Some of the most exciting fights over the past year in TKO have taken place in the bantamweight division.  Waardenburg vs Gordon, Alaoui vs Imparato, Jourdain vs Laramie were all show stealing fights that will remain engraved in the fans’ memories for years to come.

On the heels of his victories over Malcom Gordon and David Sachs, Dimitri “No Stress” Waardenburg (13-8, 7 KO, 1 sub) stands atop the standings at 135 pounds.  However, with the organization’s plan to crown champions at TKO41 on December 8, the question was who would face him.  Although loaded with young and veteran talent, the division had seen most of its top competitors come up short in their latest outings and leaving the door open for a new challenger to emerge.

Enter Calgary’s Jesse “The Big Cat” Arnett (13-4, 3 KO, 8 sub), the man widely regarded as the country’s very best bantamweight fighter.  Currently riding a 10-fight win streak, Arnett was more than worthy to fill the spot and compete for the gold.  Add to that the fact that he had defeated Waardenburg over 2 years ago via first round submission.

I was doing just fine on the feet but he caught me and the next thing I knew I was in an Anaconda choke.  He beat me but even his fans were telling me after the fight that I was getting the better of him up until that point” recalled Waardenburg, who has not lost since that fight.

Despite the fact that Arnett earns high praise for his ground work, he has every intention of being victorious in different fashion this time around.  During a recent interview on the Kobe’s Korner podcast, Arnett did not hesitate to reveal his game plan: “I’m not going for takedowns” he claimed.  “I’m gonna stand with him, I’m going to kick him in the head, I’m going to punch him in the chin and I’m going to put his lights out.”  One would expect that statement to be music to Waardenburg’s ears as he is known for his incredible muay thai skills.  Arnett, unimpressed with the latter, simply added: “If he punches me, he’d better not miss.

Not only is this fight special for Waardenburg because he is following in his father’s footsteps as Dirk Waardenburg competed on the very first TKO card, then known as UCC, in June 2000, but also because he will get his first shot at TKO gold in the mecca of Canadian mixed martial arts, The Bell Centre.  “It’s the highlight of my 10-year career” noted Waardenburg who is only 28 years old, “it’s an honor to fight on such a stacked card in the home of the champions.  I’m looking forward to putting on a show.

Ever since the fight was announced, Arnett has been all over social media hyping his first TKO appearance.  Always full of confidence, he seems more than ready for the challenge that awaits him next Friday night. “Preparation and self-belief has gotten me here.  I am THE 135-pound fighter.  This will be the best version of me yet and I look forward to giving Montreal the Big Cat experience.

Will Arnett stick to his word and stand and bang with Waardenburg?  Or will Dimitri’s recent travels to Brazil bear fruit and see him be able to contend with Jesse’s ground game?  We are merely a few days from what promises to be an incredible fight with the TKO bantamweight championship at stake.

Join us on Friday, December 8 for TKO 41: Champions at Montreal’s Bell Centre.  Tickets on sale now at or by phone at (514) 790-2525.

– Story by Patrick Lono, TKO

Dimitri WaardenburgFight NetworkJesse ArnettRDS2TKO41UFC FIGHT PASS
Dimitri WaardenburgJesse Arnett