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Paul Daley apologizes for overboard celebrations, kind of

Like him or not, Daley certainly knows how to make an entrance

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Paul Daley is pulled away from Dustin Hazelett’s corner by Herb Dean at UFC 108 on Jan. 2, 2010 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena . Daley won by knockout in the first round.

UFC 108 - MGM Grand Garden Arena

Jim Miller celebrates his victory over Duane Ludwig during UFC 108 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Miller won by submission in the first round. Launch slideshow »

Even though Paul Daley issued an apology to the 13,255 fans at MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night for his actions following a vicious knockout win over Dustin Hazelett, let's be honest here.

The UFC welterweight didn't feel that bad about it.

"I got a little bit hyped," Daley said. "But one of his cornermen had said, 'I hope he learns some humility,' on the Countdown Show. I was basically saying, '(Expletive) your humility. I just knocked him the (expletive) out. What now?

"I don't think he liked it."

There are two ways to make an immediate name for yourself in the UFC. One is to trash talk every single one of your opponents. The other is to knock them all out.

The British sensation Daley has done both.

Just two fights into the UFC, Daley (23-8-2) already is making a case that he belongs in the highest ranks of the welterweight division.

In addition to his explosive knockout over Hazelett (12-5) on Saturday, the 26-year-old fighter ran over the highly regarded Martin Kampmann (16-3) in his UFC debut last September.

Daley said his quick start has been rewarding because many UFC fans, especially in the U.S., didn't believe he was ready to join the organization, despite an overall record of 21-8-2 when he arrived.

According to Daley, silencing those critics has been his top priority.

"I just want to prove myself," Daley said. "I think there was a lot of hype among UK fans with me coming to the UFC, and I think I have something to prove to anyone that doubts me or believes I shouldn't be here."

The confident Daley knows his brash style of trash talking can polarize many fight fans and said that was one of the main reasons he chose to apologize for going overboard with his celebrations Saturday, which included pointing and firing a fake gun toward his fallen opponent.

Daley also said he had grown a deep respect for Hazelett after watching film on him during training camp.

"He's a tough guy from looking at his previous fights," Daley said. "He has had some great submissions over some great people so, of course, I was going to be slightly worried.

"I just went a little over with the celebration and I didn't think it was very respectful of Dustin after I had just knocked him out. I don't want everybody to hate me. I'd like to have a few fans."

One thing, however, Daley said he'll never apologize for is knocking an opponent out — even when it's as explosive as the one Saturday that ended up sending Hazelett to the hospital.

"They get in the cage knowing what the consequences could possibly be, so I don't feel sorry for them," said Daley of his knockout victims. "I wouldn't expect them to feel sorry for me. We're professional sportsmen, and that's just what can happen in our sport."

The future is bright now for Daley, who will likely face either Josh Koscheck or Jon Fitch in his next fight.

A win over the likes of one of those two could possibly set up Daley for the next title shot against the eventual winner of a fight between champion Georges St. Pierre and challenger Dan Hardy scheduled in March.

When asked which fighter he'd like to face, Daley said it didn't matter, although a matchup with fellow striker Thiago Alves could be an exciting fight.

"I think Alves is in there as well, right? I think that would be entertaining," Daley said. "I really don't mind. I'd like to fight Fitch or Koscheck just to prove that I have improved takedown defense and a good ground game. I've continued working on that; I just haven't had the chance to display it because I keep knocking people out."

Because Fitch and Koscheck are at the top of the welterweight but refuse to fight one another because they are close friends, it's likely the welterweight division could turn into a four-man tournament between those two, Daley and Alves, with the eventual winner getting the next shot at the belt.

"Daley burst onto the scene, but obviously we know who we are talking about at the top of that division," said UFC President Dana White, referring to the dominant champ St. Pierre. "He's going to have to fight one of the top two contenders before he fights GSP.

"The big problem is that the two best guys out there are probably Koscheck and Fitch and trying to get them to fight each other is a nightmare. I'd like to see that fight, but we'll put Paul Daley against one of them and see what happens."

For a fighter that talks a great deal of trash, it's not surprising that Daley's biggest goal is to get in the last word to any doubters he still has floating around the UFC.

Defeating the likes of Koscheck or Fitch and going after St. Pierre would probably do the trick.

"Winning the belt," answered Daley, when asked what it would take to silence his critics. "Which I'm going to do."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Also follow him on twitter: LVSunFighting.

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