Michael Page may be one of Bellator MMA’s most entertaining fighters, but would-be foe Fernando Gonzalez believes the flamboyant Englishman might be a little too concerned with keeping his perfect record intact.
Page and Gonzalez were initially scheduled to square off in the Bellator 151 co-main event on Friday night, but the promotion announced on Feb. 9 that Page had withdrawn from the card for undisclosed reasons. Gonzalez said he knew Page was going to pull out before that.
“They ended up saying it’s an undisclosed injury or whatever. When I actually got the call it was about seven weeks from the fight, so I don’t know,” Gonzalez said. “For me it just seemed kind of sketchy. I honestly believe that nerves kind of got to him, and that’s why he backed out of the fight.”
Gonzalez, whose improbable run through Bellator has included wins over Karl Amoussou, Marius Zaromskis, Karo Parisyan and Curtis Millender, would have arguably been Page’s toughest test to date. While “Venom” is 9-0 in his burgeoning professional tenure with eight wins inside of a round, his only opponent of note was UFC and Strikeforce veteran Nah-Shon Burrell, whom he defeated via unanimous decision at Bellator 128. His most recent foe, Charlie Ontiveros, was making his Bellator debut and owns an unremarkable 6-4 career mark. Page won that fight via TKO 3:20 into the opening stanza.
All of the above leads Gonzalez to believe that he didn’t fit the bill as an easy mark.
“I knew he was gonna be a tough test. He’s got range. But he commits. He likes to come forward and he’ll put himself in danger against guys that he was pretty much easily matched up against where he knew he was gonna get that win,” Gonzalez said. “For him to change his game to fight somebody that’s gonna give him a fight was eventually what led to him backing out of the fight. I really don’t believe he was injured; I just think he was protecting his record.”
Instead of Page, Gonzalez will meet “Ultimate Fighter 17” cast member and Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Gilbert Smith in a welterweight bout on the Bellator 151 main draw. The card takes place at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., and airs on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
“I was able to switch it up quick. ...I’ve had time to prepare for him,” Gonzalez said. “Honestly I think he’s a little bit more of a stiffer test than Page because of the amount of experience that he has and being around cameras. It’s not gonna bother him to come into Bellator and be a co-main event fight.”
Under different circumstances, Gonzalez would have given Page the benefit of the doubt regarding his withdrawal. But given recent history, “The Menifee Maniac” is still skeptical about his motives.
“Anytime he’s been lined up to fight somebody tough he’s backed out: Brennan Ward, and then he backed out against Curtis Millender and myself. If he hadn’t backed out of those other two, then I wouldn’t be saying that right now, but it just shows that anytime he’s about to face somebody tough, the nerves come into play,” Gonzalez said. “He’s still young in the sport, so I think it really does mess with him right now. Especially with all the hype that’s behind him.”
Although his resume continues to grow, Gonzalez would like to see a little more hype behind his own name. A win over Smith would be five in a row within the California-based promotion, and in Gonzalez’s mind, that’s enough to be on the doorstep of a welterweight title shot.
Of course, that might be ambitious considering the division now includes the likes recent signees such as Benson Henderson and Josh Koscheck. Regardless of what it means for his immediate future, Gonzalez is all for the influx of new talent.
“I think it’s really good for Bellator. Everything’s always been about that the top guys are in the UFC, but the more these guys start coming over and they’re getting beat by Bellator guys, then it shows the legitimacy of the athletes that we have here,” he said. “I’m all for it. Every single one of them that they brought over, Koscheck, Benson, I’ve immediately been like, ‘Let me welcome them into Bellator.’
“I’m obviously putting it out there that I want to fight these guys. These are guys that I want to fight. I got Page backing out, so give me the ones that actually want to fight me. Those guys aren’t gonna back out; they’re top contenders.”