B/R MMA Exclusive: Paul Daley Discusses His Desire to Return to the UFC

Jonathan ShragerCorrespondent ISeptember 27, 2011

JS: Hi Paul, cheers for taking the time to chat today. Post-BAMMA 7 news emerged that you’d had a disagreement with the promotion. What are the implications for your touted December bout with Nate Marquardt?

PD: I doubt the fight’s going to materialise now. I saw the interview with him that was published on MMAWeekly.com, and there was little contained within the article that surprised me. There are few marquee names in BAMMA aside from myself that would appeal to Nate.

Obviously there’s Tom “Kong” Watson, but those two are training partners and also now competing at different weights. There’s Jimmy Wallhead, whose coming off a fantastic win over Frank Trigg, but due to the fact that Jimmy is yet to fight on the biggest stage and receive the plaudits which his talent merits, his status is yet to reach that of mine.

So within BAMMA, I’m the guy he wants and needs to fight, but it’s not looking likely at this stage. I couldn’t care less what he says in a vain attempt to goad me into accepting the fight. It isn’t a matter of shirking Nate, it’s purely based on my grievance with BAMMA.


JS: Fair enough. And how do you respond to Nate Marquardt’s claim that you probably wouldn’t have made weight anyway?

PD: There has been a little bit of talk about my history with weight cutting. How about I talk about the use of PEDs within MMA? Nate’s a prime example here.

Granted, he has made 170 pounds once, but he was caught using a performance enhancing drug in the process, so who’s to say whether Nate could make welterweight naturally? You know, I could say sh*t like that. I’m not bothered either way.

If the fight happens, it happens. I’m not running anywhere. But I refuse to be drawn into a fight.


JS: Even though you’d prefer to withhold the specific details, it sounds pretty final. Is this the last time you’ll conceivably compete for BAMMA?

PD: I don’t see myself fighting for BAMMA again. However, if we come to agree on terms for BAMMA 8 in Nottingham then the title fight with Nate could be arranged. Obviously, my intention will be to triumph in becoming the BAMMA champion, at which juncture I’d be in a position to defend the title thereafter.

For now however, my focus is on Ringside MMA in Montreal on Oct. 21. Moving forward, I just want to compete on the biggest stages against the biggest names possible, wherever that may be.


JS: Well, as a UK MMA fan, and I think I speak on behalf of all MMA enthusiasts here in Britain, I genuinely hope that you settle your differences with BAMMA and that subsequently the fight with Nate transpires. It would be a tremendous showcase for the sport in this country, attracting interest globally, and would be a fantastic way to conclude 2011.

PD: It really would have been fantastic. I was looking forward to it, and there’s a part of me that is still looking forward to the possibility. Hopefully, it will all be worked out between myself, my management and the promotion, and then we can all look forward to an explosive evening.

The 2011 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship have recently taken place here in Nottingham, England, and even the buzz generated around the city for that, a sport which holds relatively little interest for the public, has been palpable.

So just envisage the excitement created if I were to top the bill against Nate at BAMMA 8. It would be absolutely sick.


JS: Indeed, it would be immense. Okay, so moving on, I received a press release yesterday stating that you want to return to the UFC. When did this desire arise?

PD: I just figure that my consistently high performance levels are on a par with many of the elite welterweights within the UFC. I recently fought Nick Diaz for the Strikeforce welterweight title, and came close to finishing him in the first round. He subsequently is awarded an immediate title shot at GSP.

Then there are rumours suggesting that Tyrone Woodley is moving over to the UFC. I’ve competed admirably against these dudes, and even though I haven’t quite emerged the victor, I know I’m constantly improving.

I’ve made dramatic enhancements to my training regimen since being released by the UFC. My approach is much more considered. I see fighters like Jake Ellenberger, and I reckon that’d be a cracking matchup. There are lots of potentially great fights that await me in the UFC.


JS: Okay, and does the fact that you almost defeated Nick Diaz (who was immediately awarded a title shot in UFC) enhance your belief that you are a top 10 welterweight globally?

PD: Yes, I do believe that. The same happened with Koscheck, who eked out a decision victory over me in a No. 1 contender's bout. I always seem to be there or thereabouts, but I ain’t no gatekeeper, trust me.

I’m right up there with these guys, nobody has an easy ride when fighting against me, and I’m only going to become a more daunting prospect to these upper-echelon welterweights.


JS: Now, do you have a time frame in mind for a return to the UFC?

PD: I just firmly believe that my performances against high-calibre opponents warrant a place on the biggest stage, irrespective of what has happened in the past. I don’t have a definitive time frame in mind. I’m just putting the suggestion out there in the open.

There will always be fights for me because I’m entertaining and I always bring it. There will always be paycheques for me. But in all honesty, I would like a return to the UFC.


JS: Does your desire to return to the UFC also stem from a belief that there aren’t enough credible challenges left out there at 170 in Strikeforce and other promotions globally?

PD: There are a few credible challenges still available, a couple in Japan and a couple in the US. There are probably a handful of meaningful fights for me outside of the UFC.

Since being released from the UFC I’m 5-2, with the two losses coming at the hands of Nick Diaz in a title fight, and Tyron Woodley in which he harnessed his wrestling to narrowly edge a decision in what was a title contention decider.

I’m undoubtedly a top fighter. Look at Jorge Masvidal, a guy I beat last year and now he’s fighting Gilbert Melendez for the belt at lightweight after putting a whooping on KJ Noons. I’m only fighting the best.

And most recently Jordan Radev. I wasn’t able to finish him, but he withstood an inhumane amount of punishment. He’s an uber-tough guy, who has successfully competed at middleweight throughout his entire career. I’m one of the handful of people who has overcome him. I want the recognition that my resume merits.


JS: You mention the handful of meaningful fights that remain for you outside of the UFC. Can you specify any names?

PD: I view them as meaningful fights, rather than posing a serious threat. Nate Marquardt is a meaningful fight. Marius Zaromskis, the DREAM champion. Sakuraba would be worthwhile because of his status over in Japan.

There’s an up-and-coming guy fighting in this season’s Bellator called Douglas Lima who is the current MFC champion, and he’s highly touted. These are the fights for which I’d be motivated to train, because I can see their worth. There isn’t much out there for me aside from that.


JS: And as you mentioned the last time we spoke, you are signed with Strikeforce 'til January 2013. Are there any fighters in their welterweight division that appeal?

PD: I’d be interested in a rematch with Tyron Woodley or Nick Diaz, depending on the terms of his Zuffa contract. There are a few budding stars on the cusp of mainstream recognition such as Jordan Mein and Tyler Stinson.


JS: For you to be publicly declaring an interest in returning to the UFC leads me to believe that the idea has been discussed. Has something been mentioned to you in passing? Has the UFC hinted at your return?

PD: Haha, you’d be right. Whilst at UCMMA down in London the other weekend, I heard some mutterings from a couple of well-connected people within the MMA industry, which added credibility to their words. It wasn’t something I was expecting to hear, and it isn’t my sole focus right now.

But if the possibility exists, then I might as well publicly express and confirm my interest. I’m not averse to the idea at all, I’m by no means anti-UFC, and I’d like to take the opportunity to return if the opportunity presented itself.

JS: You confirmed during our last interview that you’re cool with Lorenzo [Fertitta]. Is it likely to be Lorenzo rather than Dana that negotiates your return?

PD: I would think so, yes. As I said beforehand, I’ve had no sort of previous contact with Dana, so I imagine something would be negotiated with Joe Silva or Lorenzo.


JS: Aside from your talent inside the cage, and charisma outside it, do you think the UFC are seriously considering bringing you back because of the lack of top British prospects currently competing in the UFC, coupled with their awareness that they disappointed the UK market by failing to deliver on their promise of multiple UK-based events?

PD: I don’t think the UFC feels it needs to retain the UK market, and that has a bearing on whether they need to sign the top UK prospects. In my opinion, the organisation is currently undecided on the UK market.

However, signing British fighters that are globally recognised, with global appeal, will always be attractive to the UFC because it facilitates the promotion of fights.

I don’t really pigeonhole myself in the UK bracket, as I perceive myself to fall under the category of top international talent. I haven’t fought a British guy for a while, I tend to compete against international stars.


JS: Absolutely. But since you were released, the majority of UK prospects have lost a bit of their lustre (e.g. Hardy, Hathaway, Winner, Pearson). Does the UFC need you at this stage in order to retain the UK market?

PD: I do understand that point. The fact that the UFC has retained the services of Dan Hardy indicates that there’s a lack of marketable UK talent that remains within the organisation. Even though Dan’s a teammate, it’s fair to state that under normal circumstances Dan would have been released following four consecutive losses.

Dan has kept his place on the roster to reinforce the UK’s presence within the UFC, essentially as support to Michael Bisping. So, it’s clear that the UFC is struggling with a dearth of marketable UK fighters that arouse interest amongst the MMA community.


JS: You’re a candid guy, and you’ve been quite outspoken at times about Dana, the UFC and Zuffa rather than being apologetic and trying to curry favour in order to get back into the UFC. How do you respond to people’s suggestions on the UG that the UFC won’t take you back? 

PD: I read the comments on the UG. Positive or negative, if I encourage debate then I’m happy with that. I’m glad the idea has been publicised by the media, signifying that it’ll probably reach executives at Zuffa.

There are a few negative posts but it hasn’t spiraled out of control, and there isn’t a surplus of people undermining the idea. Everybody has an opinion. I’m not one of the most loved guys on the UG, but I’m one of the most appreciated fighters in the UK, not just by the hardcore MMA enthusiasts, but also by the general public to whom my style of fighting appeals.

So I’m a valuable asset in that sense, because I can attract MMA fans and those that aren’t necessarily MMA fans, hence enabling the sport to reach new demographics. Therefore I deserve to be featured on the biggest stage, like me or not.


JS: As your performance against Woodley indicated, do you believe you’re now more well-equipped to deal with top ten UFC WW wrestlers? (the likes of Ellenberger, Brenneman, Story, Fitch, Kos, Shields, Hendricks, Johnson) Would you like a rematch with Kos down the line? This would be a massive PPV draw surely? Anyone else that specifically tickles your fancy at welterweight globally or in UFC?

 PD: Yes, I think there are lots of potential matchups for me. A rematch with Kos or Diaz. They could throw me to Jake Ellenberger, who I rate highly, with the idea of promoting it as a stepping stone towards a title shot for him.

There’s always Rory MacDonald, who hasn’t encountered a pure power puncher thus far, but that’d be an extremely tough fight. There are a lot of intriguing matchups there, for which I’d probably be the underdog, but I’d relish the challenges.


JS: Last time we talked, we discussed Twitter. Your teammate, Dean Amasinger, recently hashtagged you in his "Follow Friday" tweet so it seems like the pressure is mounting to lure you into tweeting. Are you any closer to joining the micro-blogging site?

PD: Not yet. If I land back over in the UFC, or on a big international card, I’ll probably activate an account, as the majority of elite MMA fighters seem to be on Twitter. We’ll wait and see. I need more media power behind me so that I can amass a respectable amount of followers.


JS: I’d strongly recommend you join ASAP, Paul. The UFC, and particularly Dana, absolutely loves Twitter and is forever endorses it, so with your recent declaration that you’d like to return to the organisation, it couldn’t do any harm.

Aside from your credentials and talent inside the cage, it’s likely that you’ll accumulate 50,000 followers plus which underscores the extent of your draw outside the cage also, and in turn will reinforce your appeal to the UFC.

PD: Haha, yes, I think Lorenzo has shares in Twitter. Cheers, I appreciate that advice, Jonny. I might have to give it a shot and jump on there one evening when I’m at home bored.


JS: Definitely. Well thanks for your time, it’s much appreciated.

PD: No worries mate.


Follow me on Twitter @jonathanshrager


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