Paul Daley will find himself in an interesting position come Jan. 29, as he headlines a Bellator MMA fight card in his hated rival’s hometown.
This situation was not by design, of course, but became necessity when original Bellator 148 headliner Josh Koscheck had to withdraw from a matchup with Matt Secor at the Savemart Center in Fresno, Calif., due to injury.
“That’s a bit of a twist to the story,” Daley told Sherdog.com. “For all that history, for me to be coming to his backyard to headline a card, and he won’t be on the card. Maybe I’m gonna have a bunch of Koscheck fans waiting for me outside to get their revenge on the whole sucker-punch situation. Maybe I’m gonna get a sneaky shot from the side, who knows. I’m in the position. I feel privileged.”
Ideally, Daley and Koscheck were to share the card in hopes of building interest for a future rematch in Bellator somewhere down the road. As Daley noted, the two have a bit of a history: Following a unanimous decision loss to Koscheck at UFC 113, “Semtex” landed a cheap shot on his opponent after the bell. UFC President Dana White banned Daley from ever fighting in the Las Vegas-based promotion as a result of his actions.
White has stayed true to his word, but Daley has fashioned a nice career for himself outside of the Octagon. The hard-hitting Englishman enters his Bellator 148 showdown with Andy Uhrich having won eight of his last nine fights, with seven of those coming by knockout or technical knockout.
Koscheck, meanwhile, signed with Bellator last June on the heels of a five-fight losing streak in the UFC. At this point, it is unclear when the former NCAA national champion wrestler will make his promotional debut. Daley, for one, would like to see a little momentum behind both combatants heading into any type of potential rematch, but that is proving difficult with Koscheck sidelined.
“People are waiting for it to happen, but they’re not really getting anything. There’s no sort of lead onto when or if indeed it’s gonna happen,” Daley said. “Obviously this was a little indication that we could have been building something. The situation is just me on the card. Koscheck’s a big name. I hold my own as well. I don’t think the fans are really interested in Koscheck coming in with such a losing record, and such a boring style of fighting.
“I think it needs something more. Maybe Koscheck goes and knocks someone out spectacularly, a better striker, someone like Douglas Lima. Something to show…I don’t know. I just want something more from him. I know the fight will be well regarded. I want something from Koscheck.”
Daley is currently on the short list of top 170-pound contenders in the Scott Coker-led organization, but even he acknowledges that a return date with “The Ultimate Fighter 1” veteran carries far more intrigue than a title bout against current champion Andrey Koreshkov.
“I think the Koscheck fight would be way better because of his name and the whole story behind it,” Daley said. “Who knows what they’re gonna do? I’m pretty much just going with the flow. Bellator knows my attitude is pretty laid back. I just want to fight whoever they put in front of me. Whatever path they put me on, if I stay focused and keep doing what I’m doing, I’m going to win all of these fights anyway.”
Daley will be a significant favorite against Uhrich in Fresno. Assuming all goes as planned there, the 32-year-old should be an obvious choice to land on Bellator’s planned card in London. No date has been announced for the event, although it will likely take place in the summer.
Perhaps then Koscheck could face Daley on his home turf. The Nottingham native won’t be holding his breath.
“I think it’s gonna be a strong card whatever the situation is. Obviously the Koscheck fight would be a great addition to that. I’m kind of losing faith in the whole thing,” Daley said. “I know that it’s a big fight, and I know that I’m supposed to really be behind it and pumping it up. It’s hard when I’m getting nothing from Koscheck. I don’t see any interviews about him pumping or hyping up the fight. He’s got this opportunity to fight in his hometown. But he pulled out with an injury. It’s like: why am I doing all the leg work?
“I’ve got a nice winning streak together. He’s lost his past five fights,” Daley continued. “It’s like I’m carrying this rematch. What’s Koscheck doing to push this fight out there, to make this fight happen? When given such a big opportunity to headline a card in his hometown and he pulls out with some nondescript injury. For me, it’s bulls--t. We’ll see what happens.”