DARREN TILL will continue his rapid rise to UFC superstardom when he main events Fight Island against Robert Whittaker.
The 27-year-old was like many MMA fighters who survived tough upbringings to become a success in the Octagon.
And ‘The Gorilla’ is all too aware that his dream could have turned into a nightmare after he was almost fatally stabbed as a teenager.
The fighting pride of Liverpool was knifed in the back twice during an altercation in a nightclub eight years ago.
He told BT Sport back in 2018: “There was an incident in a club. I was always training hard in the gym but I didn’t have much focus.
“My focus was on other things as well. I was in a club and a fight broke out.
“I was in the mix of it and someone stabbed me in the back twice. Someone stabbed me in my lungs twice. A millimetre away from an artery.
“And the UFC doctor, actually, he was at the hospital in Liverpool at the time and he came to me when I woke up (and said), ‘Listen, you nearly died.’
I was outside the club and someones got their fingers stuck in my wound and I’m sort of thinking. ‘This is it, I might die here.’
“And I stayed in the hospital for just two weeks, just recovery time alone thinking, ‘Wow, that could’ve been it.’
“I sort of accepted it outside the club as well. I never said this, but I was outside the club and someones got their fingers stuck in my wound and I’m sort of thinking. ‘This is it, I might die here.’”
Till, who was then only 19-year-old, was urged by his Team Kaobon coach Colin Heron to go to Brazil to dedicate his life to MMA.
The welterweight star didn’t speak a word of Portuguese and had virtually no money.
According to talkSPORT, Till lived on eating chocolate spread on white bread to get by in Brazil during extensive martial arts training.
His South American excursion was initially supposed to be for six months.
Yet Till ended up staying there for nearly four years, during which he won all 13 of his professional fights and had a daughter.
After four impressive wins in the UFC, the Liverpudlian burst into the mainstream by dismantling Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in less than a round.
He was so highly regarded by Dana White’s UFC that the company brought an entire UFC card to the city of Liverpool in May 2018.
Cheered on by a hometown legion belting out ‘Sweet Caroline’, Till edged a points decision win over former world title contender Stephen Thompson.
A master on the mic 🎙
Darren Till’s post-fight interview in his hometown of Liverpool will never, ever get old 🤣 pic.twitter.com/bKDIdyqLMS
Unfortunately Till then suffered his first defeat as an amateur or a professional as he tapped out to to welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
He was then knocked out by Jorge Masvidal at UFC London in March 2019 and made the decision to move up to middleweight.
Till returned to winning ways victory over former world title contender Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 244 in Madison Square Garden in November.
A middleweight title fight now beckons should he get past Whittaker on Saturday night on Fight Island.
On coming full circle in his UFC career, Till told talkSPORT: “I’ve just bought my first house and just coming out into this everyday – another main event, another city, another country.
“I always speak with my coach and the guys and we sitting on the beach today and we are truly blessed.
“But we’ve worked hard to be where we are; we haven’t got here by chance or by a lucky streak.
“We put proper hard work and hard graft in so we deserve to be here, me and all my team.”
UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Till is live on talkSPORT 2 from 1am on Sunday 26 July