond. His vast reach, increasingly potent skill-set and eye-catching attacking repertoire should ensure that he swiftly becomes a favourite with the fans, whether that translates into a title or not, only time will tell.
For the fighter the mission remains crystal clear though; to become a trail blazer for other British MMA talent, whilst simultaneously proving his credentials among the world’s elite by earning the right for a major title to adorn his waist.
So far everything that Breese has set out to do has come to fruition, probably more rapidly than even he dared believe. With his best years still well ahead of him there’s no reason why he can’t become one of UFC’s star attractions, although the Birmingham born, Montreal based grappler refuses to let his feet leave the ground when assessing his own prospects;
“My ultimate goal is to become champion and the first British fighter to hold the UFC title, but I will take it one fight at a time.”
Tom Breese makes his UFC debut against Luiz Dutra Jr in Brazil on May 30th – be sure to support him as he continues to represent GB at a level that few from these shores have ever reached.