Paul Daley has been grabbing mixed martial arts (MMA) headlines for all the wrong reasons, which have little to do with his success inside the cage.
"Semtex," 30, continues to improve his career record (33-12), winning 10 of 13 matches since his unceremonious departure from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) back in 2010. And he was well on his way to elevating his stateside stock when he signed on to compete under the Bellator banner earlier this year.
UFC President Dana White had likely hoped fight fans would forget about the brash British banger (even though his profile is still on its site) and the promise he continues to demonstrate. That's because Daley is an exciting fighter, boasting a 72 percent knockout percentage in victory. And who could forget that Daley beat up one of the top Welterweight contenders in the UFC today, Martin Kampmann, at UFC 103 back in 2009.
Unfortunately, he is likely most remembered as the undisciplined, immature fighter who threw an ill-advised, after-the-bell punch at a defenseless Josh Koscheck following a snoozer of a match Daley ended up losing via decision. Following the mishap, he was immediately released by UFC, a life-changing shot at Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre erased seemingly forever in just 15 minutes.
Instead, Daley found himself looking for a new home, but he found several, including Cage Warriors, Strikeforce and Bellator, among others.
When the news broke last week Daley had been released from his Bellator contract, it was only a matter of time before White was asked about the Brit's new found free agency. When addressing the question in his traditional post fight scrum (watch it here) White was left without much to say.
"I thought he hated this place, I don't know, man. I don't think so. I heard he couldn't get a visa and they're real strict here now on visas. I thought he hated UFC and said he'd never want to come back here and never wanted to fight here again. What changed?"
Well, a lot changed.
Most has to do with money, but along with maturing as a fighter came maturing as a man. And Daley seems to have come to terms with the mistakes he has made in the past. In fact, on a recent appearance on "The MMA Hour," Daley cleared up whether or not he would like to return to the Octagon.
He kept it real:
"Of course I want to return I would be lying if i said I didn’t want to return to UFC. I definitely want to return. The whole being banned from UFC hurt a little bit. I felt it wasn't the greatest way the situation could have been handled."
Show host Ariel Helwani asked Daley if he regret his post fight antics against Koscheck and what was said to White. And he agrees that it certainly wasn't the wisest career move.
"My life would be a lot different now. Everything happens for a reason. I am sorry for what I did. I think if I had nothing it would have turned out different. I said some stupid sh*t."
There you have it. Not only a full fledged apology, but a open air request to come back to UFC amidst visa issues and previous negative statements about the promotion.
Daley tiptoed around the visa conundrum and pushed hard for a bout on the upcoming UFC card in Manchester, England. He also went as far as to suggest that his status as the best 170-pound fighter in the United Kingdom, despite his legal problems and other personal issues, would compel White and Co. to make a sound business decision.
"I would like to think Dana would like me back, I have a lot of fan support. For me personally -- for the best welterweight in the United Kingdom to not be in UFC is a disservice."
Many people surrounding the sport feel as if the early thirties are a golden age for a fighter. Combine this with unparalleled striking, big fight experience against proven welterweights and above all else, results, it makes Daley a prime candidate to make a run at the rankings.
If all falls into place, UFC could once again have another big name contender on its roster to keep the contender cabinet fresh for St. Pierre should he run through his potential opponents, including Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 and the next man in line.