England’s Michael “MVP” Page aspires to stand as the top welterweight in the Bellator grand prix, a field Page assesses is deeper than UFC’s 170-pound division.
“One-hundred percent, I believe that, and it’s not just myself,” Page said this week. “A lot of people are looking at our welterweight division and if you could see our top five guys fight against the UFC’s five best, it’d be amazing, and I do believe we have the stronger fighters.”
Page (13-0) meets veteran countryman Paul Daley (40-16-2) in the third quarterfinal of the Bellator tournament, the bout featured as the main event of a card broadcast by DAZN from Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut beginning at 4:30 p.m. PST Saturday.
Former Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima previously defeated Andrey Koreshkov in the tournament’s opening fight on Sept. 29, and Neiman Gracie followed with a December victory over Ed Ruth in Hawaii. The last quarterfinal will feature current champion Rory MacDonald against former UFC fighter Jon Fitch on April 27 in San Jose.
“I’m not in this to be second best,” Page said. “I have extreme beliefs in my ability and where I can go in this sport. I’m eager to show that.”
The Bellator competition gives the organization a strong push to emphasize the legitimacy of its talent when compared with the UFC, which will showcase some of its top welterweights March 2 on a UFC 235 pay-per-view card that includes champion Tyron Woodley versus Kamaru Usman and unbeaten Ben Askren against former champion Robbie Lawler.
“Under the circumstances, everyone wants to raise their profile and stand as being the best in their division. This is the perfect platform for that,” Page said.
Page, a gifted boxer, has generated a rivalry with Daley.
“He made a comment when I wasn’t present that I thought was disrespectful … he was being very belittling about the level I was at, kind of saying he was [Floyd] Mayweather and I was Adrien Broner, like I was the baby brother almost,” Page said.
“I wasn’t around to defend myself. So I said, ‘Cool, let’s fight,’ and it’s taken him two years to get around to fighting.”
Bellator CEO Scott Coker said he sought to place the fight in England, but given booked venues there and the time constraints of his grand prix, the best option was Mohegan Sun, where Bellator has staged bouts.
“It’s supposed to be in the U.K., but it’s happening the way it’s happening, so I guess this is the way it has to be,” said Page, who is slotted to meet Lima — perhaps in the U.K. — should he defeat Daley. “This is more about the two people in the cage. It’s about this fight finally happening, not where it is.”
ANOTHER BRIT IN THE U.S.: Upon the formal announcement this week that three-belt heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) will make his U.S. debut against Jarrell Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs) of Brooklyn on June 1 at Madison Square Garden, Joshua said, “I plan to embrace the culture and leave with an appetite for more.”
The fight card will be streamed by DAZN.
“The time has come to head across the Atlantic … I am looking forward to taking on another challenge with a good boxer and a brilliant talker. I will leave nothing to chance and plan on dismantling Miller in style to make my mark.”
What he’ll do from there remains unknown. World Boxing Council champion Deontay Wilder is moving closer to finalizing an agreement to fight Tyson Fury in a spring rematch of their Dec. 1 draw at Staples Center.
“We’re just monitoring, waiting for them to come back, and if there’s no agreement by Monday, we’ll discuss the situation with our board … but it looks like an agreement is forthcoming as they have informed us they’re in good-faith negotiations,” WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman told the Fight Corner on Friday.
ALL THE BELTS: The heavyweight men can look to the middleweight women for how to stage a complete unification as Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer struck a deal this week to stage their unification April 13 on Showtime at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
“I always seek the biggest challenges and set the highest goals. I will be ready like never before and will defeat Christina Hammer,” Shields said.
“Nothing will stop me from becoming undisputed champion and continuing my journey to carry women’s boxing to never-before-seen heights. I want to be the greatest of all time and change the game forever for all women in sports, and April 13 is an important step on that road to history.”
COLLISION COURSE? Santa Maria’s Carlos Balderas (6-0, five KOs) is a source of irritation for boxing’s prospect of the year, Teofimo Lopez, whose rise to stardom continued impressively earlier this month when he knocked out veteran Diego Magdaleno in Texas.
Balderas was given the U.S. Olympic lightweight spot over Lopez in 2016, leaving the Brooklyn fighter to represent Honduras through familial bloodlines.
Balderas returns to the ring Saturday at L.A. Live’s Microsoft Theater on the undercard of Leo Santa Cruz’s WBA featherweight title defense versus Jose Quinonez.
“I put the work in and there’s no doubt I’m going to shine,” Balderas said. “There’s a lot of good fighters on that card, but that’s my night. I’ll be the one who’ll steal the show.”
Doing so would further the interest toward a professional showdown between the elite youngsters.
“[Lopez] and his dad have been talking a lot of smack saying they were the ones that deserved to go to the Olympics. Even when he went to the Olympics, he lost,” Balderas said. “They’ve got it coming, bro. They’re not going to keep disrespecting me. They’re the ones who started it. We’re going to finish it.”