Paul Daley on why he’s the best striker in MMA

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How is your fight preparation going?
My training camp is pretty much all done now, so it’s just a matter of making weight, relaxing and trying not to think too much about the fight. I’ve got a nice hotel with a spa – it’s like I’m on holiday really.

How did this fight come about?

After leaving the UFC last year I signed a non-exclusive contract with Strikeforce, where I made a big impact in my first fight, knocking out Scott Smith to establish myself as the number one contender in the welterweight division. They originally wanted me to fight [Strikeforce welterweight champion] Nick Diaz in January, but having only fought Smith in December it made sense for me to wait and have plenty of time to prepare for it. Diaz ended up fighting Evangelista Santos instead, so I decided to take a fight with another promotion in the meanwhile to avoid a long layoff. That’s when BAMMA approached me about fighting Yuya Shirai.
Were you aware that taking this fight would put your Strikeforce title shot at risk?
It wouldn’t have mattered either way. I plan on winning all my fights, so there’s only ever one outcome in my mind. I’m a natural born fighter who likes to stay active, fight regularly and entertain people. The guys who people remember, the Alis, the Tysons, the Micky Wards, the guys who get movies made about them, they entertained people and became legends, and that’s my intention.

Your opponent on Saturday is a champion in the Japanese MMA promotion Deep, but he’s largely unknown to British MMA fans. What challenges does he present to you?
He’s a black belt in judo and a [Russian martial art] sambo specialist so he’s definitely got submission skills, and I’m sure that being a champion already will give him a lot of confidence too. He’s a durable guy who’s gone the distance a few times so he’s going to be tough to finish, but I’d still bet on me knocking him out in the first round.

If all goes to plan you’ll face Diaz for the Strikeforce title later this year. What did you make of his performance against Santos?

He always fights well, but I didn’t think it was a spectacular performance. He did what he needed to do to win the fight and he’s still the champion, but I think he showed a lot of flaws that I’m aiming to exploit. I can definitely take advantage of his lack of wrestling and athleticism.
What dangers does he pose you?
I’m not worried about his wrestling or his striking, just his submissions game, and he’ll have to get me to the mat to use it and I don’t think he’s got the athleticism to do that. The betting house might have Nick as the favourite, but the clued-up gambler will have their money on me.

Do you think he’ll be scared to trade punches with you?
I’m sure he’ll stand with me initially, but once he feels my power he’ll change his gameplan pretty quickly. He can say that he won’t but trust me, when I hit him, he will.

Where do you think you rank among the best ‘pure’ strikers in MMA?

For my weight class I think I’m probably the best striker in MMA in terms of success rate, stoppages from standing and the development of technique. From fight to fight I’m always improving. I’ve got good movement, I’ve got power, I can kick, knee, elbow, punch and I can throw crazy moves. Basically I can do it all and I’m going to continue to develop into one of the best there ever was in the sport and become someone that people will talk about forever.
If you’re the best striker at welterweight, who’s the best overall?
Even though he’s not a ‘pure’ striker it would have to be [middleweight] Anderson Silva, for his success rate and because no one can quite figure out the puzzle he presents. I think [light heavyweight] Melvin Manhoef and [featherweight] José Aldo are up there as well for sure.

Anderson Silva has long been saying he wants to box Roy Jones Jr. What are your thoughts on MMA fighters with good striking who want to box famous boxers?
We’re all martial artists who want our combat skills to be the best and if you can beat someone at their own sport then it says a lot, but most of these guys are deluded. While a lot of MMA fighters could probably beat journeymen or mid-level boxers, if a top ten MMA fighter boxed a top ten boxer they’d get smashed.
How do you rate Silva’s chances in the ring with Jones?
Anderson would probably do well now, because Roy’s career is on the decline and he isn’t what he used to be. But back in the day when Roy was the pound-for-pound number one he would’ve destroyed Anderson.

Diaz also spoke recently about wanting to box Fernando Vargas…

Vargas is also way past his best, he’s been in rehab and all sorts, so his conditioning’s probably not even there. Diaz might do OK, but if he gets caught he’s still going to sleep. When I spar with [WBC super bantamweight top contender] Rendall Munroe and [former Commonwealth light heavyweight champion] Ovill McKenzie it’s a completely different ballgame.

Speaking of MMA fighters who’ve beaten journeymen boxers, you recently called out KJ Noons. Why do you want to fight him?
I wanted to fight him because he’s beaten Nick Diaz in the past and he went five rounds with him before the Santos fight, so it made sense from a promotional point of view.
Was it Noons’s camp or Strikeforce who opposed the idea?
I think it was a bit of both. Strikeforce didn’t want me to fight him because he’s a marketable guy for the American audience and they knew I’d knock him out. I think he didn’t want to fight me because he knew that I’m too big and too strong. I think a lack of confidence is why he didn’t take the fight.
He didn’t lack confidence when he was challenging Floyd Mayweather Junior to a boxing match…
That would be the most pointless fight in the world and a total massacre. I’m sure Floyd could do whatever he wanted with Noons – he could carry him for 12 rounds or he could literally pick the round he wanted to take him out in. At the end of the day, a lot of these guys just want to get paid, so they call out boxers to get their name in the spotlight.
Getting back to MMA, what did you make of the Georges St-Pierre/Josh Koscheck fight?
I thought it was pretty boring. GSP should’ve finished Koscheck, he was wounded and he pretty much only had one eye. I think back in the day GSP would’ve pounced on him and finished him if he had him in that position. Dana White probably puts a lot of pressure on GSP to keep the belt so he can keep making money off of him, but he’s definitely fighting too safe in my opinion.

Would you like a rematch with Koscheck [Daley lost to Koscheck at UFC 113]?
I’m not really interested in targeting rematches. So long as I grow from a loss I’m not really interested in trying to get revenge, I’m just interested in moving on. But if the opportunity arose I wouldn’t say no.
Next up for GSP is a bout with another of your old adversaries, Jake Shields. How do you see that fight playing out?
I think GSP’s gonna smash him on the feet. I don’t think Shields will be able to take him down and GSP will beat him with movement and athleticism. I think Shields is just too heavy on his feet and it could even be a TKO victory for Georges.
And if the super-fight between GSP and Anderson Silva comes to fruition after that?
In my opinion GSP would get smashed by AndersonAnderson’s fought the best wrestlers, the best strikers, the best all-rounders and the best athletes and he’s always found a way to win. I just don’t see what GSP could bring that Anderson hasn’t seen already, and there isn’t anyone GSP has fought in the welterweight division who compares to Anderson. I don’t know if GSP would stick around after losing to Anderson, but moving up to middleweight and losing to the greatest middleweight of all time wouldn’t be a bad way to end your career.

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