Chapter Two: Nathan Fletcher talks grasping gold; Cage Warriors return

Nathan Fletcher’s rise through Cage Warriors’ professional bantamweight rankings was nothing short of meteoric. From his professional debut with the promotion to six fights later fighting for the coveted big gold belt, Next Generation looked to have another soaring representative grasping a championship.

Facing the professional rankings at 21-years-old is a common feat amongst Liverpudlian battlers. The mode of which enter the higher level with a wealth of amateur experience behind them. It wasn’t long before Fletcher had announced himself wearing those infamous yellow gloves. One win became two. Two became four and as four became six – all in which being clinical finishes – title ramifications were awaiting in September 2021, which the Scouse grappling specialist feels may have been too much too soon.

“In terms of most people’s careers it came pretty fast,” told Fletcher. “I turned pro in 2019 and obviously COVID happened in between then and my title shot. During the lockdown when Cage Warriors put on the trilogy shows, I had some big performances which led to me getting the title shot. It came early, but considering the run I was on and the people I was beating to do it, it made sense.

“However, I think it came too soon in terms of my experience as a professional. It’s all a learning curve. Had I gone on to win that fight, I wouldn’t be saying it was too quick. It’s all relative, y’know? Now I’m excited to go on my second run and get another crack at it.”

As his record and name exploded onto the domestic and European scene inside Cage Warriors, the hype amongst media and the appraisal from teammates and friends alike was not making for a big head on Fletcher’s shoulders, he insists. From the confidence and discipline ingrained into martial artists at Next Generation Liverpool, Nathan simply knew how good his abilities were.

“A lot of people were jumping on the bandwagon on that run, supporting me,” Fletcher said. “It was good, I didn’t take it as going to my head, though. When I got into MMA, from the day I started I thought I was going to be in the UFC. I’ve always imagined getting to the top of the sport. I’ve got a serious amount of confidence in myself.

“All these others getting in and supporting me only relayed in me the confidence that I had. I don’t think I got carried away with hype. Ultimately, although it’s a big achievement to fight for the Cage Warriors title at 23-years-old, my career goals are much bigger than that. I want to achieve bigger. I can’t be getting carried away with myself at 6-0. I think I kept a very logical head on myself at the time and definitely still do in this next chapter.”

As September rolled around, Fletcher found himself up against his biggest adversary yet in Dominique Wooding. A man who had also been on a roll in Cage Warriors, stopping every man who had stood before him. The pair clashed in vintage grappler-versus-striker fashion, with Fletcher dominating the early stanzas.

The tides changed in round three, however, with big fight experience playing much of a role.

“I thought I was ready for it,” Fletcher opined. “Level-wise, I think I proved that I am a better fighter than Dominique [Wooding]. I think if anything I slightly overlooked him. I thought I was going to run through the kid like I had done everyone else – and I was doing for the whole of the first two rounds.”

“It was interesting. We were in his backyard, but most the fans were there for me. My support was outrageous. The lead up wasn’t that intense for me. He didn’t get in my head or anything. We had a few back and forths on social media, but none of that affects me. I was focused on the prize. The talking never equates to much.

“Ultimately, it came down to his experience and my lack of composure. I have a lot better of a striking prowess than what I showed and I was rushing takedowns because I knew I was able to get a hold of him, so my discipline went.

“That took away all my set-ups, all my feints, I didn’t have any covers and became very one-dimensional. I think the pressure of the occasion got to me. I kept thinking ‘if I get hold of him, I’m going to win the belt.’ That was in my head between rounds and that was a mistake. You have to be present in these situations. All in all, I’ve come out more experienced against a good opponent. I’m ten times the fighter now.”

This Friday 22nd July, Fletcher returns from his ten-month absence and will once again fasten the yellow gloves and make the walk as, what Nathan believes, a much better, rounded competitor. From the fighter who walked in chasing gold last September to the man who returns with his first professional blemish behind him, Fletcher plans for a frightening reminder to set the tone on a big weekend in London for his Liverpool teammates.

“I think the skillset is going to be ten times different,” Fletcher said. “The attitude, the maturity, the composure – it’s all going to be there. I’m a lot more comfortable striking now as I have spent a lot of time the last ten months working on that. The mindset will be the biggest difference you see in me. I was strong before, but I’m different now having overcome that adversity. The difference is going to be frightening.

“Ten months on the shelf is a long time, so people will have forgotten what I’m about, so I’ll be more than happy to remind them who I am.”