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The move was not unexpected as Daley, who has a checkered history with the UFC, was unlikely to return to the top promotion. But joining Bellator is a solid alternative for the dangerous striker, and the signing strengthens a decent division for the Chicago-based circuit that prides itself on competitive tournaments to build its roster.
“When this chance came up, I was absolutely ready to make a long-term commitment to Bellator,” Daley said. “I have my sights set on winning the tournament and winning that Bellator title.”
Daley (29-12) will make his organizational debut on July 20 at Bellator 72 in Tampa, Fla., against an opponent yet to be named.
The Nottingham, England, native has 20 wins by knockout and holds victories over Martin Kampmann, Jorge Masvidal, Scott Smith andDuane Ludwig.
However Daley has had his fair share of setbacks in recent years. The 29-year-old is coming off a split-decision loss to Kazuo Matsui at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey in March. He was visibly unhappy with the decision, which snapped a two-fight win streak, but it was his fourth straight fight to go the distance, and he hasn’t earned a stoppage win in five fights.
The defeat was also his third straight in Strikeforce, with the two victories coming in his native country at BAMMA 7 in September, where he beat Jordan Radev, and at Ringside MMA 12 in Montreal in October, where he topped Luigi Fioravanti in the main event.
He’s also had constant trouble making weight, including once in the UFC, once in Shark Fights and both times he fought in BAMMA, including his debut which was supposed to be for the welterweight belt before he came in heavy. (He won all four times he missed weight though.)
Daley fought Nick Diaz for the Strikeforce 170-pound belt in April 2011, but succumbed to strikes with three seconds left in the first round.
He is most infamous for a post-fight cheap shot against Josh Koscheck at UFC 113 at Montreal’s Bell Centre in May 2010. After a three-round battle in which he was frustrated by his opponent’s takedown game, Daley threw an uppercut that clipped Koscheck well after the bell. UFC president Dana White said that night he would be released and would never fight for the promotion again.
Although there had been rumblings that he could be “forgiven” considering he was part of the UFC’s sister promotion Strikeforce, which he had signed with in 2010 before it was purchased by the UFC’s parent company Zuffa, his recent showings in the cage seemed to diminish his stock.
Bellator, on the other hand, is ready to bank on his star power and the potential he has shown in his nine-year career up to this point.
“I’ve been a Semtex fan for years,” Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said in a press release. “He’s an incredibly explosive fighter who is magic to watch inside the cage. So, when the opportunity presented itself to join forces with Paul, it was a simple decision to make.
“Paul’s one of those fighters I’ve always intentionally stayed home to watch and now I can watch him cageside at Bellator.”
Daley joins an impressive list of welterweights with Bellator, including reigning champion Ben Askren, Season 6 Tournament Finalists Bryan Baker and Karl Amoussou, Ben Saunders and Douglas Lima.
“The organization has really been developing and signing a lot of the best fighters in the world, and it’s another reason why I signed with Bellator,” Daley said. “The tournament format is something that really stood out to me, and it’s a chance to face some of the best fighters in the sport.
“There isn’t anyone sitting at the top of the mountaintop making decisions on who fights who, the fighters get to decide who is going to be the next champion, and that’s how it should be. Bellator does it right, and that’s why I’m here.”
Bellator signs wrestling phenom Bunch:
Bellator also announced the signing of American wrestling standout Shawn Bunch on Monday. Bunch, a former U.S. Olympic qualifier who is now turning his attention solely to MMA, will fight in the organization’s bantamweight division.
“I’ve had my sights set on Bellator for a long time,” Bunch said. “While I’ve been training in MMA for over four years, I’ve never been able to fully focus on the sport with my wrestling obligations. After watching guys like Ben Askren and King Mo, guys I really look up to in this sport have success, I knew the time was right to make the move to Bellator.”
As a founding member of Team Thirsty, Bunch has trained along some of MMA’s finest, including Bellator Welterweight Champion Ben Askren, Gray Maynard, Daniel Cormier and of course, King Mo Lawal.
“Shawn is one of the best athletes I’ve been around, and he isn’t to be played with!” Lawal said. “Shawn has been at the top of everything he has competed in, and MMA won’t be much different. He lives off of hard work and dedication, and I expect him to be a Bellator Champion.”
“The best way to describe Shawn is just explosive and dynamic,” Askren said. “I’ve traveled the world with Shawn competing together in wrestling competitions, and know what kind of competitor he is. He’ll make an incredible addition to the Bellator family, and I’m excited to see what he brings to the cage.”
Currently training at the world-renowned American Kickboxing Academy, Bunch is looking to take his MMA game to the next level, and is ready to show the world what he is truly capable of inside the Bellator cage.
“For MMA fans that aren’t familiar with me, get ready,” Bunch said. “I bring an incredibly fast and explosive game to the table, and I’m just ready to start this new chapter in my life. I can’t wait to get into the cage and get it going.”