After three years of hype, Bellator MMA welterweight Michael Page says he's close to testing himself against the absolute best of his division.
And oddly enough, the nasty-looking facial cut that forced him to withdraw from his last fight in February might have contributed to him feeling so.
Page (7-0) returns from a nine-month layoff Friday, when he'll meet Rudy Bears (16-13) at Bellator 140 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The event starts at 9 p.m. ET. It will be his third fight in the Bellator cage.
The British knockout artist was scheduled to fight Curtis Millender earlier this year, but he pulled out the week of the bout due to a cut. While the injury prevented Page from competing, it did not knock him out of the gym for an extended period of time. Within days, he had already resumed drilling in London.
Page was already in fighting shape and, assuming Bellator would rebook him as soon as possible, stayed that way. The result was essentially a very long, high-level camp for Bears.
"I was potentially supposed to fight in May, which changed to June -- and then it changed again," Page told ESPN.com. "This camp has really been good to me. I've improved loads and it's been so long.
"I'm almost ready to go for it. I definitely think once I get this fight out of the way, I'm looking to really test myself."
"I'm almost ready to go for it. I definitely think once I get this fight out of the way, I'm looking to really test myself." Michael Page, on his progression as an MMA fighter
A former freestyle kickboxer, Page immediately turned heads when he transitioned to a professional mixed martial arts career in 2012. He finished his first six opponents, often times in spectacular fashion, before going the distance in a decision win against Nah-Shon Burrell.
Page's style immediately drew high expectations. Thus far, the 28-year-old has preached patience, opting to take it slow in terms of the level of his competition. Should all go well on Friday against a veteran opponent like Bears, Page's focus will narrow to ranked opponents.
"I was ready to fight for a title back at 60 percent, but my thing is not just being ready for a title but being ready for what comes after it," Page said. "When you win a title, you're the guy at the top of the mountain and everyone is coming to try to take you off the top. I want to be ready for that. That's why being 100 percent is so important."
Page is a 7-1 favorite to move to 8-0. He says the biggest challenge with fighting Bears is not knowing exactly what to expect. The 36-year-old has had a very up-and-down career and has fought the likes of Paul Daley and Tyron Woodley.
"He's a 50-50 type of person," Page said. "He can show up and do really well, or he's a person who can come out and not do so well. He's very inconsistent. Those are the kind of people you need to be careful with because you don't know what type you'll be fighting. It's almost easier to fight people with a higher level of consistency. With someone like Rudy, you have to be prepared for everything."