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Michael Page's patience strained as he waits for big-name opposition

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Michael Page isn't about to come right out and say that bigger-name fighters in Bellator's welterweight division are ducking him.

But the flashy star-in-the-making is getting a little bit frustrated in his quest to find the right fights.

"It gets a bit annoying sometimes," Page told "You get into this sport to challenge yourself against the best and show what you can do."

The London-based fighter nicknamed "Venom" has gained plenty of attention for his unorthodox striking style, which has helped set up seven of his eight wins via way of a finish.

And the undefeated Page seems to have hit that gray area many fighters find on their way up -- where there seems to be little left to gain by continuing to facing off against the lower ranks, but there's difficulty getting one of the higher-ranked foes to sign a bout agreement.

That's never been more obvious than in the run-up to Bellator 144. Page returns to action Friday night in Uncasville, Conn. And while Page conducted a full camp leading up to the event, he didn't find out about his opponent, Charlie Ontiveros (6-3), until three weeks ago, after several rumored opponents seemed lined up, then fell out.

"I can't say fighters are ducking me, because it's the type of thing you can't prove," Page said. "This is the type of situation you see a lot when you first break in, but you don't expect to see after you get to a certain point."

While it would be easy to view Friday night's matchup as Page spinning his wheels as he waits to his opportunity to fight someone higher-ranked at 170, Page is doing his best not to buy into that line of thinking.

Against Ontiveros, he's actually going up against a fighter with one more pro MMA fight than him, as the Texan has spent his entire nine-fight career in the Legacy Fighting Championship since going pro in 2012. So Page won't let Ontiveros' lack of hype cloud his approach.

"I"m going to respect any fighter who steps into the cage with me," Page said. "It doesn't matter if his name isn't as big as mine. This is his first chance in the spotlight, and he's been working hard. It would be a disservice to both him and I if I acted like he didn't belong in there with me."

Page has found little trouble attracting attention in his Bellator stint, with a hands-down style that people are still telling him is "wrong" despite his success and a propensity for exciting knockouts. He's hoping this time out, there will be little doubt left that he's ready for a crack at someone near the top of the division.

"I guess I need to make a statement," Page said. "I already have a highlight reel, maybe if I go out there one more time and put on a show, people will finally realize I'm legit."

As for who that big fight may be? Page isn't ready to call out anyone specific in the wake of Andrey Korsehkov's title win against Douglas Lima over the summer.

"Ultimately it's about getting to the top and winning the belt," Page said. "If they called and offered a Lima fight, I'd take it. If they offered me a title shot, I'd take it. I just don't want any more situations like this one."

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