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Paul Daley takes confidence from belief that Rory MacDonald is overlooking him

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UFC 189 photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The fact has not been lost on many within the MMA bubble that the UFC and Bellator will be running shows in London just months apart later this year.

The UFC’s event is a small one, a Fight Night headlined by light heavyweights Jimi Manuwa and Corey Anderson on March 18; while Bellator’s event is a rather substantial one, a tentpole headlined by a premier welterweight pairing between British slugger Paul Daley and marquee free agent signing Rory MacDonald on May 19.

The obvious contrast between the two shows has led many in the sport to point out that, perhaps for the first time ever, a Bellator event taking place in the same location as a UFC event offers the better product. And for Daley, a 15-year veteran whose road has taken him through both promotions, the opportunity to prove that talk as correct is a significant one, both personally and professionally.

“I’ve never heard of that before,” Daley said Monday on The MMA Hour. “No one is talking about the UFC in London, in all honesty. Everyone that comes up to me, it’s about the Bellator card. And that’s amazing, really, for Bellator to be getting that kind of response when the UFC is putting on a show around the same time. So it’s cool, and like I said, it shows I’ve made the right decision. People are amazed it’s actually even happening, and people I know (are asking), ‘how come it’s here?’

“’They could do it in America and they could fill a massive arena in America with this fight. They could do it in Canada and fill an even bigger arena in Canada with this fight.’ So it is an aspect of, like, f*ck, we actually got this fight to happen, so it’s massive for U.K. MMA.”

Daley, 33, will be the first to welcome MacDonald into the Bellator cage after the talented Canadian inked a deal to leave the UFC in Aug. 2016. At the time of his UFC departure, MacDonald was viewed as one of the best 170-pound fighters in the world, someone who came within inches of capturing the UFC welterweight title in his legendary ‘Fight of the Year’ clash against Robbie Lawler at UFC 189. MacDonald’s résumé also included wins over Nate Diaz, B.J. Penn, Tarec Saffiedine, Demian Maia, and a one-sided showing over current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.

Daley, on the other hand, has been outside of the Octagon looking in since the infamous 2010 incident against Josh Koscheck that led to his UFC exile. So given that Daley has been fighting without much mainstream spotlight for the past seven years, he fully expects MacDonald to ride into Bellator with a sense of complacency that could lead to trouble at Bellator 179.

“I take confidence from the fact that I think Rory thinks I’m a little more of an easy fight than I actually am,’ Daley said. “And this phrase, I’ve used it, I’ve used it before Bellator fights, but I think it’s an accurate way to describe the feeling that I get when I get in there with these guys. I’m a little bit faster than I look. I’m a little bit stronger than I look. There’s a little less openings than they think. And just generally, I’m better than people see in footage. Once you’re in there with me, it’s all too late. But that’s the feeling that I get, and I get confidence from it.

“Even against Brennan Ward, I felt that doubt. This young, brash, up-and-coming wrestler is knocking people out, and I felt like I put in there as food. But me and my team, we knew better than that, and we knew the fight was just a little too early for Brennan Ward. I get that same kind of impression from Rory MacDonald. He wouldn’t come to England if he didn’t think he was going to win, because he knows he has to win and he has to win in impressive fashion, because a decision might be hard to come by. So I know he has that confidence with him, and I think that overconfidence is what’s going to get a victory for me, as well as me being a straight-up killer.”

When asked why he felt that way about MacDonald, Daley pointed to an amused Twitter response posted by the young Canadian when Daley called out MacDonald following his stunning ‘Knockout of the Year’ candidate against Ward in January at Bellator 170.

“He put that little f*cking thing (on Twitter) of fat Alan from The Hangover after I called him out,” Daley said. “That doesn’t show a guy who’s generally worried about a callout, does it? But it’s all good. It’s all good. I’m looking forward to seeing him at the press conference next week and exchanging a few words and staring into those crazy eyes, seeing into his soul.”

As for those “crazy eyes” of MacDonald’s, Daley made several allusions to his opponent’s Canadian Psycho-style demeanor, claiming that something was off-kilter about MacDonald without going too much into specifics.

“I don’t like to say anything, because you know when you’re in school, there’s always that crazy kid in school? And he’s always cool,” Daley said. “People call him all the names under the sun. But then you identify the real problem and you out it in front of the whole class, and then he goes absolutely f*cking berserk? So I think I’ve identified what’s wrong with Rory, but I don’t want to send him crazy, so I’m just going to keep that to myself and [meet] him in the cage May 19th.

“There’s something in those eyes, man,” Daley added, laughing. “There’s something in those eyes.”