Michael Page reveals UFC’s ‘mistake’ in negotiations, eyes title fight against Leon Edwards

Michael Page knew the UFC wanted him before they even entered negotiations.

This Saturday, Page makes his UFC debut when he takes on Kevin Holland in the featured main card fight at UFC 299. The longtime Bellator welterweight was one of the biggest stars in that promotion, but made it no secret that he one day intended to join the UFC. And according to Page, the UFC did the same for him.

Near the end of his Bellator tenure, Page’s contract allowed him to pursue other non-MMA fights, which notably led to his bare-knuckle contest with Mike Perry at BKFC 27. And that’s when, Page says, the UFC first revealed its interest in him.

“Interestingly enough, their first reach out was kind of a mistake on their part, because it kind of showed their interest,” Page said at UFC 299 media day. “Basically, when I did my bare-knuckle fight, and I announced I was going my bare-knuckle fight, people reached out, ‘Does that mean he’s a free agent?’ Obviously the UFC reached out like, ‘Is he a free agent?’ So we’re like, oh, somebody’s interested, huh! [Laughs.]

“So obviously that was it initially but we were like, ‘No, no. Still with Bellator. I’ve got this amount of time left and we can speak thereafter,’ and the conversation remained open, if you know what I mean. So it kind of started from there. It’s weird. It was a bit of a longer process in the beginning and then it sped up right towards the end, to the point where even the announcement of the fight, we hadn’t even confirmed everything three days before. So it’s been a crazy ride, a roller-coaster ride.”

Sporting a record of 21-2 in his professional MMA career, Page became one of Bellator’s biggest names with his spectacular knockouts and showmanship. And as he prepares to fight a man cut from a similar cloth in Holland, “MVP” believes it’s the perfect introduction for him to UFC fans.

“I keep telling everybody I feel like we’re going to have the first live, in-cage podcast with me and him talking,” Page said with a laugh. “It’s such a great fight for so many different reasons. He loves to strike, I love to strike, his entertainment factor, he likes to talk, I like to kick people in the face. It just works.”

It’s not just that Holland will be a fun fight, though. Like Michael Chandler before him, Page wants to have an immediate impact and short road to a title shot, and the 36-year-old Englishman believes an impressive win over Holland helps make that happen.

“I don’t do things just to make up numbers,” Page said. “We’re here for the belt. I’m here to get the bling. Getting to the top is key, which is why I start with somebody the likes of Kevin Holland. It needs to be that type of challenge. I don’t have time to try to build myself up, and I don’t need to. That was a conversation that I had with the UFC. They were equally in agreement with that and I think they’ve shown their intentions by giving me Kevin Holland first.”

“The reason I got a fighter of this standard, this level is their intentions align with mine of wanting to be at the top,” Page added later. “I always say the added value I think I bring is I’m very capable of marketing myself without anybody. I’m very good, I’m very aware of how to utilize certain spaces to help market myself, and I think they understand me with a title and my brain, and how to market as well, it’s great for everybody, all parties involved. So definitely, this win will put me up there.”

And with current welterweight champ Leon Edwards without a set opponent, a spectacular win could jump him right to the head of the line. Page notes that a title fight between the two English fighters would be among the biggest events possible across the pond.

“Stadium type big,” Page said of the matchup. “It’s so good for the U.K. It’s so good for inspiring more talented fighters in the future coming from that side of the world. I’m just going to keep manifesting, I’m going to keep putting it out there, and we’re going to make it happen.”

UFC 299 takes place this Saturday at the Kaseya Center in Miami.