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MJF’s first feud as AEW champ is with a rising UFC star

We’ll know more about what’s next for new AEW World champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman after Dynamite tonight (Nov. 23). That’s when we’ll find out whether Ricky Starks or Ethan Page will be his challenger at “Winter is Coming” in two weeks, and we’ll learn more about the alliance with William Regal that allowed MJF to beat Jon Moxley for the belt at Full Gear.

But ahead of that, Friedman has been pro wrestling’s honor against mixed martial artist Paddy Pimblett.

Pimblett could be seen as an MMA version of MJF. The 27 year old Englishman is known as “Paddy the Baddy”, and he has a massive social media following. He’s 3-0 in the UFC. None of his fights have gone to decision. Pimblett is a charismatic, brash fighter who can talk as well as he fights, and as such he’s already being talked about by some as the promotion’s next Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey-level star.

The MJF/Paddy beef started when the Liverpudlian commented on a video of a Friedman interview that was making the rounds on Instagram. In the clip, Max talked about how dangerous pro wrestling is, calling it more dangerous than MMA. That got a reaction out of several UFC fighters, but Pimblett was the one MJF responded to — and shared those responses with the world on Twitter.

In their exchange, Pimblett suggest a showdown at Craven Cottage, home ground for the Shad & Tony Khan’s Premier League soccer team, Fulham F.C. MJF teases a meeting for AEW’s London debut (in 2023, but with no venue or date specified as of yet). But after jabs about performance-enhancing drug use, Max told ESPN’s Marc Raimondi he doesn’t want to wait until next year — especially since he knows Paddy’s next bout is on Dec. 10 in Las Vegas, when he faces Jared Gordon in a lightweight bout at UFC 282.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if the AEW world champion shows up on Dec. 10 in Vegas...

“I’m sick and tired of people talking about pro wrestling as if it’s some fucking stunt show. The fact of the matter is Paddy ‘The Prima Donna’ Pimblett would not last two seconds in a professional wrestling ring with me. Maybe not even one.

This fat, moon-faced prick, Will-from-Stranger-Things-looking asshole dollar store Conor McGregor decided he needed to chirp up and say, ‘Oh, wrestling is fake.’ Let me tell you something. We are real fighters. They are prima donnas.

“Pro wrestling is a dangerous, dangerous sport, and there is no one more dangerous than MJF I can assure you when we come to London in 2023, if Paddy shows his face, he’s going to find out that a Scouser [a native or inhabitant of Liverpool, England] is no match for a Long Islander. Because I’m better than him and he knows it.

“There’s a target on my back at all times. Like I said, if ‘Paddy the Baddy’ thinks he can aim at that target and hit it, I am more than game. More than game to knock that guy out.”

Their nascent beef has gotten a lot of play in the MMA and mainstream press, so this is clearly the kind of attention Friedman wants to bring to AEW (and himself) as champ. Whether the spotlight stays on them and it leads to something more probably depends on Pimblett’s willingness to play along, and ability to keep racking up wins in the Octagon.


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