Arrogance and confidence. The former is defined as “an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions,” while the latter is “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” It’s easy to understand how the two are misconstrued from time to time. In the world of combat sports, they are prominent and go hand in hand. In the landscape today, a fighter brimming with both an air of arrogance and confidence is UFC on Fox 28’s “Platinum” Mike Perry.
Perry turned heads when he made his debut with a finish of Hyun Gyu Lim at UFC 202 in August 2016. Since that time, he has stepped inside the Octagon on five additional occasions. He has scored highlight-reel knockouts of Danny Roberts, Jake Ellenberger and Alex Reyes. One could even start to refer to Perry as a UFC veteran as he enters his seventh bout with the promotion on Saturday. He’ll face Max Griffin on the main card.
“In order to earn that title [of veteran], you have to stick around for a while,” Perry told Combat Press. “You have to go through the ins and outs of it. After this fight, I’m planning to take some time for Mike — for myself. Focus still on the training and maybe work towards getting that brown belt in jiu-jitsu, and focus on things that aren’t going to hurt my body as much training for such a physical fight. And there are some things I need to nurse and take care of in my 26-year-old body, because I’m feeling a little aged. I’m gonna take care of myself for a little bit. It’s two years now since I’ve been in the UFC, and I’ve fought… this will be seven times. So that’s pretty good.”
The journey of a fighter is always fascinating to watch. They grow inside the cage, and they tend to grow outside the cage as well and mature in life. When Perry first entered the Octagon, he was a trash-talking, cocky fighter.
“There’s many angles,” Perry explained. “Well, what I’m saying is, I believe that why fighters don’t talk very much and why they like to say that, ‘Oh, I’m just gonna show up and talk with my hands,’ or, ‘I’m just gonna show up and fight.’ You know what it is? It’s that manifest destiny is very tricky. And if you say something, you have to be careful how you say it. Because if you say, ‘I’m gonna fuck this guy up,’ but you didn’t detail how you’re going to win, if you’re going to win, if you’re gonna beat him, [then] you can fuck him up and he still wins.
“I fucked [Santiago] Ponzinibbio up, but he still won that fucking fight. So, you have to be detailed in your shit talk, and your shit talk can’t be a lie either or you will know it. And if you know it in the back of your head when you get in the Octagon, you’ll remember that lie. And you’ll tell it to yourself. You make sure you tell the truth, which talking shit about someone that you do not know or almost know nothing about other than a few videos maybe that you’ve seen on YouTube and depending on how much work you do.
“Me? I just try to take something that I think is realistic and I post it on Instagram. ‘This motherfucker looks kinda goofy.’ Oh, he looks like Goofy? I’ll post a picture of him and Goofy. It’s a little innocent shit talk. Now he knows he’s goofy. You feel me? I’m gonna remind him [this] week when I see him that he’s a goofy bitch. And I’m gonna fucking make him feel goofy when I’m putting my hands on him, and I’ll do all types of things. And whatever I say when those cameras get in my face [this] week, I try to think right before I say it in my head. Then I’ll say it out loud. And it seems sometimes like I’m taking forever to get the words I want to say out, but then when it shows up on camera, I’m not pausing that long.
“You need to think before you speak, but we’ll see what I say. I usually try to go with the flow, because I honestly believe I’m just out here living. I’ve always been a fighter, and fighting is what I’m gonna do. It’s part of my life. When I take this time off, I’m still gonna train. I’m still gonna fight my sparring partners and work and better myself even further. As good as I am, I know I can be way better.
“I go with black belts. Look, Ponzinibbio was a black belt who squeaked a win out with me. That black belt is knowledge. That’s a mindset that he’s entered, and as a purple belt, I’m very close to that mindset. So, as I become brown and black, I will just gain more and more knowledge. I train with black belts who best me because they know me and they use their black-belt mind and all the lessons they’ve had. They think about it without thinking about it. And I may overthink sometimes, and I may underthink sometimes, but at the end of the day, I rely a lot on my power and I train hard. You know, my mind is strong, and I don’t believe that anyone can truly hurt me.
“Just because somebody can’t hurt me that bad, I still need to dodge their strikes. I still need to get out of the way and play the point game. We’re working for that.”
The key is to keep growing, both in the cage and in life. So many fighters become stagnant or caught up in their ways. These fighters never progress in the way that they should. It doesn’t matter how a fighter gets to the destination, but what they do when they get there that truly counts. It’s taking charge of every situation and looking at all aspects involved in their evolution along with the sport. The concept of Occam’s razor comes to mind.
“I’ve been repeating the same things forever. I always go back to the basics,” said Perry. “I’ll do something in a fight — I’ll use my pressure, I’ll tuck my chin, I’ll put my forehead down, go forward, get touched a couple times and then land the knockout blow. Sometimes it comes that way. Sometimes the guy runs the whole time and he never stops running. So, the fight doesn’t change to the perception that I wanted it. See, it’s fighting, and for a long time, I expected the guys to show up and fight. But at this level, they’re coming to play a game and they’re coming to play the points and it’s very smart. It’s very intelligent. That’s what they’re supposed to do, especially against a fucking savage like me. I’m coming to fight. But now, I gotta come to fight and play the points, be smart, play the game, all types of stuff.
“You know, it’s funny. I wanted to say… I just wanted to get this out that somebody said to me, ‘Oh, you’re gonna kill this guy,’ and I didn’t even look up. I was watching my sparring videos and I said, ‘I’ll bet he’ll kill you.’ And he was like, ‘Whoa, whoa.’ I was like, ‘What?’ Don’t disrespect me and say that my opponents ain’t shit. I’m fighting world-class competition here. It was hard to get here. I worked my ass off to get here, and anybody standing across from me, trust me, they’re not handing me a hundred grand. I gotta fucking work for that shit. He’s like, ‘Oh, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m not saying that you’re fighting nobody.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m just saying I think he’ll fuck you up. That’s all I’m saying.’”
Respect. For a man that was observed to be cocky and arrogant, Perry carries a level of knowledge and deep thought that might surprise many. His skill set looked to be tested at the highest level when he was matched up with former welterweight title contender Thiago Alves in September. Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Irma, Alves was forced to withdraw from the card and was replaced on three days’ notice by Alex Reyes. The fight lost a little bit of draw due to the late switch. Perry was put in a lose-lose situation, because he was now expected to breeze through Reyes.
“Well, they looked right when I beat that ass,” Perry boldly stated. “But he’s fighting at 170 [pounds] again. He’s not fighting at 155 anymore. He chose to stay in the UFC at 170 pounds. I want to see him win. Of course I do, because then people will shut up. Listen, I know for a fact that based off of numbers that I have, when I trained for that Thiago Alves fight and Alex Reyes showed up, he just stepped into an unbeatable Octagon, because I trained for Thiago Alves, who I was a fan of. I’ve never trained for a fight like I trained for that Thiago Alves fight. I didn’t train for the Ponzinibbio fight like I trained for the Thiago Alves fight.
“This fight [against Max Griffin]? I almost trained as hard as I trained for the Thiago Alves fight. I brought the coach that I brought in for Alves back in. I brought him back in. He had me running laps [and] sprints around the track, and that made a big difference in my cardio. I honestly believe that now that I have cardio, I believe that I had no cardio when I fought Ponzinibbio for three rounds. And I didn’t mean to do that — I worked; I trained — but things happen, and you can miss little, insignificant things that make all the difference in the world. Like I said, it’s the little things. They make the difference.
“So, this fight. My cardio is there. My conditioning is there. My strength is through the roof. My striking — my boxing, my kickboxing — everything feels fantastic. My grappling has leveled up. All I work on is martial arts, and now that I’ve got this other coach that I’ve brought back in, I’m learning more and more about myself and about the right way to do things and not the wrong way. I did things the wrong way for a really long time. I’m probably still doing some things wrong. That’s what growth is about. So, as much as I’ve done things wrong, as far as I’ve gotten based off heart and strong mindset [and] physical capabilities, I’m still getting better. I plan to be here for a while.”
While a fighter’s abilities carry them inside the cage, it’s the people behind the scenes preparing them that really make the difference. Usually a fighter’s biggest help in training camp is a sparring partner or friend of many years, but it is rarely the head coach who is the one laying down the knowledge in both spoken word and clenched fists. For Perry, that person is none other than Fusion X-Cel head coach and professional fighter Julien Williams.
“My coach, Julien Williams. All day,” Perry said. “All the time. [He] holds me down, puts me in positions [and] makes me tap out, but he’s trying to show me another way. Instead of tapping, you flow. If you fall into a submission, you recognize it, find the gap, find the hole, and be gentle. Scoot your way out. Move around. The jiu-jitsu gets a lot my focus, because the stand-up is second nature to me now.
“No one, no one, these days does anything to me standing up when I push forward and I throw like I mean it. If I want to hit you hard when you come forward, there’s not one person I can’t almost always have my way with on the feet. Now Julien, when I’m doing well striking him, I know that I have to watch for the shot. It’s coming. He times it so well, and when he shoots, he changes angles, changes angles, changes angles. The whole time, he was holding me. He’s in on a double leg and I switch, I switch, I switch. I defend, defend, defend. But then he still gets it anyways, because he’s good and he knows me. And we know each other. So, this is MMA. On the feet, it’s one thing, but it can go anywhere. I’m thinking Max Griffin is going to try everything he can to win this fight. I know that.
“I mean, ‘Jacare’ [Ronaldo Souza], as great as Jacare is, go ask him about who Julien Williams is. He may not be in the UFC, dammit, but he’s famous to me. There’s a lot of crazy coaches out there that really don’t know what they are talking about. It’s about being relaxed, but then that flow always changes. You think you’re flowing with Julien one day and then the next day, he’s like an animal you’ve never seen before, because he’s seen your flow yesterday and he’s like, ‘OK, now that you think you’ve learned something, let me teach you.’ I mean, I’m blessed to have the people in my life encounter that I’ve had. Mark Nicholson [and] Julien Williams. It’s been them two for years.
“Since I was an amateur, not long after my first amateur fight, I was with Julien and Mark. Mark was taking me and Alex [Nicholson] to Julien’s gym at SWAT and having us do private lessons, wrestling and shit like that, with him. All we ever wanted to do was brawl with people, and we kept that. We kept it. It’s a big part of what wins fights, is that, at the end of the day, sometimes you gotta throw it all out the window and just go for broke.”
If there is a word that’s usually not associated with arrogance, it’s honesty. It’s someone being humble and true to themselves, which bridges the gap from arrogance to confidence. While Perry’s personality is off-putting to some people, his transition and growth within this sport cannot be denied.
“That’s life, man,” said Perry. “That’s martial arts. You got good and bad, and you gotta find the balance. There’s a balance in everything. You’ve got flow, but then you’ve got aggression and power. You need to fucking use both.”
“But then you gotta be honest and look at things like it’s all upside-down topsy-turvy, because a lot of people can’t stand in front of Ponzinibbio like I did, but that doesn’t mean that I can just go in there with Gunnar Nelson either and just win, because Gunnar Nelson is smart. He’s gonna be like, ‘I gotta get Perry to the ground to see his grappling and see if he can out grapple me,’ which he’s gonna have a fucking hard time with — that ain’t gonna just happen. I got grappling skills for days. I just haven’t really utilized them.
“These motherfuckers want to run from me. I have been practicing for that. I’m playing this stupid little point game, but at the end of the day, I’m gonna tuck my chin, go forward, take some shots if I have to. This time, I’m looking to put Max up against the fence. I’m looking to put my opponent up against the wall, up against the cage, [and] do some work there. Maybe work the elbows. Water is wet. Fire burns. And I’m gonna beat Max Griffin.”
The game plan is designed to be a comprehensive list of ideas that will lead a fighter to victory. Most fighters do not come out and talk about their game plans. This sense of secrecy tends to work to their advantage, like it did for Holly Holm against Ronda Rousey. It was Holm and her coaches’ plan to sandbag the division and the fans into thinking she was incapable of stopping the unmovable force that was Rousey. But it was her game plan that led her to victory. As with every other aspect of the game, though, Perry is unique in his approach here as well.
“I always tell these motherfuckers my game plan,” Perry said with a laugh. “I told Ponzinibbio what I was gonna do and I did it, and he fucking ran. I knew he was gonna do that. I knew Alan Jouban was gonna run. I told my girlfriend all week long. A scared fighter is a dangerous fighter. He’s gonna run fast and he’s gonna poke hard and he’s gonna try. He’s gonna try not to get hurt in there. These guys are afraid for their lives, and they’re skilled. I put that in them when I talk this shit. When I get them fired up before their fight and they’re out there training [and] thinking about all the scary shit that I said I wanted to do to them. And they believe it, because I put people to sleep.
“So, they’re training their asses off, and I make sure that my opponent shows up and is prepared for the fight of his life. I prepare myself for the fight of my life, but it’s no big deal to me. I always do that. I’m always ready. You can’t hit me in my head and fucking hurt me. It doesn’t fucking bother me. Alan Jouban kicked me in my face. I ate that shit. Ponzinibbio just caught me. I was coming in. I was walking in and I didn’t see that fucking backfist. That left hook was hitting me, and I didn’t get that right hand up enough. I’ve been working with my hands up so we [are] blocking all that power coming in. I mean, shit, I was going forward and he threw a spinning backfist and it turned into a takedown in the first or the second round. And I was like, ‘What the hell? How did I let that happen to me? What the fuck?’”
The Florida MMA scene continues to grow with each passing year. With this growth comes the opportunity for fighters to compete in their own hometown. Bellator’s David “Caveman” Rickels has been quite vocal about getting these opportunities. Feeding off the crowd helps both fuel the fighter and sell tickets, plain and simple. After Perry suffered defeat just over two months ago, the idea of him fighting in Orlando seemed quite slim, even outlandish, but that’s exactly what will happen when he meets Griffin this weekend.
“I feel like I’m coming to a place in my life where a lot of things that I have always wanted to create [and] to happen are gonna start happening,” said Perry. “I feel like this is the opportunity of a lifetime. That’s another reason I made this fight happen, because I just fought Ponzinibbio. You know how many people, even my own training partners, were like, ‘Oh, Mike just had a long, drawn-out fight. He’s not gonna be fighting in Orlando.’?
“When I was in Canada with my manager, I was sitting at the table with crutches because of them calf kicks that he was throwing. And I told my manager, ‘Eight weeks? No problem. My foot will be healed up in a week. I’ll be walking and running again in a week. I’m telling you. The Orlando card. Get me on it.’ He was like, ‘Oh, it’s a little close.’ I said, ‘Look. I’m telling you.’ Sure enough, a week later I said, ‘Look bro, I’m out here jogging and shit. Call these motherfuckers and get this Orlando card going!’ And then it happened! And this bitch is fixin’ to sell out! It can’t be a fucking coincidence that the last two times it didn’t. I’m telling you, it’s got to be about to sell out, and that’s gotta be [be]cause of me and my boy, Ben Saunders.
“I think it’s gonna show the UFC that it’s going to continue to show them what they already think about me — that I deserve to be where I am and I’m gonna stay here and I’m gonna keep doing things right. This is my job. This is my life. This is my career. This is what I want to do and I’m blessed enough to do it. People want to follow me. People want to watch me because of the fight style that I come with and a little bit of the shit talk, a little bit of the entertainment. Shit, I mean WWE sells out arenas and they’re not even fighting. I gotta get better at shit-talking and get them WWE fans over here watching real shit.
“It’s a humbling sport. I don’t care how tough you are. If you’re tough, this sport will humble you. And I’m not saying that like, ‘Oh, I’ve gotten my ass whooped, so I better stop talking shit.’ No. I don’t give a fuck about talking shit. I believe in myself. When I talk shit, I’m gonna speak the truth and I’m gonna try and be honest and say things that I believe will happen in the fight. I gotta be careful what I manifest.
“The first thing she said to me, my girlfriend Danielle, when she walked into the Octagon in Canada, was, ‘Well, you said all week that you wanted a tough, drag-out fight. That’s what you got.’ She was 100 percent right. And I did it all week. I’ve always wanted to let you guys see what I can do before I become one of these just flash knockout or this guy that everybody thought was gonna be something and then he gets knocked out and then you see my name disappear. You know what I mean? That shit is a real fear. That’s a real thing that could happen to any UFC fighter.
“I believe I take the shot and I gotta keep training to get the cardio so that those things won’t just happen to me, but it could still just happen to me. That’s just me being honest. If I get hit with a shot that one day just puts me out, oh shit, who seen that coming? Nobody! Nobody just sees ‘Platinum’ getting hit with a shot that just puts him out. At least I’ve built that for myself. I’m proud of that.”
It’s always important to look toward the future. With so many unknowns after one’s career is over, they need a game plan for their life outside of the sport as well. It is vital to their survival.
“I’m gonna fight while I travel around the country,” said Perry. “I plan to go to gyms and spar with famous people and non-famous people. Walk into a gym and people be excited that ‘Platinum’ Mike Perry is walking into the building, or maybe do some seminars along the way on the road. I have lots of ideas.
“And I plan to fight for a really long time. Dan Henderson style. Randy Couture style. I plan to fight. I plan to do it. Which means, in the last two years, I put in a lot of ground work and, based off the performance on Saturday that I will have, I’m gonna get to take a step back, [be]cause I’m on the A side now and people gonna be coming and looking for fights with me. So, I’m gonna get to sit back and work on Mike and really focus on bettering my life all around, not just my bank account. Not just perishable things, but my mind and my soul. And I really look forward to just taking a little time.
“And also my stomach — I want to get really fat. I’m gonna get fat, and who knows, I might have to come back at 185 [pounds]. Nah. I doubt that. I’ll stick at 170, because the path is looking good for me to become a champion. And I told Jacare, ‘Plans [are] working out. You come here [and] I’m so grateful for you to be here. It will take a champion to show me how to be a champion.’ I’m gonna find out.”
While a victory on Saturday won’t immediately vault Perry into a title shot, his eyes are focused on a path that will eventually lead him to his goal and the goal of all fighters, the coveted championship.
“I don’t know who’s next after this one anyways,” Perry admitted. “Thiago [Alves] ran away once, but I keep thinking about the Thiago fight. Someone drew me a picture of me hitting Thiago with that overhand right and I wanna make that a reality. I want to manifest that into reality. Like I said, I trained hard for that guy. Maybe that is the next fight. But a lot of people want to see [the] Darren Till fight. I want to get on that before it dies. I want to get on that before he loses. I mean, even if he loses — fuck, I lost twice and people still got my back. I wanted to be that guy who didn’t lose, but shit, at least I didn’t get knocked the fuck out.”
Perry’s journey toward the top of the mountain continues, but will the current champion, Tyron Woodley, still have the title when Perry finally gets his shot?
“Yeah. I don’t see anyone beating him right now,” said Perry. “I think he’s a better version — well, not better, but a more complete version of myself. If I stuff that takedown, I hit him and work these elbows and these punches, his overhand right don’t scare me. But I wanna see if mine can scare him. But I like Tyron. He’s a great guy, a great father, a great champion, no matter what anybody says about him. He’s a role model. He’s somebody that I’ve looked up to in this sport and learned a lot just from watching. I assume he’s made things happen for me like I get to sit next to him in the Fox desk and talk a little shit. That was huge for me. I never thought that I was gonna be behind that Fox desk with these tattoos on my face, but I was.
“That consistency. That sticking-with-it thing. It’s weird for me to say that after this fight I’m gonna take a little time, but if they call me and they’re like, ‘Yo, we got this fight,’ [then] my manager’s gonna be like, ‘Yo, we need to make this happen.’ I’m always down to fight. Like I said, I just fought Ponzinibbio and he blew my leg up, crippled my thighs with those calf kicks, and I’m about to fight in my hometown because ‘YOLO’ man — you only live once. That’s all I kept saying about this Orlando card. Like, I have to fight on this card. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and all my training partners, everyone, wants to be on this card. But I’m on that bitch. You gotta go for broke. You gotta go when the time is right, and my time to chase that title could be now. It could be a couple months down the road. We’ll see what happens.”
Perry’s personality and fighting style will look to energize the Amway Arena when he takes on Griffin this Saturday on the main card of UFC on Fox 28. Love him or hate him, Perry’s going to keep doing his thing.
“Orlando, get ready, man,” said Perry. “We gonna show up, show out, and turn up. We gonna party our asses off in downtown Orlando. I love Orlando! I love this city. I love going out downtown, and that night, it’s gonna be… The energy is going to be crazy. I can’t wait to walk out and see everybody — 20,000 people in there and they all know me, and I’m gonna point at every single one of them.”