|Place: Wembley Arena, London Date: Friday May 13|
|Cover: Live coverage on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app from 6.00pm BST, with the main card also live on BBC Three from 9.00pm BST|
“I’m not getting the recognition I deserve, but I don’t mind that,” Michael ‘Venom’ Page says when asked if his elite-level combat skills and accomplishments are fully recognized.
It’s a fascinating subject – as enigmatic as the fighter himself. But there’s no doubt that ‘MVP’ is a natural star of the sporting firmament, with his unique style, endless reel stops and mastery of the moment to promote himself.
There is great enigma about his personality, just as there is about any of his rivals over his quick twitch, lightning attacks and moves, honed over years of style kick-boxing. free thanks to his long frame and languorous skills. He is the viper of combat sports.
Page, indeed, is also Bellator MMA’s “poster boy” in the UK, and there’s an argument – a strong argument – to suggest he doesn’t get enough mainstream recognition.
But isn’t Page really troubled by the fact that MMA stars are arguably not getting the respect they deserve from a wide British audience, both for their grit and their skill?
“Not really,” he told BBC Sport.
” Let’s be realistic. MMA is still a very young sport, very new, especially in this country, still frowned upon by some places, like with sponsors, for example.
“Because of that, we have to strive to keep developing things, but if I’m being honest, I don’t do what I do for the recognition, I do it because I love it. I love my journey. , it’s in me. I’m always satisfied with where I am, my status is slowly progressing.
“It will come, that’s how I see it.”
This high status could stem from several factors.
One of them could be the Olympic incision campaign. But first, on Friday, the interest will come from his bid for Bellator’s interim welterweight crown. Londoner Page could become a member of a very exclusive club as the third Briton to hold a world title with one of the leading mixed martial arts organisations.
In 2016, Michael Bisping became the UFC middleweight champion, after repeatedly refusing to be turned down, in a never say die narrative that had turned the Lancastrian into a folk hero. And in 2015, Liam McGeary won Bellator’s light-heavyweight crown, an accomplishment that went horribly under the radar.
And like Page now, UFC heavyweight Tom Aspinall looks two fights away from challenging for the UFC big man crown. But champions have been rare, as if to underline the sport’s childhood here.
It’s no disappointment for Page that Yaroslav Amosov, Bellator welterweight champion, won’t meet him in the cage at Wembley on Friday night. The Ukrainian pulled out of their fight to help defend his homeland against Russia.
“I thought it might happen,” Page says. “He’s Ukrainian and there are things going on in his life that are beyond his control. The way I see it is if – when – I win against Logan Storley, I see myself as the champion. Amosov will come when he’s ready , and then we will fight.”
Page is a firm favorite against American Storley, who is 13-1 but is best known for his wrestling.
But the big picture, as MMA expands globally, is that it will become an Olympic sport, and possibly even a Commonwealth Games sport, and so the resonance of the sport will grow with a mainstream and crossover audiences. That certainly seems to be the case with women’s boxing, which is growing exponentially 10 years after its London Olympics inauguration.
Things are happening to make this a reality, too. The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) achieved Code Signatory status from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) seven months ago, a key step towards Olympic inclusion.
Page thinks the inclusion of the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games would have a dramatic effect on the dissonance MMA is currently receiving in some quarters, misunderstood as it still is in the minds of some sports fans.
“If I had come back with a gold medal in any of these events, I’m 100% sure I would be seen in a different way,” Page said. “We place enormous value on the Olympics in this country. My journey would have been different, and maybe my financial journey wouldn’t have been the way it has been for me.
“Things happen for a reason. Recognition will come – simple as that…we still need to massively educate people.”
For now, if Page can beat Storley in spectacular fashion and follow up with an interim title defense – potentially against old opponent Douglas Lima or challenger Jason Jackson if Amosov is unavailable – could he find himself among the contenders? to BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2022?
“It would be amazing and I would be very honored if that happened,” Page said, with a smile.
Keep us smiling, Mr. Page, and do your thing and be part of a very slim list of fighters from these coasts who can claim to have become an MMA world champion with the big organizations.