The recent blockbuster Zuffa-Strikeforce deal immediately brought with it some strange bedfellows. Not surprisingly, most of the pairings included UFC president Dana White, who had ripped fighters, TV executives and others in the press, cut others, and sworn off a few completely.
Among those who found themselves in strange situations was welterweight star Paul Daley,
who had less than one year earlier been fired and banned for life from the UFC by White for a UFC 113 after-the-bell punch against Josh Koscheck. With the Zuffa-Strikeforce ownership change, Daley and White were suddenly in the fight business together again. Or were they?
When he heard the news of Strikeforce's purchase, Daley publicly debated the possibility of backing out of his scheduled welterweight title fight with Nick Diaz
. But the British bomber eventually decided to follow through on his promise to fight, and the two stars will meet on April 9 in San Diego in Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley
. But despite the eyes of his old boss on him, Daley told MMA Fighting that he harbors no desire to redeem himself before the Zuffa brass.
"What we were trying to do is assure we had security away from the Zuffa people prior to the fight," Daley said of his deliberation. "But the truth be told, when I am the Strikeforce champion, I'll have even more bargaining power, and it will be even more of a kick to the teeth of the guys that don't like me in the organization. To negotiate before the fight would show a lack of confidence in myself, and I'm very confident I'm going to beat Nick Diaz. Once a champion, I have more power to negotiate."
Since parting ways with the UFC, Diaz was always the fight he had been working towards, with Daley viewing the Stockton, California native as the best available welterweight in the world. Though he acknowledges he would preferred more time to prepare for the April date, he says in some ways, he has been preparing for Diaz since being cast off from the UFC last May.
Because of that, he wouldn't let the ownership situation stop him from taking the fight.
When it comes to White, Daley (27-9-2) sees the situation between himself and the UFC boss as something more personal than professional, at least from White's side.
"I don't particularly know why he has dislike for me, but it's obvious he does have dislike for me," he said. "If no explanation or reason is given for disliking me, I'm generally going to dislike someone in return. If Dana gives me an honest opinion -- aside from hitting Koscheck after the bell -- as to why he genuinely dislikes me, then at least I'd get some explanation. But there's too many incidents in the history of the UFC that prove it's more personal. Many of the UFC fighters have done a lot worse things to bring the company into disrepute, and they're still there. So it must be personal."
Despite that, Daley says he doesn't feel like he has to go out and prove a point to White or the Zuffa team. His 4-0 record since leaving has done that. His highlight reel knockout over Scott Smith last December has done that.
In his mind, one bad moment shouldn't overshadow everything that's come before or since.
"The fact that I'm winning away from the UFC is enough redemption for me," he said. "I'm winning in front of fans, I'm making decent money. That's enough for me. I have redemption already, from every fight since the UFC. Getting 'Knockout of the Year,' which is something all the real fans in MMA were talking about in 2010, that was enough redemption. That was the icing on the cake for 2010. I think Dana definitely saw that and I guarantee he didn't like for that knockout not to be in the UFC." [Editors Note: MMA Fighting will have more with Paul Daley in the coming days]