In case you're wondering, no, Paul Daley
is not concerned with what you think about him. Even after earning himself a lifetime ban from the UFC for sucker punching Josh Koscheck
after their fight at UFC 113
and, in the process, drawing the continued ire of many MMA fans, rehabilitating his image is still the last thing on Daley's mind.
"As long as I do myself justice, I'm okay," the British welterweight told MMA Fighting. "The people who love me, people who support me, the fans that I have, they know that I've always been myself. There's never been two sides to me. Throughout my career you'll always see some things happening again and again, and that shows I've always been myself. I've never been playing a character. There's a pattern in my behavior, and it's a steady pattern."
Which means...what, exactly? That poor displays of sportsmanship aren't so objectionable as long as they're genuine? That hitting an opponent after the bell isn't as bad as changing your personality to suit the situation? By all means, let's let "Semtex" explain.
"I just mean that it's not unpredictable. There are no anomalies to my behavior. If you look at the beginning of my career, I'm saying the same things, reacting the same way, doing the same things. I'm not changing to please any organization or media bodies. The people who love me still love me and I still have their support. The people who hate me, they're just giving me more airtime. I'm happy either way."
In other words, Daley's done all the apologizing he's ever going to do for that ugly incident in Montreal. He paid for it with banishment from the UFC and did his time in the bush leagues, winning two fights against lower-tier opponents in smaller promotions since then.
Only now he's back on the big stage, taking on journeyman fighter Scott Smith
on the undercard of Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu
on Saturday night. For many fans, it will be the first time they've seen him fight since his release from the UFC. That makes this a chance to not only prove to them that he's still worth watching, but also to prove to Strikeforce that he's a worthwhile investment.
Not that Daley feels any pressure to deliver on either account, he said.
"I don't feel pressure from anything. I just want to go out there and fight with freedom. I'm not thinking about anything else. I'm there to do myself justice. If, in doing that, I satisfy the fans and Strikeforce, great. But I just have to go out there and fight."
Looking at the match-up, it's obvious that Strikeforce made the fight hoping for fireworks of one sort or another. Both men are known for their one-punch power, making this a fight that's essentially knockout in a can, at least on paper.
Daley knows this, and seems just fine with it. Even if Smith is coming down in weight, he said, it wouldn't be the first time he's knocked out a bigger fighter.
"I think I have the edge in power. I'm a welterweight fighter, but I've fought numerous guy who have come down from middleweight and I've stopped them. Whereas he's stopped middleweights at middleweight, but he's never stopped anyone heavier than him. I've continuously stopped guys who normally compete at middleweight, and not just stopped them, but pretty much shut their lights out. So I think I have the edge in power."
As for his future after this bout, Daley said he has "no opinion" of Dana White's assertion that he'll never fight in the UFC again. With that door closed, it leaves only one major MMA organization in North America for him to make a living in.
But that's fine, according to Daley. The UFC isn't the only show in town, even if it is the biggest.
"At the end of the day, as long as I can pay my bills and I'm in the sport I love and people support me, that's all I care about," said Daley. "There are other avenues to make money in this sport. There are other organizations, and I've found one in Strikeforce that allows me to fight full-time, pay my bills, and still go on holiday from time to time and treat my friends and family. That's fine with me."
It had better be. For the moment anyway, it's the best option available. Now it's up to Daley to make the most of it.