When all is said and done, Michael Page vs. Paul Daley will likely go down as the one that got away from Bellator.
A welterweight pairing between the two English strikers has been one of the most talked about fights in Bellator over the last few years, but despite several false starts and a bevy of callouts from both sides, the match never came together. And now, as a disgruntled Daley publicly feuds with Bellator officials while pledging to leave the promotion after his next fight, it appears the time to book the U.K. grudge match has passed.
For Page, who next meets David Rickels on May 25 at Bellator 200, watching the slow decline of Daley from legitimate Bellator star to persona non grata has been a strange affair, especially because many of Daley’s early gripes revolved around the promotional push “MVP” was getting from Bellator officials and the organization’s desire to book a match between the two Englishmen.
“From the outside, to me, it looks like self-harm,” Page told MMA Fighting. “Like, it really does look like self-harm. It looks like he’s trying to sabotage himself and it’s like he’s trying to find a way out of Bellator, he’s not happy in Bellator. But I actually genuinely think his reasoning for not feeling or being happy in Bellator is — it has a lot to do with me being there. He’s got a lot of jealousy, in my opinion. There’s a lot of jealously for a long time that’s just coming out now. I mean, you see about his antics, he’s very up and down, back and forth. At the same time, it’s very childish. Even that last fight (against Jon Fitch), it looked like he was just throwing [a tantrum] while getting punched in the face.
“It was ridiculous. I just think he’s just ruining any form of legacy that he even had. That’s gone just because of this moody, childish attitude. And it also says a lot about him. I don’t think he’s ever grown up, because he says the stuff that happened in the UFC that got him kicked out, he’s a different person, but then you see him act like this and it kinda says he’s not really — he’s the same person, it’s just further along in time. And shows aren’t going to want you to be a part of them if you can disrespect them in that fashion, so it really does look like self-harm from where I stand.”
Prior to his recent Bellator 198 loss to Fitch, Daley expressed disappointment with what he perceived to be a lack of a promotional push Bellator officials offered him following his knockout victory over Lorenz Larkin in September. Daley said he felt “undervalued” and vowed to take his talents elsewhere once the final fight of his contract was competed. In a Facebook post written in January that addressed similar concerns, Daley spelled his issues out with the promotion in plainer words, declaring simply: “F*CK Bellator.”
Having watched the entire situation play out from the outside, Page can’t help but speculate if Daley’s up-and-down run in Bellator played a significant role in his breakdown with the promotion’s brass. Aside from a recent loss to Fitch, Daley also suffered setbacks against the two top welterweights under Bellator contract — Douglas Lima and Rory MacDonald. The Fitch loss and the MacDonald loss both followed familiar scripts: The kind of wrestling-heavy affairs that have traditionally been Daley’s kryptonite.
Page wonders if Daley is using his anger as a means to cope with his own disappointments.
“One-hundred percent, it feels like he’s a person that’s never really been able to cross the finish line,” Page said. “He always pulls short of the finish line. He’s a tough competitor, but at the same time, very one-dimensional and I don’t think he grew with the sport. He’s got something, he’s got an aptitude for it and dynamite in his fists, and he’s just tried to use that to carry him as far as he can go, but he keeps falling short because I just don’t think he’s willing to learn the other aspects of it.
“He’s falling short and it’s easier to kinda sabotage yourself and give yourself an excuse that that’s the reason as to why you couldn’t make it to the top. You automatically give yourself an excuse and a way out, and it seems like he’s that type of person. So again, it’s each man for their own. No one can help him with that part but the people around him, and it doesn’t seem like anybody around him is telling him any differently. He’s mostly surrounded by yes men. I’m the complete opposite. If I were to even act even in the slightest like that, I’d probably get a bollocking from about 20 different people before I even tried to even think in that manner again.”
As it stands, with Daley’s time in Bellator likely coming to end, Page is shifting away from the rivalry that one looked like it could dominate the U.K. welterweight scene. He’s had his own struggles to worry about outside of the cage since his last fight in November 2016, and now he has Rickels and Bellator 200 ahead of him.
So for Page, when it comes to Daley, it simply is what it is.
“I’m just not interested in that fight anymore,” Page said. “I don’t really care. Good luck to him in whatever he wants to do.”