Inside Fights Interview: Michael Page

Having won countless titles and championships within the sport of kickboxing, Michael ‘Venom’ Page made the move to mixed martial arts in 2012 and is currently making a name for himself as one of the fastest rising prospects in MMA.

Fighting out of London Shootfighters, Michael has made a perfect start to his MMA career compiling an unblemished 5-0-0 record with every one of those victories coming via stoppage.

Starting out in the UK fight promotion UCMMA, Michael has since gone on to compete for the Super Fight League and Bellator, where he currently competes in the welterweight division.

I was fortunate enough to have recently had the opportunity to meet Michael at London Shootfighters to talk about how this all began, his style, what he hopes to achieve and much more…

First off, thank you for taking the time out to speak to me, I really appreciate it and I want to start this interview not now … but right now.

(Laughs) I like it, I like it.

Your father was a Kung Fu Master and as well as yourself, your brothers also have competed in kickboxing, so it’s fair to say you are from a fighting family.

Definitely.

Was there ever any chance of you pursuing something other than fighting or was it just a natural fit for you to follow in the family trade?

To be honest, yeah. We would always fight and my Dad would always say that none of us were forced in to fighting but he wanted us to train and we were like “I don’t know why you’re telling us that, we enjoy fighting.” It was never really a chore so we would get together and go to competitions at the weekend or go train in the week, it just felt like just another thing that you do. I got in to so many different sports but kickboxing was just something that I stuck at because it was just a family thing and once I got old enough I thought well I’m doing really well in it, let’s progress and see where we can go.

Obviously your background is in kickboxing and you recently had a kickboxing fight in UCMMA, are you still keen to compete in this discipline or was that just a one-off?

At that time, it was just a one-off. I can definitely say that I am changing over to MMA, that’s what I want to go through now. At the time, that was just a fight in between fights just to keep me busy and active. So, for now, MMA. Definitely.

What was the thinking behind transitioning from kickboxing to MMA as you had experienced tremendous success in the sport?

Mainly it was progression. I was doing a hell of a lot in kickboxing but felt like I was in a wheel, every year going to the same competitions, fighting the same faces and it was a case of you get to the top and people are just waiting for you to be overtaken by somebody else. For me progression had stopped and I was just waiting to be beaten. There’s not enough promotion or profile in kickboxing as a sport it’s not that big. Even down to my style, now that I have gone in to MMA people don’t really understand what they’re seeing because they haven’t seen it before because of the lack of publicity in kickboxing.

Was it a tough decision to make?

At the time, I just got fed up to be honest. There was one bout that I had that I got annoyed and just said to one of my friends that I just need to look for something else and we started looking around boxing and thai boxing but felt that MMA was not only going to give me a new platform to work on but I would also become a student again. Boxing or thai boxing would not have been too hard to adjust to, but MMA, you have to learn so much new stuff, you know what I mean, you get that excitement again and I needed that.

So does MMA give you as much enjoyment as kickboxing had?

I have to say, I absolutely love it! I have found a new love and I even say to myself that I wish I had started it a bit earlier, even if I didn’t compete in it but just train in all the jiu-jitsu, the wrestling, I just wish I had done it all a bit earlier. I absolutely love it!

What kind of impact are you looking to make in MMA?

I want it to be a case of, when you think of MMA, the first face you think of is mine. The David Beckham of football, the Michael Jordan of basketball, I want to be that household name in MMA. I’m not there to just win titles, don’t get me wrong there are goals that I want to do to lead up to that, but I want to be a prime face and be an example for other people who don’t like watching MMA. I feel I have done good so far because again, because of my style I get a lot of friends and family coming up to me and say “I showed my aunty, my gran, my this…” people that have no clue about MMA but they enjoyed the fight. That’s what I want to be able to do.

Like you say with your style, it’s not something we tend to see in MMA and a lot of media and fans have picked up on your movement in the cage, did anyone ever teach you to fight this way or is this just something that comes naturally to you?

Again, it’s weird, I did a small documentary on my style and it’s basically saying that it’s not just me who does it but the only reason you are noticing it now is because I am doing it in a cage. If you were to come to a points kickboxing competition, the majority of people look exactly like me. I did take it to the next level but I was on a higher platform in that sport. I always liked to do my dancing and that, but that’s just me, that’s my character, I like to put on a show as well. That’s what made the difference, but the style itself is not new but if any of the MMA guys crossed over and did points, they would end up doing it because it is based on range, speed and distance. There is no fear of, you can be, but there is no real fear of getting knocked out so you don’t have to have your hands up that high. The style of kickboxing that I was in allowed you to do that and I just didn’t want to change when I came across.

In your last performance at Super Fight League (SFL) 15 you stopped your opponent via submission. Is that area of the sport something you’re looking to develop a lot further as you progress or will you always favour the striking aspect?

Don’t get me wrong, it is going to be hard for me to prevent every person from taking me down, so that’s inevitable and seriously, I am enjoying it so much, I am happy to go to the floor. I am happy to go to the floor, that’s how much I am enjoying it and I think I am progressing in it quite quickly as well. So yeah, you will see me finishing with a lot of submissions or ground techniques, but I enjoy putting on a show and I feel like I can put more of a show on while I’m on my feet because that’s where I’m most comfortable.

While the ground game can be exciting to watch, for those who know what they’re look at, first time viewers will always tend to find that the striking makes the more favourable viewing.

Exactly.

Now, I have seen that in your spare time you enjoy Salsa dancing and you believe that this helps you with your movement in the cage. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

I am one of those people that will go and try something. I used to watch it and think how do they know what each is going to do?! I am one of those people who can find inspiration in anything. I used to look after the juniors in kickboxing, we were always messing around and when we went on trips they’d be chasing me and I’d use that as my movement pattern and they couldn’t get a hand on me, so I’d use that as inspiration and [think] “whoa, that was actually a comfortable movement for me” and take that one. I’ve watched capoeira before, movies before and been like “hmmmm.” I just really get inspiration from absolutely everything and Salsa is just another thing that I take stuff from. I think this is where people can be a bit close minded and think that they can only find improvements through fighting but to me movement is a big thing and I don’t think people capitalise on and things like that can help.

You currently train at London Shootfighters which houses current and past UFC fighters and is well established as one of the very top MMA gyms in the UK. Do you believe that all you need to succeed and develop in MMA is here or in the future will you be looking to possibly travel to America for training like other notable UK fighters have done in the past?

It’s funny; I’ve had people ask me this before. There is no amount of money, no amount of training partners that can move me from this gym. I have everything I need here. The only time I’d move is if my coaches came to me and said it would be beneficial for you to go to this gym in America to learn X, Y or Z for this amount of time, this would be the only time I would go. Everything they do for me, I take it as gospel, if my coaches don’t feel I have to move then I’m not going anywhere. I trust my coaches 100%, no, 1,000,000%!

We’re here at the gym, you’ve been training today, and you appear injury free…

(laughs)… well it’s funny, I have actually pulled my groin! You get little niggles when you train, we train hard here so it’s bound to happen but we train through our injuries and make sure people are looked after, we’ve got great physios here.

Well my question was going to be will we be seeing you in a cage somewhere pretty soon?

We’ve actually got something lined up but it’s not any time soon… early September and that’s going to be Bellator. This is probably going to be how it is for a little while, you’ll see me fight a lot and then you’ll see me have a bit of a break. It’s just to improve all the things that I need to work on, working on all the little mistakes I make in training, so I take that time off and I’m drilling those things and then I’m back in the cage having three or four fights. Hopefully by the end of this year I want to get three [fights in] and if I’m OK, like I had a quick fight in America (Bellator 93), I can get four fights in before the year is out.

Do you know your opponent yet?

No, I haven’t heard anything. My coach says that in a couple of weeks we’ll probably hear of an opponent and go from there.

You have fought primarily as a welterweight but in your last outing at SFL you competed at 185lbs and I have seen rumours that you would also like to fight at lightweight because you don’t have to cut that much to make 170lbs. What weight class do you see yourself eventually ending up in?

We have many talks about this actually. It was because it was short notice that we had the fight at 185lbs for SFL but in future the aim is to be a lightweight fighter.

Is it likely that the fight in September will be at lightweight or is it still a little too early to tell?

It’s still too early to tell. The likeliness is, because of what I am working on, it is probably going to be at welterweight again. The reason we have come to this conclusion is because I am so comfortable getting there, a lot of the guys bust their gut to drop weight, so with just little bit more work I can drop to 155lbs and make my assets just that much more dangerous, it would help. That is the future plan.

You’re still quite young in your MMA career, but you have bounced around a lot fighting in the UK, India and America. Is this something you want to continue to do or would you prefer to find a more permanent home, be that Bellator, SFL or eventually the UFC?

To be honest, it’s not even finding a home at the moment. In kickboxing we used to travel everywhere, I am just so happy doing what I’m doing now that I am actually glad that I have been able to bounce around so quickly. A lot of people spend a lot of time in one place and right now I am enjoying myself. Yes, eventually I am going to be pinned down and I will go wherever I feel is beneficial for myself to progress as a fighter and my profile. Bellator is an amazing place, it’s growing ridiculously fast so by the time I have to make that decision, it may not be that the UFC is the place I need to go to, I may be in the right place already. At present, the UFC has the household names and I want to fight the best and if I’m going to be a household name, I will need to challenge all those considered to be the best, but I do believe that Bellator is a massive organisation that is growing. SFL is going to take a little longer but they have got a lot of passion, funding and enthusiasm and I am glad to be a part of something new as well.

Is that now it for you fighting in the UK promotions?

Yes, not because I don’t want to because I have friends and family here and I get a lot of support when I fight here, it’s just that the promotions aren’t as big. If I got an offer where it was the same kind of money and that, I’d come back in a second. Cage Rage back in the day was massive and I’d have loved to have fought in that present time but even now I still go back to the shows. To me, that was my home, that was where I was pushed in to the public eye on the MMA circuit so I will always go back and support it.

You managed to break in to a leading American fight promotion with only 4 MMA fights on your record. Normally for a UK fighter, they would need to cut their teeth on the UK and European circuit before a move like that. Did you think the move to a leading American promotion would happen as quickly as it did?

To be honest, no. It’s funny because I never would have thought I’d have got there that quickly but my coach and a couple of other people have said to me that technically you’ve done your time, just not in MMA. It’s not like I’m fresh off the block for all martial arts, I’ve done a lot of work. It is still a shock but I kind of knew my style would open eyes if my fights went well, and they have. I’m happy to be there.

It’s not an exclusive contract obviously as you’ve fought for SFL since, were you keen to have this written in to your contract with Bellator or was that something that they offered you?

You know what, I was actually signed to SFL first and Bellator were interested and asked if there was anything we could do, so I have a dual contract with both SFL and Bellator. I’m just trying to work through the fights on my contract and see what happens from there.

Bellator follows a tournament format for its more accomplished fighters in all of their divisions with the winner of the tournament receiving a title shot. Is competing in a Bellator tournament, be it at lightweight or welterweight a goal you have in mind something you would be interested in for the near future?

100%. I want to be fighting the best and while I’m on their show I want to be getting to the highest point. I want to take the title in SFL and in Bellator, so whatever I have to go through to do to that, then that’s what I’m going to do. I enjoy the fact that they do the tournament format. It’s very unique, it builds a bit of storyline to it which people like and I’m definitely looking forward to doing something like that.

Looking over some of the forums and comment sections on the internet in regards to your career, as well as coming across praise there have been some doubts…

… a hell of a lot of doubts (laughs)

First it was due to competition levels and now its demands for you to fight a wrestler. Do these kind of doubts bother you in any way or do you just brush it off?

For my first fight [in MMA] I was so nervous, I had never been nervous before and when it was over, I was happy and I came out and started reading the comments on what people thought about it and just started reading a whole load of negative stuff. I was just like, wow! My coach just said don’t read it, that stuff is not for you or what you’re aiming for. I just find people negative in general, these are the same people that later on when I get to a higher platform are going to be praising me as a UK fighter but when I started out they’re saying “wait till he fights an American fighter.” Why don’t you just support people first and if they get somewhere, then they get somewhere, if they don’t, they don’t. If I do not last then fair enough, it doesn’t hurt anybody, it’s only hurting me. I just find people overly negative over here and it does not faze me now, I just laugh at it. Sometimes I read the comments and I just laugh. It’s irrelevant what they see, there are always going to be comments. Everyone has got something to say. It doesn’t faze me at all anymore.

When looking over interviews you have in the past tried to defend your flashy style and you say it’s not you trying to be cocky or disrespectful. Does this kind of criticism of your style and character affect you?

No, all it is is that I’m trying to get across the points style. As much as I’ve left the sport and I’ll never go back, that’s still what I was raised up in, that’s where my style comes from and I want people to appreciate that. If you came to a points fight and looked at us both, you’d think [my movement] was the norm but because in MMA I’m the only one doing it and all the other fighters have set styles, you find me disrespectful. All I’m saying is educate yourself. Go and watch where I come from first and then come back and say “hmmm, maybe he wasn’t being disrespectful.” Yes, I am a showman and I will do the extra, I’ll be body popping and that, I do all that stuff. I can’t switch that off, that’s just me and it helps me relax and get in to my mode. It works in two ways as well as it messes with peoples timing as a fighter and it’s hard for them to register what to throw next, so it’s good for me. It’s my style.

You seem to have amassed quite a following in your brief career, did you expect to receive this much attention this early in your career?

Definitely not, no. I thought I would have to be in here a little while but I guess it goes hand-in-hand with the fact that I’ve jumped around and fought in quite a few places on different shows.

Your fluid striking style and accuracy has drawn similarities between yourself and Anderson Silva from some quarters. Do you welcome these comparisons or would you prefer to be known as Michael Page rather than “a UK Anderson Silva”?

Oh no, 100% I am out to promote myself but it’s not a negative compliment that you are comparing me to someone so high in such a short time is a massive compliment. It’s funny, when I was a kid my Dad was big in his sport and anytime I’d go to his fights I’d get called Young Curtis or Younger Curtis, I never had a name but now everyone goes up to him and says “you’re Michael’s Dad” and it’s kind of reversed the roles and I want to do the same thing in this sport. I don’t want people to relate me to someone else or get big off of someone’s name; I want other people being compared to me. It will come, I’m not in any rush to do that but it will come.

Lastly, do you want to give a shout out to anyone in particular or any of your sponsors?

Multipower are doing a lot for me as a sponsor and mainly right now, for me it’s my gym. I would do anything for these guys because they’d do anything for me and I’ll support them till the end. A lot of people like to bounce around a lot and I don’t understand that. I’ve found my home and I’m not going anywhere. Massive shout out to the London Shootfighters and those that help train and organise me as a fighter and help me progress.

Thank you for your time Michael and good luck in the future.

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