Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 | 11 p.m.
Paul Daley's cheap shot at Josh Koscheck following their welterweight bout at UFC 113 in May is so infamous now among the mixed-martial-arts community, the British striker needs to say only "the incident" to have everyone know what he's referring to.
On a recent call to promote his upcoming Strikeforce bout Dec. 4 against Scott Smith, the still cocky yet slightly more humble Daley made sure to thank CEO Scott Coker for signing him, despite that display of unprofessionalism earlier this year.
"I just want to say thank you to Scott Coker for picking me up after — the incident, we'll call it," Daley said. "I'm happy to be competing with such a great promotion and I'm thankful I get such a big fight."
Daley (25-9-2) arguably remains one of the most dangerous welterweights in the world, but he'll have to work toward regaining the public's respect.
The 27-year-old Brit was one fight away from a title shot in the UFC but was cut by the organization after he threw a late punch at Koscheck following a unanimous-decision loss.
After rebounding from that performance with back-to-back wins two months apart, Daley was awarded a multi-fight deal with Strikeforce and will compete for the fifth time this year against Smith (17-7) in St. Louis.
"I was approached by a few promotions after the incident," Daley said. "Strikeforce is a great promotion. I've fought here before, and I knew it was a professional outlet. It's got great fighters and great matchmaking.
"I just want to be part of an exciting promotion."
Although the experience of receiving what could amount to a lifelong ban from the world's largest promotion apparently has humbled Daley in some ways, it appears the brash, cocky manner in which he carries himself will follow him to Strikeforce.
Daley wasted no time calling out the promotion's current welterweight champion, Nick Diaz, during a conference call to announce his signing and admitted Tuesday that he has an opinion on what the organization should do with him next.
Instead of sitting back and waiting to see what Coker and Strikeforce have in mind for him, as other fighters in his position might, Daley laid out his own path.
"I really just want to take the biggest names Strikeforce has en route to the title," Daley said. "Without being disrespect to Cyborg (Evangelista Santos) or Mr. Coker, I don't think a fight with Cyborg is something I'm looking for at the moment.
"I would rather fight K.J. Noons, Diaz straight away or Tyron Woodley. Ideally, I would like to fight Noons after I knock out Scott Smith."
In Smith, Daley will see an opponent who wouldn't have been available to fight him in the past, as Smith's spent his entire career before now in the middleweight division or higher.
The December show will be Smith's welterweight debut, a decision he made simply based on the fact he was walking around at a weight of 189 pounds and felt confident he could drop to the 170-pound division comfortably.
"I was making 185 too easy. I've been soft a couple times," Smith said. "This was going to force me to diet. I was walking around at 189 pounds and didn't see any reason why I couldn't cut down to 170.
"The fact was I wasn't walking around too much heavier, and I thought this would be an exciting way to boost my career."
As far as opponents go, Daley couldn't ask for a better start on his road to redemption and, possibly, the Strikeforce belt.
The fight against Koscheck showed tremendous holes in Daley's takedown defense and overall ground skills, as Koscheck held him on his back for basically 15 minutes straight.
Although Daley says the focus of his training has remained on overall skills and not on his ground game alone, he feels it's an aspect that is coming along.
"When you're learning something new, some people pick it up quick and have a passion for it and some people don't," Daley said. "Initially, I never had a passion for any of the ground work.
"Slowly, I'm starting to build that passion. Things are coming to me quicker; I'm getting better and it's something I'll continue to do."
Fortunately for Daley, his return to Strikeforce likely won't test his weakest attribute, as Smith is also known as a standup-based fighter.
"I'm definitely looking for a standup fight," Smith said. "This is still MMA, so you've got to be prepared for anything. But I'm planning on this being a slugfest."