For the last decade, one of Bellator’s most successful and notable home-grown prospects has been former W.A.K.O. semi-contact kickboxing champion Michael ‘Venom’ Page. After years of traditional martial arts training, Page made the jump to MMA, where his elusive, power-striking style made him an instant attention getter.
Page went just 3-0 on the regional UK and neophyte Indian MMA scenes before signing to his first contract with America’s number 2 promotion. He took his last MMA bout outside the Bellator cage in 2014, and has been part of the organization ever since.
Michael Venom Page’s draw was never about being the best
The years that followed MVP’s jump to Bellator were marked by a steady stream of thrilling knockouts and a steady stream of critique about a lack of meaningful competition. The Paramount Global company seemingly slow played Page’s star potential, building him to a 14-0 unbeaten record before throwing him into the cage with former welterweight champion Douglas Lima.
As many had long expected, when faced with an opponent who wasn’t instantly over-awed (or entirely washed from age and cagewear), MVP’s game looked a lot less fearsome and dynamic. From Page’s standpoint, that 2019 booking had the feeling of a complete mess.
It’s a credit to him though, that after Bellator went back to building him up slowly with a couple more badly over-matched fighters and men not dangerous or dynamic enough to close him down, that MVP took a second shot at Lima in 2021—defeating him by split decision. It was unquestionably a better performance from Page—he didn’t get KO’d for one—but despite showing off his continued danger as a striker, it also showed that there still wasn’t much wrestling or depth to the then 34-year-old’s game.
A fight against Logan Storley for the interim welterweight title the next year very much exposed that fact. With Page losing a split decision to Storley’s wrestle-heavy game. Since then, Page has competed just once in MMA, defeating Goiti Yamauchi via leg kick TKO in just 26-seconds back in March.
As was ever the case, the man has continued to be a highlight machine in just the right kind of bookings. But there are no signs that opponents with a reasonable takedown arsenal and a strong top game aren’t still the kryptonite to MVP’s powers. Page is at his best when he’s in a promotion designed for him to shine—the UFC’s sluice box styled matchmaking, meant to shake out elite-level performers in a constant grind of tough fights likely has no interest in being that.
MVP’s boxing interests leave him perfectly positioned for other opportunities
Alongside his MMA career, one of the most recent bouts Page has taken part in came not inside the cage, but inside the ring instead. MVP took his talents over to bare-knuckle boxing last August, with a fight against former UFC talent Mike Perry at BKFC 27 in London. Page wasn’t successful, but acquitted himself decently, losing a majority decision to ‘Platinum’ after the two men initial battled to a 5-round split draw.
Also in the midst of his Bellator run, Page took a pair of traditional-rules pro boxing bouts in 2017-2018, winning both by knockout. At 36, the man pretty certainly doesn’t have any sort of comprehensive career ahead of him as a top level pugilist. But in the current climate of celebrity boxing crossovers, opportunities are almost certainly out there for him to make some solid money against opponents of similar or lower skill.
Those are the kinds of opportunities that will be closed off to Page if he looks for a contract with the world’s largest MMA promotion. In a recent interview with MMA Junkie’s Farah Hannoun, MVP talked about his plans for the future, and the possibility of a return to bare knuckle boxing.
“It may be something I want to do again,” Page admitted, speaking of his one-off BKFC bout. “Most of my family and friends would probably be against me on that one, but it’s definitely something I might do again, simply because I don’t like to go out on a loss.”
“I love fighting,” Page added, when asked what interested him right now. “I love turning into that person. I love feeling that energy that I get walking down the ramp towards cage, ring, mat, whatever it is.”
If he really wants to keep his options open—to chase a future fight with Mike Perry or try his hands in a pair of boxing gloves again, or even to take a few more kickboxing bouts—the UFC is not a place that’ll let that kind of creativity happen.
Bellator free agency was actually an accident
In fact, in all honesty, fans may very well see Page end up right back where he started. He’s sounded very open to the idea of re-signing with Bellator when all’s said and done. There’s the potential for a fight with welterweight champ Yaroslav Amosov out there sometime in the future, and the real truth is that Page never meant to test free agency in the first place.
When he fought Yamauchi, this last spring, the idea that his contract was ending was never discussed. All parties only realized that he had fought out his deal after the fight was over and Page started looking to get his next bout in place.
“[Bellator officials are] normally a lot sharper on that, and even usually when you’ve still got a few fights left, they’re already talking about what the progression is,” Page told Ariel Helwani in a recent interview on the MMA Hour (transcript via MMA Fighting). “So I think there’s a lot going on in the back office with their potential transition as well, and new owners, and so on and so forth.
“So yeah, I definitely feel like they kind of missed something there, but I think things happen for a reason in my opinion. I think it all happened for me to be able to have this space now and to make this decision, to actually say to myself, ‘OK cool, let me explore the waters in the MMA ocean and see see what bites.”
MVP has found his place in the combat sports ecosystem as a highlight machine on some of the biggest stages combat sports have to offer. A jump to the UFC could mean the possibility of some long term huge future payday. But much more likely it seems like he’d just end up swallowed up in sea of other elite talents looking to make their mark in the Octagon.
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