Richard Kiely knows that his 3-1 record leads fans to believe Michael “Venom” Page will crush him in their co-main event bout at Bellator 227, and he doesn’t seem to mind.
When the bout was booked, the narrative surrounding it was that it was a good chance for Page to bounce back from his first professional loss at the hands of Douglas Lima at Bellator 221.
Kiely’s response? Let everyone think that.
“I enjoy that,” Kiely told John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock. “That would make it even more of a shock when I knock out the snake.”
This isn’t the first high-profile bout of Kiely’s short professional MMA career. After winning his first two fights in BAMMA, he was awarded a title shot against welterweight champion Alex Lohore.
Though Kiely lost the bout by first-round submission, getting the opportunity alone proved that his charisma could take him places. He expects that the pattern will continue after his fight with Page.
“I don’t care what people have to say. Like I’m not here to queue or do 10, 20, you know, fights before I hopefully get a shot,” Kiely said. “I’m skipping the queue.”
Kiely will enact this plan by calling out name after name until he lands the fight he believes he deserves.
“I will pick on the people who are the biggest and the baddest because I’m not afraid of anyone,” Kiely said.
Of course, the Irish fighter must first take out the man in front of him for his ideas to come to fruition.
“I am the original face of Bellator,” Kiely said. “After I knock out the snake, you know, everyone will acknowledge me as such. He’s their poster boy, so I want to be taking his place.”
Origins of the rivalry
The two welterweights drummed up attention for their bout in Dublin after a heated staredown turned into a scuffle.
Kiely seemed to get under Page’s skin by posing in front of him while “MVP” showed disinterest, looking at his phone while the media took pictures. Page then put a hand on Kiely’s shoulder, and Kiely’s reaction led to a hard shove from Page that forced security to intervene.
Between his actions at the staredown and his words in the pre-fight press conference, Kiely thinks he has done an apt job at getting in Page’s head.
“He got distinctly uncomfortable when he wasn’t able to match me cognitively,” Kiely said.
The Irish fighter also feels that Page didn’t know what he was signing up for when he agreed to the bout.
“When he took this fight, it was an in-the-moment decision,” Kiely said. “He saw the record, you know, like all good bullies, he likes to be able to pick on people that he thinks he can beat. So he saw our record, and he thought he could get another highlight-reel off the back of the Lima fight.”
Now that “MVP” has had a chance to study his opponent, Kiely believes that his demeanor has changed.
“He’s trying to minimize that s**t-talking that he was doing, saying that this is only a tune-up fight, and he started going very, very quiet cause he knows I can knock out anyone in this division,” Kiely said. “He hasn’t fought anyone like me, anyone that moves like me, and he’s already shown that he can be put out with one shot, and I’ve shown that I’ve got legitimate one-shot knockout power, not just in one fist, not just in one arm, you know. I have it in legs, knees, arms, elbows. So he’s nervous.”
Richard Kiely on how the fighters match up
In terms of the actual matchup inside the cage, Kiely doesn’t expect to be surprised by Page’s awkward style that has stumped fighters in the past.
“Before I went into MMA, I kickboxed for a long time, so I’ve seen that,” Kiely said. “I know what the ostentatious movement is and the exaggerated movements, the arrogance, the swinging the arms and, you know, all this type of stuff.”
Kiely calls Page “one-dimensional,” and he uses Page’s fight with Paul Daley as proof.
Daley, known as a standup-only fighter in most cases, chose to utilize takedowns in his grudge match with Page. While it didn’t win him the fight, Daley was able to wrestle Page to the mat multiple times.
Kiely wasn’t impressed by Page’s performance against Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos in 2016, which saw “MVP” cave in Santos’ skull with a flying knee.
“If anything I was actually disgusted with that,” Kiely said. “An over-the-hill ‘Cyborg’ Santos, you know, where you could see him coming. It was like he was moving through quicksand. You could see him coming a mile away. Pick your shot. He could have picked anything there. He could’ve turned around, make a phone call, turn back, and Cyborg still would’ve been mid-punch.
“He has a padded record. He likes being able to pick on people that he knows he can beat. That’s where he gets his highlight-reels from, you know. He’s a fraud.”
Kiely isn’t interested in becoming another name in the win column of Page’s record. This is a fight he has wanted for some time, and he has his own dreams to look forward to.
“In my first fight, my very first professional fight, I called out MVP and I called out Paul Daley, people laughed. My second fight, I called for a world title shot, people laughed. The world title shot happened, and this will be my fifth fight, the MVP fight will happen,” Kiely said. “What I’m calling for I’m getting, and I’m making it happen. And so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that when I knock out Michael that I fight for a world title.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.