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Sherdog Prospect Watch: Luke Riley


Luke Riley carries himself like someone who has little left to prove on the European regional scene, and the results seem to support the idea.

Having spent his entire professional career under the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship banner, the 24-year-old featherweight prospect moved to 9-0 with a three-round unanimous decision over John de Jesus in the CW 168 co-main event on March 16. Riley—who operates out of the same Next Generation MMA camp in Liverpool, England, that produced fast-rising Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight Paddy Pimblett—has delivered six of his nine victories by knockout or technical knockout, three of them inside one round.

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De Jesus, as expected, proved himself a worthy adversary. He pestered Riley with a consistent jab, hammered him with occasional knees to the body and buzzed the tower with a few head kicks. However, the spaces in between belonged to the undefeated Englishman. Riley controlled the center of the cage, established a measured pace and slowly but surely turned up the heat. He blitzed de Jesus with body-head combinations throughout, staggered him with a left hook in the second round and bloodied his nose with a series of rapid-fire punching bursts in the third. Though the finish eluded Riley, it was another productive day at the office.

“As always, if you know me by now, nine fights in, it is what it is,” he said in his post-fight interview. “I knew I was going to get the win. I would have liked the finish, but as I said beforehand, it’s about getting a win at the end of the day. As long as the W is on the record, that’s all that matters. I’m not really going to get myself too down about the finish. It was a learning curve out of a win, so I’ll take it as that.”

Riley’s latest victory came on the heels of his ballyhooed September firefight with Alexander Loof at CW 160, where he delivered a sensational third-round knockout but walked away with some battle scars. He admitted to some tentativeness against the well-traveled de Jesus, a 33-year-old Brooklyn, New York, native with a proven track record who has fought in Bellator MMA, Ring of Combat and Cage Fury Fighting Championships.

“He’s experienced, [with] nearly four times [the amount of] my fights, and he’s long,” Riley said. “I think I’m coming out thinking they’re a lot better than what they are when I’m a lot better than them and they’re fearing me [and] I’m not fearing them. I’m coming out, and I’m a bit too hesitant. At the end of the day, it’s my first fight since I broke my hand. I pulled the trigger a few times, but it was, I would say, lacking a bit of confidence.”

A shot at the vacant Cage Warriors featherweight crown seems like a virtual lock at this point, so long as UFC President Dana White does not dial up Riley first.

“I’m up for the belt next,” he said. “If that doesn’t align with my timeline, I’ve heard the UFC is coming to Manchester, [England]. I’m crowd-pleaser. Get me on UFC Manchester. Dana, come on, make the call. I’m 24 now. I need to start making some dough.”


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