Michael “Venom” Page has sported a sensational highlight reel since 2012 — his first year as a professional MMA fighter.
A simple YouTube video of London’s Page can catch the eye of even the most casual fight fan. His style has been compared to that of the great Anderson Silva. And 12 fights into his career, he has yet to lose.
That said, the question around Page has always been: Can he beat top-level competition — or is he a glorified can crusher?
That question will be answered in a way it’s never been on Friday, when Page (12-0) faces David Rickels (19-4) at Wembley Arena in London. Rickels is a former lightweight title challenger and is in the prime of his career.
Page, 31, is used to criticism regarding the level of talent he’s faced — and isn’t convinced Friday will be different. But anyone who follows the sport closely knows that Rickels is a different test for Page.
“It’s weird, I think it’s perspective and it depends on what happens,” Page told ESPN. “Dave Rickels is a very established fighter, but if I was to go in there in one minute and land something crazy and finish the fight, everyone will continue to say I’ve only ever fought cans.”
Page is an interesting case study in Bellator MMA’s marketing strategy compared to other promotions.
The former freestyle kickboxer has eight appearances over five years under the Bellator banner, which highlights how slowly the promotion has brought him along. He has never headlined a card nor fought anyone considered to be near the top of his division.
Compare that to, say, the UFC’s handling of middleweight Israel Adesanya. It’s not a perfect comparison — their backgrounds are not exactly the same — but the UFC has already booked Adesanya three fights in 2018. In July, he will headline a card against proven contender Brad Tavares.
Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos suffered a fractured skull on a flying knee from Michael Page in their bout at Bellator 158 in London.
The differences in approach are obvious — and Page says he doesn’t know which is better. He does believe, however, it’s time for Bellator to give him more of a push, and he believes that will happen with a win on Friday.
“The UFC is 100 percent keeping him active and putting him on a headline-type show,” Page said of Adesanya. “I would say, this is the second time I am fighting in the U.K. and I haven’t headlined a show. I still haven’t been pushed in that way. Who’s to say which is right and wrong? We’ll find out.
“Selfishly speaking, I would love to be pushed in the same way and in the same manner.”
That said, Page says he’s very happy with his five-year relationship with Bellator — even though he elected to add professional boxing to his plate in 2017. He intends to continue to box, but one can’t help wonder if this is finally the year Page is truly tested in MMA.
And as a result of that, finally the year in which he breaks out.
“We’ll be talking directly after this fight,” Page said. “Hopefully it goes according to plan. If I do something similar to what I did last time I was in London (flying knee KO), it’s ahead of the plan and we’ll talk from there.”