Michael “Venom” Page knows he’s in a unique position with a promoter who will actually allow him to explore opportunities where there’s far more risk than reward involved for them.
On the heels of his split decision loss in an interim welterweight title fight against Logan Storley in May, Page was awaiting word on when he could return to action but unfortunately Bellator didn’t have anything available for him right away.
That’s when he received word that BKFC was interested in featuring him in a bare-knuckle fight in the company’s first ever card in the United Kingdom.
“I like to make noise in the fighting world,” Page told MMA Fighting. “Obviously, my last fight didn’t go according to plan. Bellator was saying they wouldn’t have anything available for me until October and I was like I can’t wait that long. I need to get busy now.
“Bellator’s always allowed me to do other things like boxing before, this opportunity kind of fell in my lap. I was like let’s go, let’s make it happen. Bellator was in full support so we’re doing it.”
According to Page, his bare-knuckle debut didn’t happen simply because BKFC was interested in him fighting but rather an introduction made to him through a former heavyweight and cruiserweight boxing champion.
“It’s actually through David Haye,” Page revealed. “David Haye is a good friend of my coach so they were kind of talking and David Haye does some work with BKFC every now and again. So he just said ‘would that be something Michael would be interested in?’ It was more so like maybe later [in my career] and that just sort of sped the process up.
“We spoke to Bellator and we were looking for something anyway and they said yeah, let’s go.”
Due to the restrictive nature of most contracts in MMA, fighters are rarely afforded the opportunity to pursue outside interests without getting explicit permission. Even when co-promotion does happen from time to time, even then organizations work together with the assumption that all of them will benefit from it.
In this case, Bellator is actually risking one of the company’s top stars by sending him over to compete in a bare-knuckle fight against a dangerous opponent like Mike Perry with no real reward coming back to the Paramount owned company.
A similar scenario has been unfolding for months with Francis Ngannou seeking out a fight with heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury while the UFC has repeatedly declined interest in allowing him that opportunity. The situation has turned so dire that Ngannou is prepared to wait out the remainder of his contract with the UFC to reach free agency so he will have the freedom to go after the fight without any further interference from his promoter.
It’s part of the reason why Page is happy he’s with Bellator right now with company president Scott Coker not only affording him the chance to compete in BKFC but wished him luck ahead of his fight with Perry in August.
Over the course of @MichaelPage247’s 18-fight career at @BellatorMMA, we’ve allowed Michael to challenge himself outside our cage in professional boxing. We wish him luck in this match as he resets for another run at the Bellator title.— Scott Coker (@ScottCoker) June 9, 2022
“If you look at what Bellator is looking to do at the moment, even potentially doing a little collaboration with Eagle FC,” Page said. “They’ve done collaboration in Japan before with their shows [with RIZIN]. Collaboration with Cage Warriors in the U.K.
“They are definitely open to that kind of thing and obviously they’ve allowed me to box before. It’s great being in an organization that allows their fighters to do more.”
There was a time a few years ago when Page was at odds with Bellator over how he was being promoted and the activity he was keeping as a fighter on the roster.
Not only have those fences been mended but Page couldn’t ask for a better partner for his combat sports career, especially as he continues seeking out the best possible opportunities across mixed martial arts, boxing and now bare-knuckle fighting.
“I think anybody in any relationship, you’re going to have ups and downs,” Page said. “I’m a person that will just voice it, let it be known, we have a conversation about it and we move past it.
“It’s only gotten better to be fair. As you can see, they allowed me to do this, which is something that’s made my day.”