Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Paul Daley is heading into the final fight of his MMA career and hopes that the next generation of fighter can appreciate how much the sport has grown over the years.
Daley will have his retirement bout against Wendell Giácomo at Friday’s Bellator 281 event, which takes place at the SSE Arena in London, England. After nearly 60 pro fights, Daley has seen it all over a nearly two-decade run.
“I think the younger generation is very fortunate when I hear what they’re getting paid,” Daley told reporters at the Bellator 281 media day. “It’s crazy, the paychecks, but I think that reflects the popularity of the sport and the general growth of the sport and that’s good to see. The growth of the sport has been quite amazing.
The 39-year-old has been teetering with retirement for a few years now, but he seems to be finally ready to make that decision final. Daley knocked out Sabah Homasi in one of the craziest fights in Bellator history at Bellator 257 in April 2021 and he thought that would be the right moment to walk away.
Soon after, a fight with Jason Jackson was offered to him and suddenly, he could find himself into a championship opportunity. Daley’s performance wasn’t his best in a unanimous decision loss to Jackson at Bellator 260 this past June and knew he had to make the walk one more time to try and get the bad taste out of his mouth.
“I couldn’t leave it there,” Daley said. “There was an intention to retire after the Homasi fight, but the Jason Jackson fight was too appealing.
“But it just makes sense [to make this one the last]. When things become tiresome and boring, then I think that’s the time for you to stop. That feeling might come back again, but right now I don’t have that same kind of energy I should have to compete at this level.”
Daley was originally scheduled to face Andrey Koreshkov at the event before the former champion had to withdraw. Giácomo makes his promotional debut on a two-fight win streak, and victories in eight of nine.
Despite Giácomo having very little to lose, Daley is ready to put on a show one last time in front of a hometown crowd.
“I’m going into this with a champion’s mindset,” Daley said. “I was supposed to fight a former champion, so that’s what I’m prepared for, but in a certain way, Wendell might be even more dangerous because this is a huge opportunity for him. Big stage, nerves, the lights, it makes people do crazy sh*t.
“This is his big opportunity. Some people do well in them, and some people crumble. I think this is one case where the contender is going to crumble.”