As Paul Daley watched the pre-fight press conference for last weekend’s Bellator clash between Rory MacDonald and Douglas Lima, the build up he watched from the sidelines on the understanding that a substantial opponent befitting his years in the sport and his pedigree would be arranged, Scott Coker’s words regarding Michael ‘Venom’ Page and his return to the cage appeared to sit uneasily with the British KO specialist.
Away from his reaction, which he released via Facebook last week, what many hadn’t been privy to was the back and forth exchanges between Daley and the promotion both of whom had agreed on what would arguably be one of Daley’s toughest tests of his career. Daley loves a challenge, one which he was relishing the prospect of taking on until Bellator’s radio silence. That silence brought on after Daley’s refusal to fight MVP in March has proven too much to bear and Daley has taken a rather scorched earth approach to ensure he fights and fights fairly soon.
“I’ve sat out since September, which I was happy to do as I presumed I would be fighting sometime in the early part of this year,” Daley told me. “So I’m watching the build up to the Lima vs MacDonald fight, now bear in mind I’d been on at Bellator every day to get me a fight, but nothing had been signed. We had agreed upon Alexander Shlemenko, who had agreed to come down to 170. I’ve bounced back from losing to a pound for pound fighter in Rory MaCDonald, to go in on my next fight against a former number sixth ranked UFC vet in [Lorenz Larkin] and winning by KO, so the fight made sense. And then at the press conference Scott Coker was talking about MVP’s return. This guy hasn’t fought in however long, the last time he fought it was a guy they found working the doors of a Bingo hall.”
Daley is keen to clear up the catalyst for all of this namely the radio silence and the fact that Bellator have attempted to push a fight with MVP in this quarter, which was out of sync with what he had in mind by way of a timeline. Daley is emphatic in his assertion that it was this that has prompted him to down tools with Bellator and effectively ask for his release and not the recent goading by MVP’s team and Venom Page himself.
“In this context my beef isn’t with MVP. Coker could have bought up Lorenz Larkin, Fernado Gonzales or anyone else at that press conference really. I just wanted Bellator to give me my fight that we have agreed on in between fighting Page. There is no valid reason for them not to give me the fight I’ve asked for it’s logical.”
“In addition to this I’m speaking meanwhile with a Senior Bellator VP regarding purses and tax relating to a fight I have had previously. The response I had was basically disrespectful. My response was ‘ok, I’m done with the bulls—t let me go, send me it in writing’ and the response I received was ‘ok, sounds good, you will’ so the result was the Facebook post people have seen. But now we are back to radio silence from Bellator.”
“If Bellator are gonna act like they don’t want me then they should just let me go instead of backtracking in the media. Ive had like ten inbox messages from promotions, princes, Kings of Dubai and Russian Oligarchs and all kinds of people. So if they are gonna let me go just let me go.”
The obvious question that has been on many fans of the sport’s lips is whether Daley would want to return to the UFC. Given his unceremonious departure and the challenges that are there for him would he entertain re-establising himself in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
“If the UFC contacted me I would go back there. Of course I would. All I want to do is fight the fights that I’m promised within a reasonable time frame. I would love to fight all the big fights I could. Nick Diaz, Donald Cerrone, Rafael dos Anjos, Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley. Woodley has always been respectful, he’s one of the only guys who has given me props that he has fought me, every interview he has given he gives me the respect I deserve. That’s all I’m asking for from Bellator just give me some respect. Just put some respect on my name, that is it.”
What many have pondered does seem to be a growing voice of concern that perhaps Daley had no intention of fighting Page and this is all an elaborate smoke screen. Daley is determined to let all doubters realise without a shadow of a doubt he was more keen than anyone for the fight to happen, but that agreement originally came with the caveat that he received no further deviations from what had been set as an expectation.
“I would have been happy to sign the MVP contact now so that he can shut up and fight” said Daley. “Bellator could have given me a date for this Summer. If a big opponent could be agreed for me before the MVP fight would have taken place, I was prepared to sign the contract now and Page’s team would have shut up especially when he would have been spun around the cage.
“MVP aint done s–t. His last fight was against Gonzales, with the crowd booing. His boxing match was atrocious too. I’ve come off a massive KO win, so no, it made no sense to fight MVP next. Bellator needed to give me another fight more deserving, not this skinny long armed bwoy. If they had given me a big fight, win or lose the next fight would have been Page and I would have been happy to sign a contract to that effect.”
Daley is keen to emphasize that the clock is literally counting down on his career and Bellator had a limited window in order to make the Venom Page fight happen but more importantly keep him active.
“I’ve always said I don’t want to fight past 35. So, I have to stick to a certain plan that makes sense for me. The hardcore fans know how this would have played out. MVP needed me to legitimise his ability which is why I wanted a big fight that had been agreed then we could have made the Page fight happen.” Daley continues, “If given the two contracts, the Page fight for Summer 2018 and a bigger fight before then I would have gladly signed both at the same time and we would have had a date we could have worked towards.”