Paul Daley’s relationship with Bellator was not in a good place prior to his recent outing at Bellator 199. That’s putting things mildly. But, rather surprisingly, Daley’s anger toward Bellator appears to have noticeably softened since his decision loss to Jon Fitch.
So what changed?
“You know what it was? Fight week, I managed to spend a little bit of time with Scott Coker,” Daley revealed Monday on The MMA Hour. “It was a little bit awkward, and it seemed like it was very awkward for him to do what he did, but it got my respect in that he went around the room and I could see he was like, ‘Should I approach Paul? Is he going to do something crazy or not?’ But in the end, he came over and we exchanged some words.
“We’re going to be meeting at Bellator London next week. We’re going to have a sit-down and we’re going to hash things out, see exactly what can be done to keep ‘Semtex’ happy.”
That change of tone represents a massive shift from where Daley’s relationship with Bellator was prior to Bellator 199.
The 35-year-old Englishman has loudly and publicly feuded with the promotion since his September 2017 knockout win over Lorenz Larkin. In various interviews and social media posts, Daley said he felt undervalued and expressed disappointment with what he perceived to be a lack of a promotional push he was given after the Larkin fight. He vowed to leave the organization after the competition of his current contract, at one point spelling out his frustration in simpler terms on Facebook: “F*CK Bellator.”
But much of that animosity appears to have faded after Daley’s week in San Jose earlier this month, and “Semtex” said his current standing with the Bellator brass is now promising.
“Very promising,” Daley said. “Just the fact — like I said to you when I spoke to you last time, I’d never spoken to Scott on a personal level apart from pre- and post-fight press conferences. So for him to make time, come over and say, ‘Look Paul, I’ve heard what you’ve been saying, I do want to sit down and have a chat with you’ — he wanted to do it there and then. I’m like, ‘I’m cutting weight right now. Can we do it maybe some time in the future?’ So we set the date for Friday at Bellator 200.”
In the meantime, Daley said he still has two fights left on his Bellator contract.
Still, after scoring one of the best wins of his career against Larkin, Daley likely saw his hopes of climbing back toward title contention dashed when he met Fitch at Bellator 199.
In classic Fitch style, the American grinder shut down “Semtex” with a methodical wrestling attack en route to capturing a unanimous decision win at San Jose’s SAP Center. Reflecting back on the fight, Daley said he was frustrated by what he felt was a stall-heavy gameplan employed by Fitch. Daley suggested that referee Jason Herzog was “under instructions” to not stand up the two fighters regardless of Fitch’s offensive output — or lack thereof — and instead was to instructed to “allow Jon Fitch to work his tactics” against the Englishman who had spoken ill of Bellator executives for months.
“You could see how the fight was,” Daley said. “Four minutes? Four minutes against the cage [in the first round], with Jon Fitch doing nothing but burying his head underneath my ballsack? What the heck is that? What is that? Four minutes of that. He did nothing. There were no strikes from him. It wasn’t effective wrestling. It’s like me double-jabbing thin air for four minutes, that’s not effective. That’s not effective, that’s not a fight. The referee would say, ‘Come on Paul, do something.’ He wasn’t doing anything.
“Someone didn’t want me to win that night. Someone didn’t want me to win. I know as an MMA fighter, yes, it’s up to me to make an attempt to bring the fight where I want it or whatever. But it’s also up to Jon Fitch to try to finish the fight or do something, advance position, which he really wasn’t trying to do, or something. I feel like I was up against it that night. Up against the ref, up against Bellator, up against the home crowd.
“If that fight was in England, maybe Marc Goddard as a referee, maybe (Mike) Beltran as a referee, there would’ve been a lot more breaks in action, where the ref would’ve said, ‘Enough’s enough. Four minutes of doing nothing, Jon Fitch, you ugly bastard. That’s enough of your stalling on the ground with your pitter-patter punches. Stand back up.’ Or something. There would’ve been more moments for the fans to see like that 30 seconds that we got at the backend of the first round, and if that would’ve happened, he would’ve gotten knocked out.”
Daley actually voiced his frustration regarding Fitch’s tactics in a bizarre and somewhat hilarious mid-fight moment late in the third round. With Fitch draped on top of him, Daley cursed out Bellator officials and booed his own fight in an instantly viral sequence.
“Do you know what it was, I think there was about a minute left on the clock, the ref was obviously not going to stand the fight up, they were not going to give me my post-fight interview, I was not going to a post-fight press conference, so I had to air it while I had the opportunity,” Daley explained. “I was in a situation where I felt comfortable, his ground-and-pound was pathetic — as you can see after the fight, I had no marks, I wasn’t concussed — his submission attempts, I don’t even think he attempted to submit me.
“He was allowed to stay on the ground peppering away with these ineffective shots, so I thought I’d let whoever was watching know that I was comfortable; he’s pathetic; Bellator, at the time, my opinion of them was that they’re pathetic; and I felt like, with everyone against me, this is the best time to let them know exactly how I feel.”
Moving forward, Daley reiterated that he expects to figure out his future with Bellator this Friday at Bellator 200, which takes place in London, England.
Following the Fitch fight, Daley signed on with MMA manager Ali Abdel-Aziz of Dominance MMA. Abdel-Aziz’s company represents an extraordinary stable of top-level fighters, many of whom ply their trade in the UFC. So could Daley joining forces with Abdel-Aziz — a manager who has an excellent relationship with the UFC — be a sign of a potential “Semtex” return to the Octagon once Daley’s Bellator contract is up?
“Who knows?” Daley said. “I’ve got two fights on my contract. We’ll see what Bellator does. I had a lot of promises at the start. Hopefully the meeting with Scott next Friday goes very well and we can sort things out, we can make entertaining fights that can keep me active as promised, allow me to do kickboxing for Bellator Kickboxing as promised, and we can get a lot of things done. Otherwise, I’m going to have to drag Nick Diaz out of rehab.
“I heard he’s in rehab, he’s having a tough time, so I’ll have to drag his ugly ass out of rehab and get the rematch with him and put on another entertaining fight for the fans. And who knows, maybe we get Nick Diaz over to Bellator. Maybe I do these two fights, I go across to the UFC and help the dude out. We’ll see what’s up.”
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