It’s been a slow build in Bellator MMA for Michael Page, perhaps slower than many would like, but the flamboyant British knockout artist believes his time as a title contender is finally near.
Page will face Evangelista Santos in a featured bout at Bellator 158 at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday. The evening’s main card is headlined by a pivotal 170-pound duel between Paul Daley and Douglas Lima and airs on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
“I can see the winner of Paul Daley and Lima going for a title shot next, and I’ll be knocking on the door straight after that,” Page told Sherdog.com. “So I’ll probably have one more fight and then you’ll see me fight whoever is still holding that belt.”
Santos might be the most well-known opponent of Page’s career to date. At the very least, “Venom” considers the Brazilian to be an upgrade over original foe Fernando Gonzalez, who was unable to make the trip overseas due to visa issues.
“Cyborg’s been around a lot longer. He definitely has a bigger wave of fans and supporters,” Page said. “I think it’s been a good change.”
It’s not the first time a proposed matchup between Page and Gonzalez has fallen through. They were previously supposed to square off at Bellator 151 before Page withdrew for undisclosed reasons. Gonzalez accused the London Shootfighters representative of wanting to protect his record.
What irked Page this time around, however, was that Gonzalez still put the blame on him for the bout falling through even though the American fighter was the one unable to compete.
“What I found disrespectful and what kind of inspired me to come with a response, which I normally don’t do, was the fact that after he found out that he was not able to come to the U.K., he posted that I had pulled out of the fight,” Page said. “Now, if you for whatever reason can’t make it to the fight and you’re telling everybody that I’m not gonna make it to the fight, you’re stepping on my toes. It’s gonna be my show in front of my family and friends. Luckily he’s only got about five followers so it wasn’t too damaging.”
Even then, Page isn’t overly concerned with rebooking the Gonzalez bout. If Bellator presents the fight, then fine. Otherwise, he’d just as soon focus on getting closer to the top of the division.
“I don’t see him as anybody that I care about. I just felt disrespected by what he attempted to do and that was it. It’s not something I need to hold on to,” Page said. “If his name comes up again, then I’m definitely going to put him in his place. But if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I genuinely don’t care. “I’m looking at the bigger fish anyway. I think I’m in that realm now where I’m getting close to a title fight, those top 5 names in that division. He’s not one of them.”
While Santos has produced mixed results in recent years, he put himself on the map in Bellator with a surprising 30-second submission of Brennan Ward this past April. Although “Cyborg” fell to Saad Awad in his second appearance, the upset of Ward still resonates. It’s not something Page believes the Brazilian could duplicate.
“I think most people were surprised. It’s weird. If that fight were to happen nine more times I’d still put my money on Brennan Ward. I think Brennan didn’t take him serious enough. I don’t think he did his research,” he said. “When he was going for the leg lock…in my eyes all you have to do is watch a couple videos to know that’s part of his game. When he tried rolling, you should just disengage…If they had to fight again it’d be very different.”
That said, Page feels that Santos’ style, which is often predicated on aggression due to his Chute Boxe roots, could play right into his hands. And if the Brazilian attempts another submission, that’s fine too.
“My jiu-jitsu has literally just grown. I feel a ridiculous improvement in my game due to the gym here. Just the people I have here, the people I get to roll with,” he said. “Obviously my standup, very few people can say the have standup like it. I think it favors me especially because this guy, he likes to stand and bang as well. I definitely put my name down to come out as the victor.”
Where most of Page’s Bellator fights in the United States thus far have been lonely endeavors, he will be surrounded by familiar faces as he prepares to face Santos in his hometown. It will be a welcome change from the norm, Page says.
“I would prefer having it a bit more hectic. So being around my friends and family is almost like a distraction that I need,” he said. “Especially the first couple times I went out to Bellator I didn’t actually have anybody there other than my coaches, and they don’t come out til close to the fight. A lot of times I’m there by myself and sometimes it’s bit too quiet. I was raised in a city where I”m used to noise. Having that noise is always welcome. For me it’s a positive thing.”