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Cage Warriors heavyweight champion Mauro Cerilli makes ONE Championship switch

Cage Warriors have released their heavyweight champion from his contract so he can chase championship gold in Asia with ONE Championship

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Swapping Europe for Asia: Italian heavyweight Mauro Cerilli (Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors)

Italian heavyweight Mauro Cerilli is swapping Cage Warriors for ONE Championship, as he looks to win back-to-back heavyweight titles with different organisations.

Cerilli has signed for ONE Championship, Asia’s biggest martial arts organisation, and will face defending ONE Heavyweight Champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera for the title on his promotional debut at ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS on Friday, November 23 in Manila.

News of Cerilli’s switch to ONE may have raised eyebrows among some on the European MMA scene.

After all, Cerilli had as recently as March defended the Cage Warriors heavyweight title with a stunning 15-second knockout of light-heavyweight champ Karl Moore at Cage Warriors 92: Super Saturday.

And, with Cage Warriors renowned as an established launchpad to the UFC for its top fighters, it seemed like the 35-year-old was in the ideal spot.

But, after struggling to find suitably competitive European-based fights for their new heavyweight champion, Cage Warriors took the decision to allow Cerilli to walk away from his deal in order to further his career with ONE.

Letting his man go: Graham Boylan released Cerilli for the good of his career (Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors)

Letting his man go: Graham Boylan released Cerilli for the betterment of his career (Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors)

“It was best for his career for us to release him,” Cage Warriors President Graham Boylan told me on Thursday.

“We did what was best for him.”

That decision meant Cerilli was able to sign for ONE Championship, where he will be thrown straight in at the deep end when he headlines a huge show at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila against defending world champion Vera on Friday, November 23.

The heavy-handed Italian is riding a five-fight win streak, with four of those five wins coming via KO or TKO.

And the 12-2 challenger will carry a considerable threat into his title fight with defending champion Vera (15-7, 1 no contest), who will be returning to action for the first time since December 2016.

Returning champ: Brandon "The Truth" Vera (ONE Championship)

Returning champ: Brandon “The Truth” Vera (ONE Championship)

“Brandon has been itching to get back in action to defend his heavyweight title for some time now, and I am thrilled to announce that he will be returning at ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS,” said ONE CEO and Chairman Chatri Sityodtong.

“Brandon will have a very tough challenger in front of him in the form of Mauro Cerilli. The two provide an explosive matchup and a good contrast of styles.”

With Cerilli on something of a tear, and with Vera looking to maintain championship form after almost two years away, their main event matchup in Manila on November 23 should make for fascinating viewing.

The event will also feature a second world title fight, as Filipino former ONE Lightweight Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang looks to reclaim the now-vacant title by defeating Singaporean contender Amir Khan. The belt was previously held by Australia’s Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, who vacated the title through injury in September.

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 20 years’ experience in the UK's national media covering major sporting events including UFC world title fights, Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Championships, Grand National and the FA Cup Final.

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