Paul Daley’s near two-decade run in mixed martial arts will soon come to an end.
Daley, 38, announced Monday on The MMA Hour that he is targeting one final bout with Bellator on May 13 in the U.K., and then he will hang up his four-ounce gloves for good.
“It will be my retirement fight,” the English welterweight explained on The MMA Hour. “After many years in the game, the hours on the road, hours in the gym, the years have caught up with me and now every morning I wake up with a bad back, and I’m just tired.
“I’ve put in a lot of time in the sport and I’m in a position to retire, fortunately. So yeah, I’m going to retire. I don’t want to be one of those fighters who’s getting knocked out all the time by the younger guys. I want to be a guy who goes out when I want to go out.”
Daley (43-18-2) isn’t sure yet who he will face in the bout, but noted that he has been given a short list of potential opponents.
The decision to walk away from MMA has not been a difficult one, Daley admitted. It’s something he has been mulling over for a while now, and “Semtex” said he’s always known that Bellator was going to be his final MMA home. To that point, Daley revealed he even initially considered having his April 2021 win against Sabah Homasi serve as his retirement fight, however it was important to him to have his swan song be in the U.K., and that wasn’t a possibility last year because of COVID-19 restrictions in his native England.
“Homasi was going to be my last fight, but Bellator wanted to put it in America, and I don’t think the U.K. at the time were allowing shows, people to travel over for productions to produce a show over here,” Daley said. “So yeah, that was going to be my last fight. Then they offered Jason Jackson [in June 2021] with title implications, so then I took that fight, and then that didn’t go my way, so I owe to my fans, my family, to have this last fight over here in the U.K.”
Daley defeated Homasi in a wild one-round brawl that made the short list for 2021 Fight of the Year, but then lost a grinding affair against Jackson — and “Semtex” realized in retrospect that, even in the moment, his heart simply wasn’t into it against Jackson.
“I don’t feel good saying it, but that’s the truth,” Daley said. “I made attempts to get up and I wanted to show a little bit of my ground game with kimuras and stuff like that, but my feeling coming into the fight and my feeling after the fight was one of, like, I just didn’t give a f*ck. You know? So [what if] I lost? I’ve lost plenty of fights. And even with Bellator dangling the carrot of it having title implications, that fight wasn’t going my way and I didn’t want to put that extra effort in to change the scorecards and such.
“Maybe this is what I need. Maybe I haven’t felt like I’ve had the pressure for a while, since [the Michael Page fight] in the grand prix tournament — I haven’t had that kind of pressure, so I’ve not really wanted to train or been motivated to train. But now, this being a final fight, family, friends, students, neighbors, are going to be watching it, so yeah, it’ll be my best.”
Daley added that although he is hanging up his MMA gloves, he plans to keep his options open for other opportunities in combat sports. He teased that he may “possibly” have something in the works that would be similar to the spectacle attractions being promoted by the Paul brothers or Triller’s push into big-name crossover bookings.
“The thing that is on the table is not something that will be another career,” Daley explained. “It will be more of a spectacle than anything.”
A pioneer of the early U.K. MMA scene, Daley competed for a who’s who of promotions over his 19 years in the sport, fighting for the UFC, Bellator, Strikeforce, EliteXC, Pancrase, and more. Known as one of the most fearsome welterweight knockout artists of his era, “Semtex” picked up wins over the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Martin Kampmann, and Lorenz Larkin, among many others, and enters his final fight having won three of his last four.
Most important of all, his sacrifice to the game was not in vain. Daley promised he is retiring from a secure financial position rather than one that could lead to trouble down the line.
“I’ve been planning for [retirement] for a long time,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of fights. Bellator has treated me well while I’ve been there.
“So I put things in place so that when I do call it a day, I can do so comfortably.”