by FIGHT! contributor Thomas McCullough
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is heaven to aspiring scrappers but Paul Daley had to visit hell before he enters the pearly cage.
“I’m training at Mike’s Gym now [in Holland]. This is where I always do my ‘Hell Week’ of training,” Daley said recently. “I feel the intensity in sparring, technique and conditioning cannot be matched anywhere else in the world. When I leave this camp, I know in my mind and body it’s going to take one bad mother fucker to avoid getting knocked out by me.”
Considered one of the best welterweights ever produced by the UK, Paul Daley holds Cage Rage UK and World titles, FX-3 world Champion and King of the Ring European and world muay Thai championships and has appeared on Strikeforce, EliteXC, Sportfight and Pancrase cards. The striker, nicknamed “Semtex” after a European-manufactured plastic explosive, represents Team Rough House and boasts a record of 21-8-2 with 16 of his wins coming by way of knockout.
“Semtex” is a mercurial character; his striking onslaught is predictable inside the cage, but his behavior outside of it is less so. “I like to read and hang out with friends as well as traveling,” he said. “I’ve a great interest in business and sometimes I like to just chill and think of other avenues in business I could take.”
It’s possible that the thought of pursuing those other avenues led to Daley’s short-lived retirement in the winter of 2008. But whatever the reason for that unexpected, inexplicable move, “Semtex” is offering no explanation. “It was a personal choice at the time and people around me understood why, that’s all that matters to me,” he said.
Daley relies on that small inner circle for a reason. The fighter was raised by a single mother along with his two older sisters and said, “We lived ok, but like most families we had our struggles.” He took up martial arts at the age of 7 and aspired to a career in MMA when he first viewed a UFC DVD at 16. “There’s a reason that I like fighting, why I’m fighting and why life has led me down this path. I have faith in that it is to do great things, to be great, so for whatever reason I always feel as if I can never lose.”
He’ll need that attitude on Sept. 19 when he faces welterweight contender Martin Kampmann. Originally scheduled to face fellow UFC rookie Brian Foster, Daley was bumped up to the main card when Mike Swick suffered a concussion in training.
“I’ll fight the same fight, hard, aggressive and try to finish the fight, whoever it is,” Daley said. After all, what have you got to lose if you’ve already been to hell?