Michael Page: If Ian Machado Garry fight was outside UFC, people would say I’m fighting a can

LAS VEGAS – Michael Page heard it time and time again throughout his Bellator career, and finds it odd the criticism has stopped now that he’s in the UFC.

According to Page (22-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC), the circumstances haven’t changed but the narrative has. Labeled a “can crusher” by critics during his 19-fight tenure with Bellator, Page thinks a matchup like the one he has at UFC 303 in Ian Machado Garry (14-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) would’ve garnered those same comments under his old banner.

“Outside of the main names, I’m a bit lazy with that,” Page told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a pre-fight news conference Wednesday. “I haven’t watched loads. I’ve seen clips of him before. It’s weird. Honestly, it’s weird to me. This type of a fight, had it been outside the UFC, most people would’ve been like, ‘You’re fighting a can.’ Most people would’ve been like, ‘Why are you fighting this guy?’ They would’ve just had so many different things to say. It’s the exact same fight in the UFC and everyone’s opinions have changed now. ‘Oh, you’re fighting top-level guys,’ and this and that, now.

“I remember at one point, I had a lot of people saying I wouldn’t be able to contend in the top 10. Now, I’m fighting someone who’s ranked seventh, and a lot of people are like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to kick his ass.’ It changes so drastically. For me, it’s just another fight. This is what I enjoy the most. Fight day, I just try to be me and try to be as entertaining as possible and have a holiday.”

Page, 37, indicated the theoretical comparison he draws stems from Garry’s abilities, yes, but more so from a picture painted by viewers who think talented fighters only compete inside the UFC.

“I think it’s standards and expectations put on myself but also, just how warped people’s views are of reality,” Page said. “I’ve been saying for many, many years, I spar a lot of UFC guys. I already know I’m at that level. I didn’t come here to prove it to anyone else. It’s a great cherry on top but I wasn’t coming here to prove it to everybody else. I already knew I could do that. But what I’m saying is, for example, the likes of Ross Houston, I remember when getting that fight, getting the negative pushback I got from that fight, but they came from the same place. (It’s) pretty much the same thing.

“The difference is one went to Bellator and one went to UFC. I understand the magnitude of UFC and the branding and stuff and I get that, but I feel like sometimes people are fooled by the branding and not the actual fighters themselves. They’re not actually analyzing fighters and fights themselves.”

Saturday’s fight at UFC 303 will mark Page’s second with the promotion after he signed with the promotion in late 2023. He debuted in March at UFC 299 when he defeated Kevin Holland by unanimous decision.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 303.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie