The Made4TheCage management man was fighting on relative home soil for the first time in quite some time and bested Stevie Ray with a unanimous decision win after three rounds of war.
“It feels great to be the champion and it is about time I have a belt back around my waist because I haven’t had one for a while across different organisations and I hope to have another one by the end of the year,” he told me afterwards. “The crowd were really great and obviously with it being one round each going into the third, things do go through your head. The crowd though gave me that little bit extra and I think I did win the fight.”
On being the champion, he was in a brilliantly vibrant mood, even joking backstage to me that “I’m going to go home and sleep with it tonight,” with his new strap over his shoulder.
The 12-3 Warburton was originally scheduled to fight Rob Sinclair for the world title before an injury to the champion prevented it and although he said it was tough to adjust to the rematch at first, after preparing properly, he was not unduly worried during the fight against ‘Braveheart’.
“I had a bit of an adrenalin dump upon the Sinclair fight being taken away because I had been training for him for weeks. I watched a few of Stevie’s fights to refocus and get my head back in the game and it was a tough fight,” ‘The War’ continued.
“I know there were a couple of times when he was around my throat but I didn’t feel in trouble at any point. I couldn’t get him off me at times and any time I got up he was trying reversals and switching it up and I was impressed with him but I knew it was one round each going into the third and it was whoever wanted it more had to go for it.”
Of the Sinclair bout though, Warburton is in no doubt that he does want to step in against the man he should have fought on Saturday and has the world champion in his sights.
“I hope to fight for the world title and unify the belts because I’m game for it,” said Warburton. “I’m back in the gym next week so whenever BAMMA want me, I will be ready!”
He also came away from the bout very much impressed by his opponent and was classy in his appraisal of Ray who he has labelled as ‘the future’.
“I knew his game plan and I felt good and strong especially on top. He was really strong in clinch and shocked me in the clinch, it was hard to escape sometimes from him.”
He added: “Stevie is a future star and is the future of British and world MMA and is going to come back even stronger and I’m glad I fought him now rather than in five years time.”
Despite it going to a decision, Warburton believes he did enough to secure the win and admits knowing that the third and final round was going to be the one which swung the bout either way.
“I didn’t want to waste all my energy in the second round and I hadn’t took much damage so I thought I would sit it out and then go for it in the third,” said the new lightweight champion. “There is always doubt when it goes to a decision and he was the champion and you have to beat a champion and if it is close they usually get it.
“But I thought I did enough to win it. I thought my first round was dominant, then the same with him in the second and I thought I edged the decider in the third.”