Changes at Bellator MMA event in Milan after illness removed Briton’s Paul Daley from the headline act
A bizarre and dramatic weigh-in day at Bellator 247 in Milan. Veteran British fighter Paul Daley – upbeat, humble, and appreciative to be back in interviews early in the week – struggled to make the 170lb weight limit yesterday coming in at 172.6lbs for his headline contest with Derek Anderson.
Two hours later, at the Ceremonial Weigh-ins, the toll on Daley’s body from the weight cut was debilitating enough that he was unable to walk to the podium in the locked-down fight hotel bubble to face off with his American opponent. Instead, Daley was in a workout room lying down, clearly suffering.
Medical staff were called, an ambulance came, Daley went to hospital, and in situ Commissioner Brandon Morse made his decision that Daley would not fight.
Duty of care. Safety first. Double safety even in these strange times with no crowds, COVID-19 swab tests and daily temperature checks. Daley later remonstrated through his Instagram account, claiming he was fit to fight, but the decision was set in stone.
Daley later admitted it was he who had called for an ambulance due to cramps and knew if he went on an I-V drip in the hospital the fight would be cancelled anyway. Though he went to hospital, he later claimed that he simply slept while awaiting attention, had not been re-hydrated medically, and had asked for the fight with Anderson to be re-instated.
It was a pity for his name was a very big one on this card, Bellator’s eighth event since lockdown. By the end of October, there will have been eleven events in thirteen weeks in three cities on both sides of The Pond, involving almost 270 fighters.
In other words, whatever happens, the shows must go on.
It meant a re-jig of the main card and now the headline fight for the event – the first to be shown on Bellator’s new USA partnering platform CBS Sports, with Sky Sports Mix in the UK showing the card – involves two formidable female flyweight fighters .
Cornwall’s Kate Jackson meets Holland’s Denise Kielholtz, the former a title challenger in the Bellator fight league, the latter a Bellator Kickboxing champion who has designs on being a champion in two disciplines. “It’s great that two women are headlining because it gives us an opportunity to show just what we can do,” Kielholtz told The Daily Telegraph.
More pressure ? “No, because I don’t feel any more pressure. It’s the same, just me and Kate Jackson. Same opponent, same number of rounds. But it feels like a reward for being ready.”
It promises to be a fascinating fight. It will be a fine test for Kielholtz against the very physical presence of Jackson who has strength on the canvas and fine ground and pound. It will be about Kielholtz’s ability to be dextrous in movement, and use her superior striking.
Jackson will want hands on. Kielholtz will want to control the space between them. Jackson, for me, the taller fighter goes in as marginal favourite, but must impose her physicality, which she is capable of with alarming focus. Otherwise, the Briton could be picked off in the stand-up.
Win this, and the Dutchwoman will be seen as legit, a growing challenge to the coveted 125lb belt.
The re-shaping of the main card, for the second of three Bellator events in Milan before the fight league moves to Paris, France on October 10 for an inaugural, indeed historic, event after years of struggle for the permissions to have MMA there, was saddening and maddening Wednesday. For different people, for different reasons.
That these events are happening at all is humbling experience for the fighters. Gratitude is everywhere from all involved from fighters, to staff, to organisers.
MMA back at work after an enforced six-month lay-off due to the viral spread of the global disease and government response.
Earlier in the week, Daley had said: “Bellator have been able to put together some good cards and give us the opportunity to do what we love. I feel very fortunate firstly to go out and do a sport I love and I’m able to earn money.”
The veteran knockout artist was about to enter the cage for his 62nd MMA fight. “Even at the best of times I’m able to earn a very substantial wage at Bellator and I’m extremely grateful for Scott Coker [Bellator president] and the guys.” But that all changed on the eve of the event.
When Daley took to social media later, disappointed at the decision to call off his fight, he said: “Yes, there was a bad weight cut. I came in 2.6 pounds over, but the fight was accepted. I have not received any hospital treatment at all. I’m back in the hotel now, just feasted, and feel 100%. We should see you all Thursday, tomorrow, when I knock this guy out, if he still wants it.”
But the decision was already made. It falls to Jackson and Kielholtz to take up closing the night, with exciting Scotsman Chris Duncan being moved onto the main card against Iamik Furtado at 160lbs catchweight.
Jackson remains totally focused on her Dutch rival. “She has got a solid striking background. I wouldn’t underestimate the explosion of her game but on the ground I think I’m the more technical grappler.”
“She’s obviously a really good kickboxer and she’s beaten really good opponents and had an extensive record. But this isn’t kickboxing, it’s MMA. I’d like to think she’s wary of my grappling and that will probably change her striking element anyway. But She’s good and improving fast.”
Jackson has the tools to win this fight; but must impose herself early as Kielholtz, now trained by the Dutch legend Bob Schreiber, looks to advance her fledgling career against the tough Briton.