Bellator MMA star Page hopes for more investment in fighters
After recent developments, British fighter hopes more will be invested in the pugilists
Michael Page's career in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) may only be 10 fights old, but there are already many calls for him to get a title shot.
Having made his debut in 2012, the Englishman currently has a 10-0 record in Bellator MMA and will be looking to extend his unbeaten run at the O2 Arena in London on Sunday (Singapore time), when he takes on Brazilian veteran Evangelista Santos (21-17) at Bellator 158.
The world of MMA has been shaken up considerably this past week, after news of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) US$4 billion ($5.37b) sale to WWE-IMG was followed by One Championship's announcement of an eight-figure investment by Heliconia Capital Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings.
Despite being a relatively young sport, having only really gained mainstream popularity in the past decade, MMA has taken huge strides since and Page believes the latest developments are a huge boost.
"Hearing the news about One Championship and that there may be new minds in UFC… Hopefully it's going to impact in a positive way," he told The New Paper in a phone interview yesterday.
"Maybe, they will be open to working with other shows and I think it could be a really amazing move for fighting.
"Having more competition only helps the sport which is why I'm excited about the prospect of Bellator growing as well."
Bellator MMA is an American company founded in 2008.
The UFC - also American-based - is the biggest MMA company in the world, with Asia's One Championship, headquartered in Singapore, aiming to challenge for the spot.
British knockout specialist Page is optimistic the amount of money being pumped in will help raise the level of MMA fighting, as he highlighted the disparity in pay between the big-name fighters and their less-famous counterparts.
For instance, at last Friday's UFC 200, which had a total disclosed payroll of US$7 million, Brock Lesnar earned US$2.5m for his victory over Mark Hunt, who pocketed just US$700,000.
None of the other fighters on the card earned more than US$600,000, with some like Travis Browne taking home just US$120,000.
"This (investment) is what we've been missing for a long time," said the 29-year-old.
"I think fighters are very underpaid and it's difficult to train the way we do.
"Having that support and sponsorship and that financial benefit is only going to help everyone want to get back into the gym.
"A few guys are paid very well, and then the other 90 per cent are not.
"I honestly believe if you invest in the athletes, it will only improve the skill involved in the sport."
His immediate focus will be the bout with Santos in front of his home crowd, which the self-professed showman believes will work in his favour.
Should an 11th consecutive triumph come his way, then calls for a title shot for Page are likely to only intensify.
"I'm extremely confident… I'm a very dangerous person because people don't understand what I am," said the man nicknamed "Venom".
"I think when you also have the right team around you, and my coaching is second to none, that just fuels the confidence I have.
"A lot of people are screaming for me to get that title fight, and I've always said it's not just about being ready to fight the champion, but also about being confident in holding the title against up-and-coming fighters.
"Now I'm in that place where I'm ready for any style or experience, but I'm not in any rush.
"I'm just enjoying displaying my talent and skills to the world each time."
BELLATOR 158 @ O2 ARENA, LONDON, ENGLAND
Premiere: Sunday, July 17 @ 12pm on KIX (Singtel TV Ch 309 & Starhub Ch 518)
Repeat: Monday, July 18 @ 10pm on KIX (Singtel TV Ch 309 & Starhub Ch 518)
"Having that support and sponsorship and that financial benefit is only going to help everyone want to get back into the gym. A few guys are paid very well, and then the other 90 per cent are not."
- British MMA fighter Michael Page