Daley Bucks Retirement for Title Contention

By Chris Yucus Sep 30, 2008
At the ripe old age of 25, Paul Daley considered retirement.

In February, the Nottingham, England, native announced stunning plans to step away from the fight game once he fulfilled his contractual obligations to Pro Elite. Luckily for fans of the hard-hitting knockout artist, his “retirement” followed a precedent long set in combat sports. For fighters, retirement more often than not becomes a temporary condition.

Daley (18-6-2), now fully focused on his mixed martial arts career, believes the break was necessary in order for him to sort out his future.

“I just needed some time off,” Daley says. “Training from fight to fight is a lot, physically and mentally. There’s a lot of things that obviously people don’t see going on behind the scenes in a fighter’s life, especially as young man. I’m only 25. There’s certain things that I had to deal with personally, and fighting wasn’t really a priority. I thought that if it wasn’t going to be a priority in my life -- I’d lost direction a little bit then -- why fight? I owe it to myself not to do that, so I took some time off.”

With his career back in full swing, Daley (18-6-2) will challenge welterweight champion Jake Shields at EliteXC “Heat” this Saturday at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla. The bout will be among five televised live on CBS.

Shields (21-4-1) -- a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt on a 10-fight winning streak -- captured the vacant title when he submitted Nick Thompson with a guillotine choke in just 63 seconds in July in Stockton, Calif. He predicts his bout with Daley will not reach the judges.

Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

"I'm going to exploit anything that
Jake thinks he’s learned," said
Daley of Shields' striking. "I'm
going to test it."
“Personally, I don’t see it going the distance,” Shields says. “I think that I’m going to submit him, or he’s going to knock me out. It’s a fight that I don’t see going five rounds. It’s going to be exciting.”

Shields -- who has voiced his desire to fight the world’s best welterweights, specifically UFC champion Georges St. Pierre -- sees Daley as a tough opponent worthy of a shot at his title.

“I think Daley’s got some of the best stand-up in the sport,” Shields says. “He got an easier route than me I think [to a title shot], but as far as the guys [EliteXC has], I think he’s the guy that deserves it right now.”

Daley’s penchant for punching and Shields’ affinity for ground fighting sets up a classic striker-versus-grappler scenario. Daley claims competing against a ground artist of Shields’ pedigree will be nothing new for him.

“I’ve been training for this fight forever,” he says. “I’m a striker. My whole career I’ve been fighting guys that want to take me down.”

The explosive Daley -- whose nickname, “Semtex,” seems more fitting each time out -- has finished his last six fights with strikes. His latest winning streak has instilled a near-superhuman level of confidence in his striking capability.

“When you start winning, when you start knocking people out a lot, you start to believe your hands are really made of steel,” Daley says. “I’m sure Jake’s going to find out my hands are made of steel.”

When asked for his view on the striking abilities of most mixed martial artists who come from grappling backgrounds, Daley does not pull any punches.

“I think it’s very poor to be honest with you,” he says. “Anyone can throw a punch. You throw a punch [and] you get hit, a lot of times you’re going to get knocked out. There’s a lot of things that I think that people neglect when it comes to striking, like the footwork and a lot of tactics, a lot of things that people overlook. I particularly pay a lot of attention to this.”

Daly’s affinity for stand-up fighting goes for beyond the work he does in the gym, and it has paid off. Thirteen of his 18 career wins have come by knockout or technical knockout.

“I study a lot of tapes on striking, not just MMA, boxing and stuff like this, and see how to exploit people who don’t move so good or don’t really know what they’re doing,” Daley says. “They think they’re throwing a good punch; it looks good when you look in a mirror and you’re standing there, you know, shadowboxing around, but when you really analyze it, it’s s--t.”

Daley, who holds the Cage Rage world welterweight championship, feels confident that Shields falls into a category of grapplers without a true grasp of the striking game.

“I’m going to exploit anything that Jake thinks he’s learned,” Daley said. “I’m going to test it.”
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