Bellator MMA: The incredible longevity of Paul Daley

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Wednesday 19 June 2019 14:44, UK

 during the Bellator 158 MMA Press Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on April 18, 2016 in London, England.
Image: Paul Daley fights Erick Silva live on Sky Sports

Paul Daley has stopped chasing the credit that he has seen bestowed on his peers. Watching on with frustration, Daley is unable to see that he has quietly carved out a unique legacy that will stand the test of time.

The Nottingham welterweight will have his 60th professional MMA fight on June 22 against Erick Silva when Bellator comes to London, live on Sky Sports. That is a frankly astonishing number in a sport where padded records are rarely indulged, and creaking bodies slip off into retirement when they can no longer compete with younger opponents.

Sixty?

Which other active MMA fighters have had as many?

Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone is feted for his gameness but, at the same age as Daley, has had 49 fights. Gleison Tibau has had 48. Jorge Masvidal, who recently stole headlines for knocking out Britain's latest talent Darren Till, has had 46. Daley beat Masvidal, by the way.

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Michael Venom Page 4:30
Paul Daley was beaten by Michael 'Venom' Page

The golden era of early-2000s fighters did not rack up as many as Daley's 60 fights - Wanderlei Silva, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture did not come close. Kazushi Sakuraba had 46, Ken Shamrock 47.

There are two clear answers. Alistair Overeem, the great Dutchman, has three more fights on his record than Daley. Submission specialist Alexey Oleynik has 70. Throw in Daley and Overeem's long kickboxing careers as well, and Daley has gone into battle seven times more.

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"It's crazy," Daley laughs when presented with these numbers.

He is 36 years old and has not benefited from the praise given to Michael Bisping, Britain's only UFC champion, or Dan Hardy who challenged for a belt before then. But still slugging away, Daley's legacy is his longevity even if he doesn't realise it yet.

"I like guys like Bernard Hopkins, I always refer to him," Daley said. "He had 20 middleweight title defences but didn't get any credit until he was 39 years old!"

Hopkins famously fought until he was 51…

"I could do it. I'm still here. I can perform, I will perform and I will continue to perform in the same way that I did when I was 27."

Daley feels like he hasn't got due credit for sticking around for so long.

"Not really. I was hunting for it for a little while but, when I didn't get it, I stopped looking for it," he shrugged.

Perhaps that fondness will only come his way when (or if) he finally stops fighting.

"I think so."

Page v Daley
Image: Paul Daley lost out to Michael Page earlier this year

The former British Army soldier was notoriously booted out of the UFC for throwing a punch in anger at Josh Koscheck after the bell had rung, one of the big no-nos in fight sports. He has battled Nick Diaz, Tyron Woodley and Rory MacDonald and recently knocked out Lorenz Larkin. All this after losing two of his first three fights, back in a previous generation.

He continued: "Because I'm still here, people forget. They just think: 'Paul Daley is fighting'.

"They don't think: 'Paul Daley has had 59 fights and has been fighting since 2003'.

"People just think: 'He's here, but he's always been here'.

"I don't get credit for the fact that I'm still here.

"I'm good at avoiding injury, I train smart, I rest when I'm supposed to."

Daley had never been a world champion and never had the chance to challenge for a major belt. In his previous fight he was one half of the biggest ever MMA fight between two Brits but lost a unanimous decision to Michael 'Venom' Page in a tournament quarter-final that would have led him towards the Bellator welterweight title.

"It wasn't my best performance but it was enough to get past him. I thought that I won."

Page advanced to meet Douglas Lima who, obviously, Daley has already fought.

He must have one eye on retirement?

"No. I'm still fighting and enjoying it. I love the training. My first hard session before this fight I wondered: 'should I still be doing this?'

"But I got home, rested and recovered, and realised that I love this. I love all of this."

Paul Daley faces Erick Silva live on Sky Sports Arena on Saturday at 9pm.