Paul Daley knows time is probably the greatest enemy for any mixed martial artist.
As he prepares for his first fight in 2020 at Bellator 241, which kicks off his 17th year competing professionally, the veteran knockout artist understands that he’s an anomaly in a sport that constantly chews up and spits out prospects.
Despite the odds working against him, Daley has managed to remain a top contender in every organization where he’s fought with a long list of highlight reel finishes and memorable fights on his resume.
“That’s something my coach said to me this very week — in the time that you’ve been fighting, two generations of careers have come and gone,” Daley said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Two generations of fighters have started and finished in the time that you’ve been fighting. I’m still fighting with the third generation of guys.
“These guys probably watched me when I was coming up in Cage Rage or Strikeforce or the UFC. These guys were like 12 years old watching me. It’s crazy.”
For all the accomplishments that Daley has achieved in his career, being one of the first British fighters to really make waves in MMA might still be the thing he’s proudest about.
The fact that he’s still considered one of the best welterweights in the sport makes Daley believe he’s actually in a category all his own when it comes to the best fighters who hail from the United Kingdom.
“Out of all the U.K. fighters, past or present, whether they’ve held titles or not, I’m the best,” Daley said candidly. “I’m the best British fighter there has ever been.
“I know Michael Bisping was a champion in the UFC and I know he beat an aging Anderson Silva and he knocked out Luke Rockhold and just about every other middleweight he’s knocked out but in terms of longevity, consistency and staying up there with the very best, I’m still there. I’m still at the top. I’ve just got to keep knocking people out.”
While there are fighters who started competing in the early 2000s who are still relevant today, Daley knows he’s one of the last of a dying breed.
The list of mixed martial artists who started fighting around the same time as Daley and remain relevant in title contention in 2020 is even shorter.
At 37, Daley has taken a different outlook on fighting now than he did a few years ago.
While he’s still willing to engage in verbal warfare with his opponents when necessary, Daley says his days calling people out are over. He’s more concerned about staying healthy, keeping busy and knocking anybody out who Bellator puts in front of him.
“I just want to keep fighting and to stay healthy,” Daley said. “I think the opportunities that I believe I deserve will be presented to me. I’m past a stage where I want to call names out. The only one I probably would mention is Douglas Lima and he’s off at middleweight fighting [Gegard] Mousasi so there are no fights that I have that hunger to call out.
“I’m just happy to keep knocking people out until people see what my fans and the people closest to me see.”