Ronnie O’Sullivan has accepted the challenged from new UFC superstar Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett to get into the cage for a sparring session.
The Rocket takes on player of the season and defending champion Neil Robertson on Friday in the semi-finals of the Tour Championship in what is a repeat of last year’s final.
Six-time world champion O’Sullivan, 46, will be back at world No1 next week ahead of the Betfred World Championship where he will try to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of seven crowns.
But his sensational and thrilling 10-9 quarter-final win in Llandudno on Wednesday against old Class of 1992 rival Mark Williams was supported by good pal Pimblett.
O’Sullivan, who made five centuries against Williams, was was in the audience at the O2 Arena recently as 27-year-old Liverpool lightweight ‘The Baddy’ beat Rodrigo Vargas.
Keep-fit fanatic O’Sullivan said: “I am definitely going to try and do some sparring with him, when I next go to Liverpool he has told me I have got to get in the cage. And I am well up for that, it is all fitness.
“I went to Paddy’s last fight in London at the O2 with Damien Hirst, because he is a huge fan of UFC and knows the big bosses.
“We were sitting front row watching Paddy and Molly McCann too, and it was a great night. I have got to know Paddy over the last few weeks.
“He is a super, lovely guy and is going to be a real superstar – well, he is already really, but he is going to be mega, he has that X-Factor.
“What I like about UFC over maybe even the boxing is that you will never get an easy route. You have to fight whoever they say you are going to fight.
“In boxing there is a lot of politics involved, and fighters get to fight certain fighters and avoid certain fighters.
“So the public can be frauded that some are better than they really are because they avoid the real, proper fights.
“But in UFC that doesn’t happen so much, they know that if they want to be the guvnor then they have got to fight each other. That’s the one thing I really like.
“It was just an amazing atmosphere at the O2, with 17,000 people and Paddy had the place rocking, he was the star of the night along with Molly.
“He just has an aura, everyone is talking about him. It was weird, my son was like ‘You went to the UFC, Paddy’s a legend’ and he loved it when I sent him a picture of us.
“We had breakfast together in Llandudno on the morning of my match with Mark Williams, all my friends from Liverpool brought him down. There are a few of the lads, and we had a couple of beers afterwards.”
Pimblett, who has won his first two UFC fights and is looking to emulate the achievements and fame of Conor McGregor, lost around 35-40 pounds for the first-round submission win over Vargas and admits he will now pile them back on.
The 27-year-old has a taste for pizza, doughnuts, Easter eggs, other chocolate, cheesecake and crisps – but has been quick to capture the imagination and already made a huge impact and connection with the public with his exciting style, charisma and personality.
Before the Vargas fight, Pimblett was involved in a hotel scuffle with Georgian Ilia Topuria, a possible future opponent, and told the BBC that he was open to that fight if that is what the authorities decided.
Pimblett, who would love one day to fight at Anfield, said: “If his name's on the next contract the UFC send me then yeah, I’ll fight him. I don’t go out of my way to mention anyone’s name because I don’t need to. He [Topuria] can do as he pleases.
“I take everything one fight at a time. You can’t plan even five fights ahead because anything can happen.”
Meanwhile the trip to the north Wales coast is proving to be one of O’Sullivan’s favourite on the treadmill of the snooker circuit, as well as having a more than decent record at the tournament where he as one title and another final appearance already.
The nearby hills offer excellent running opportunities for the Rocket and as with many towns and cities he has preferred high-class running partners waiting to put him through his paces.