“The opportunity to compete for the Fightstar Championship Middleweight strap is just the icing on the cake”.
Meet one of the UK’s most active amateur competitors Daniel ‘Pork Chop’ Cassell who has constantly being grinding his way through the middleweight division for the past few years. Training out of Wolfpack MMA in the midlands, Dan has constantly fought top level opposition and come out top. Especially in 2014 which was one of the most impressive years by a UK fighter as Dan competed many times, traveled Stateside and continually showed why he is rated as one of the UK’s finest amateurs.
“2014 was a fantastic year overall for me” Cassell said. “I competed seven times with a record of five wins and two losses. I think staying active last year throughout can only have helped develop me as a fighter, it is one less thing to overcome when you get in the cage and I aim to stay just as active this year and hopefully be just as successful”.
The big adventure for Dan came in July when he was selected as part of the UK team to travel over to Las Vegas and compete in the IMAAF amateur world championships. A big step for any competitor and one which Dan took to like a duck to water, coming away with a bronze medal. He took on opponents from South Africa, Italy and Denmark. Most people go on holiday to get there passports stamped and relax, but Pork Chop was there to put his stamp on the world scene.
“Competing in the Amateur World Championships was a real test” Cassell remembers. “Before we went over we all anticipated how high the level of competition from the other countries would be because of it being the first year the competition was run.
“Overall the calibre of fighter was very high” added the Wolfpack stand out. “I faced three very tough opponents, beating two of them convincingly and unfortunately losing in the semi finals to the eventual world champion. I believe it has given me the experience and confidence to be able to fight overseas again when it comes to it”.
The whole UK team was made up of some fantastic competitors: Jamie Powell, Carl Burton, Jordan Chester, Charlie Day and Josh Stacey McManus. Added in to coach the team was UK middleweight competitor Luke Barnatt, who currently competes in the UFC.
So the whole array of talent out there, mixed in with a top coach, made for a unique and close bond, which ultimately led to success.
“I think that is the reason the UK team were so successful over there” Cassell mentions. “We were a close team supporting each other through each day of the tournament and still keep in touch now. Anybody who knows Luke Barnatt will probably agree he is one of the most humble guys in the sport and a pleasure to be coached by, he helped me with a few basic drills over there which has improved the fundamentals of my game drastically!”
After starting the 2014 with a very impressive three round, unanimous decision, victory over Piotr Adamczuk at Caged Fighters 7 in Leeds, Dan returned to competition on the UK scene in Wolverhampton when he took on Dylan McCloughlin at Punch Up Promotions: Fight Night 7.
The match up was close to home, Dan was backed by a very vocal crowd, and he was prepared for a very difficult match up but one which he believed he could get his hand raised at the end of, but just 86 seconds into the match up the referee called a halt to the fight with Dan verbally submitting to an armbar from his opponent.
It was disappointing from Dan because he hadn’t actually submitted but made a groan from the armbar, which ultimately leads the referee to jump in for fighter safety. So it was a difficult moment but everything happens for a reason and we could one day see the McCloughlin vs. Pork Chop rematch.
“My experience of my last fight was probably the lowest point I’ve had in the sport” Cassell remembers. “I was competing on a local show, I had sold 120 tickets and unfortunately was on the wrong end of a dodgy decision which was heartbreaking.
“Up until that point it was an evenly matched affair and I don’t think me or Dylan wanted the contest to end in the fashion that it did.
“After a few days to think about things I respected the referees decision and understood that he has to put fighter safety as his best interest. However if you asked me if i would fight Dylan again.. In a heartbeat!!”
Dan’s development and 2015 in the cage begins in just five days time as he steps into the FightStar Championship arena in Coventry. On the night Dan is in the co-main event of the evening opposite unbeaten Craig Humphreys as they both do battle for the FSC British Middleweight Championship.
The fight is set to be one of the most explosive on the card with Dan likely to be well supported by a vocal crowd and with it being for a championship adds even more spice, and would start his 2015 with a bang.
“The opportunity to compete for the Fightstar Championship Middleweight strap is just the icing on the cake really. I have been competing in the sport for a few years now and am looking to turn to the professional ranks soon. At this point in my career what is more important for me is to be fighting the best possible competition out there for me and I believe Craig fits the bill. He seems a cool guy and I’ve got nothing but respect for his skills as a fighter. However come fight night I’m going to make sure its my hand that’s raised and I’m taking a nice shiny piece of metal home with me!”
His opponent Craig Humphreys is another bright talent on the UK Middleweight radar at the moment who comes in unbeaten at 4-0. FightStar fans will remember him from competing on the third and fourth shows and will come into this match up on the back of a one-punch, nine second, knockout of Jim Ratcliffe at Full Contact Contender.
He has finished all of his opponents so far and Dan isn’t taking him lightly and believes that he will be tested by his opponent, but it is something which will only bring out the best in him.
“As I said earlier Craig is a great fighter he’s unbeaten in four appearances which tells you hes top quality” Cassell said. “I can’t really see much of a weakness in his game as he looks pretty well rounded. I don’t think experience is going to play a huge part in the fight, Craig looks composed in all of his outings which is the main thing experience brings you!
“I just think I’m going to be slightly better in all aspects of my game, I’m certainly going to be fitter, I’m going to be faster and 10 times hungrier. I also don’t think he has been pushed into deep water yet and that I have fought slightly better fighters over my career. Putting all of those factors together I believe that is whats going to bring me out on top on the night”.
The fight comes on a fine show in FightStar, who have grown from hosting events in Huddersfield and Halifax to branching out and hosting their first one in Coventry this weekend. They have constantly got top competitors on their show, while offering amateurs the chance to start their journeys by competing on a very professional show.
Dan is looking forward to competing on the show, as he knows a lot about them and everything has been smooth since signing the fight contract.
“FightStar Championship is a great show, the way Raj and the team have looked after me since agreeing the fight has been nothing but professional” Cassell mentions. “I am really looking forward to seeing the schedule for the night and getting a win under my belt on the promotion.
“I believe that I would be the first Middleweight champion which is an honour on a show of this calibre as I believe they are going to continue to grow”.
MMA in the UK is continually growing and FightStar Championship are a show which are becoming one of the most recognised in the UK and this weekend they will crown an inaugural Middleweight Champion and it could be taken home by one the country’s most highly rated competitors in Dan Cassell.
He went through all the MMA emotions in 2014 and 2015 has seen him sharpening his tools with the WolfPack and fans can expect the most dangerous Pork Chop they have ever seen this weekend in Coventry.
Dan would like to thank:
“Id like to thank my Coach John Ashley for all the hard work and effort he has put into me and his continued belief in me to succeed, the guys down at Wolfpack MMA such as Jai Herbert and James Hands plus many more who kick the shit out of me day in day out!
My Sponsors Animosity Fight Gear, Vapour Buddy, XS Mouthguards, World Wide Protein and Golden Ticket Promotions.
Finally & most importantly id like to thank my partner Heidi who puts up with all the ups and downs and me never being home due to work commitments and training. Id also like to thank her for cleaning my sweaty training gear week in and week out and being so understanding!”
Photo Credits: Dan Cassell (Unless otherwise stated)
(I would like to finally thank Dan for taking the time out to answer my questions and allowing me to put this piece together).