It was over three years ago when Paul Daley fired off the sucker punch seen around the world, an after-the-bell left hook against Josh Koscheck that got him booted from the UFC, seemingly for life. Since then, he's been something of a fighting nomad. He's competed 13 times in nine different promotions, and aside from a four-fight stint in Strikeforce, has never found anything resembling a home.
Just last week, he parted ways with Bellator after the organization said his recent legal woes would result in visa issues and cut him. That development, however, has had a silver lining for Daley, as it unexpectedly led to an interest in the possibility of a reunion between him and the UFC.
Even though UFC president Dana White has in the past said that Daley will never again fight in the octagon, he's been known to change his mind.
Over the weekend, White was asked about Daley, and though he didn't exactly roll out the welcome mat, he didn't shoot the idea down, either, giving Daley some hope that the possibility might still remain.
"Of course, I'd be lying if I didn’t say I wanted to return to the UFC," he said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "It’s the biggest, the most recognized MMA promotion out there. A lot of people when they leave the organization they have to say wherever they’re fighting at is the best and the greatest just to save face. It’s just one of those things. But yeah, definitely I want to return to the UFC."
Daley acknowledged making some negative remarks about the promotion in the wake of his May 2010 dismissal, but said at the time, his emotions regarding the situation were still raw, leading him to lash out.
All this time later, he can see more clearly, and believes the two sides are meant to reunite. He is easily one of the best known names in British MMA, and with an October event penciled into the UFC calendar, he would seem to fit in perfectly.
Calling himself, the "UK's best pound-for-pound fighter," Daley said it would be unjust for him not to have a place in MMA's top organization.
Citing the lackluster UFC on FOX 8 co-main event between Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger as part of a trend that has taken root, Daley promised to bring back a level of excitement that he sees as missing.
"Even Dana White is saying this now, like, 'What are you guys doing?' Let's get out and fight. You're ultimate fighters. Go in there and put on an entertaining fight. I can do that," he said. "I can most definitely bring that back to UFC."
Aside from the personal feelings involved between White and Daley, there are other possible stumbling blocks. Daley said he wasn't sure if he could acquire a visa, something which would make travel to the U.S. (and possibly other countries) for fights a major difficulty. The UFC employs a legal team that deals with such issues, but White has noted that travel restrictions have increased in recent months.
Since the UFC is global, Daley believes that some of those issues -- if they even exist -- could potentially be worked around. After experiencing an existence on the fringe and later a short stay with Bellator, a promotion Daley called "shady" for what he perceives was their public leaking of his legal situation, he wants back in with the place he left involuntarily.
Even though a return to the UFC wasn't the first thing that popped in his head upon being released from Bellator, the groundswell seems to be picking up, and from Daley's end, he'd be happy to oblige his supporters.
"I don't really know what to say," he said. "The best thing I can say is I want to be back with UFC. It would be a dream come true to be back with the UFC. The things that I did say bad about the UFC, it was like what most fighters would do if they weren’t in the best organization in the world. You don't want to be No. 2, you want to be No. 1. I just think it's fitting that I'm in the organization."