Michael ‘Venom’ Page is one of the most captivating mixed martial artists on the planet, executing flawless techniques on his path to victory. He has a highlight reel of finishes that you could not make up, and with ten fights, ten wins and nine finishes, he is an athlete performing at the highest of levels. He spoke with Mantality ahead of his fight with Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos at Bellator 158 in London. Here’s what he had to say before his big fight at the O2 Arena:
This will be your first bout in the UK since 2012. How excited are you to be fighting at the O2 in London?
It’s been a long time, but on top of that, it’s the prestige of the place and the amount of people that will be there. I just know it’s gonna be an intense show! Even if I wasn’t on, it’s the kind of show that I would make sure I attend. With me being there… it’s added to the excitement! I just can’t wait to walk into that arena, hear the noise, the roar of the crowd and walk towards the cage and do what I do.
Your entrance is going to be something special. Are you expecting a big reception from the British fans?
Yeah man, one hundred percent. It’s getting better and better every time I go out to the states, I’ve heard nothing but good feedback from people over here, especially my friends and family, everyone is waiting for me to fight in the UK and the fans are equally as excited. I’m expecting a massive reception.
Your opponent has changed in the last few weeks and you will now face MMA veteran, ‘Cyborg’. Has this impacted your training much?
Na, na, na, na. I’ve always said, more because of the style that I have, worrying about other people has never been an issue for me. All it is, is making sure that I am better than the last time I went out. I just improve from that. I’m a handful as it is, so I just focus on me and improving my all-round game and coming up with some more flashy strikes as well, just to add them into the game and I can’t wait to demonstrate that.
A lot of people enjoyed this too, but I really enjoyed your ‘What’ video that you posted the other week. Can we expect to see more videos like that in the future?
Yeah man, I had good fun with that! Definitely, I’m more focused on talking in the cage, but to be fair Fernando Gonzalez annoyed me in the way that he was carrying himself. I wanted to say something, but I wanted to say it in a more creative way. I’m a big WWE fan and have been for a long, long time now, so I thought let’s do it that way round. I’m not the type to chat crap online and do that kind of stuff, so I thought let’s make it creative. I enjoyed doing it and I scripted it all myself and I’ve been writing a few more things which should be coming out.
If you had to choose, which wrestler in the WWE would you most compare yourself to?
I’d like to compare myself to The Rock because of that pure electricity that he brings; he’s definitely one of my favourites, more because of his all-round character and his entertainment side, his wrestling and moves and just the way he carries himself. I wish I had his ability to talk though! I feel that he’s one of the greatest at doing that. Entertainment-wise, I definitely relate myself to him.
Speaking of electricity, Bellator 158 will be their first ever event in the UK. What should fans expect when Bellator rolls into London?
Other shows have been there already; the UFC has been there already. Going to a UFC event, you know what you’re gonna get, but with Bellator, I think it’s a bit more of an actual show. They really put on a production, which makes it that much more exciting! On top of the fights that are happening, it’s gonna be an all-round amazing night, full of noise and good vibes in the sense that I know the English guys are gonna do well which will make it an even more exciting night. It’s definitely something that no one should miss.
Aside from these highlight-reel techniques and electrifying moves that you want to perform, what else do you want to achieve in your career; do you have any specific goals?
It’s been my goal since the second that I decided to cross over into MMA, it’s to revolutionise how people see stand-up and what is possible in that area and what is actually achievable. You can be so much more creative when you’re fighting! My hands down style, my main aim in this sport, in the same way that jiu-jitsu took over MMA, I want my hands down style to take over. I was happy to see that GSP posted online that he was practicing points fighting, it’s something that people wouldn’t consider when they’re getting into MMA. They wouldn’t think to learn points fighting, but there’s so much that the hands down kickboxing style offers. Seeing things like that from GSP, is more of an achievement than anything else. I just want that to become more common and people accept how good the style sport.
When people talk about MMA, as a sport, they speak about it as though it’s a finished product. 20 years ago most people had never seen jiu-jitsu, now it’s an integral part of the sport. With these techniques and this way of thinking that you’re bringing to the table, do you think we’ll see a next generation of MMA?
Yeah, 100%. I want to be the start of that, I want to kick down the door and open people’s imaginations up to see that there’s something else to this sport. At the same time, I genuinely believe that it’s gonna help change the minds of specific people and what I mean is that so many people see the sport as brutal and this and that; two guys with no skill trying to kill each other. You see what I do and you know the only way you can get to that level is by being skilful. You start to look at the sport completely differently. I want to change people’s minds and perspective on the sport.
I know you have some mixed martial arts academies, do you enjoy teaching and do you feel that it’s a good way to pass on your knowledge and your outlook on mixed martial arts?
I love it! I love teaching, I’ve taught kickboxing for years and years now, I love to see the progression of people. I just love what it does for people. I’ve always said that I wish a martial art was taught in schools because it does so much for the young generation; it gives them confidence and a different social network. I know it helped me, being in the area that I was when I was younger, when I was growing up, I knew that the peer groups I had outside of martial arts, weren’t the best role models. I never used to follow them because I was more worried about what my peers in martial arts would say and how they would judge me in that sense. It helped keep me on track and not follow the norm outside; it kept me focussed. You get so used to following orders, like so you’re so used to being in a class environment listening to the person in front of you; it helped me in school. It just does so much for you when you’re young; I wish they implemented it in schools. That’s why I love teaching, I love passing that down to other people.
I know you’ve been training for a long time, how did martial arts training as a child help prepare you for the challenges you face today, both as a professional mixed martial artist and as a person?
I’ve trained since I was three! In terms of martial arts, I feel one thing that I have over a lot of fighters, is pure fight time. From the age of five I’ve done competitions week in, week out, travelled very regularly; even though it’s on a much bigger stage and it’s a slightly different art, it still feels normal to me, it’s still comfortable. A lot of people, the pressure changes them. Their nerves get to them, the pressure of winning gets to them. Where I’ve done it time and time again for so many years, it just feels like learning moves, being in a classroom. It doesn’t feel like anything else; it feels quite easy. I think that’s been a massive help. The travelling and meeting people from all walks of life has been a massive help as well. A lot of people from the area I was raised in, they rarely travelled. They didn’t get to see outside of their home and their local area. I feel that opens your eyes as a person and it just helps; I’ve learnt so much from travelling. Meeting Italians, Canadians, seeing different cultures and how different people live life; it’s been a massive help for me.
Unfortunately we’ve had two huge members of the fight community leave us in recent times, what did Muhammad Ali and Kimbo Slice mean to you?
Muhammad Ali is one of the idols of all idols. He’s done so much for himself and for many different sports. Seeing what guys like McGregor are doing today, how they use their mouth to promote themselves and their fights, that all started with him. A lot of sports in general have taken that on. It all started with him doing that; he was a massive character. I feel like everyone has watched him at some time in their life, even the younger ones now. It’s a massive loss and it was heart-breaking for his family and the same with Kimbo, the difference is I actually had the privilege of meeting him. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Because of what he’s famous for and how he looked, he could have been misjudged. He was a gentle soul of a man, such a nice person and very respectful. To hear he actually enjoyed what I was doing and gave me a big boost personally. He’s such a young person to go; respect to his family and I hope they are all coping. I hope they can move on in a positive way.
As fans and spectators, we only see your journey from the outside, we only see you in bright lights and in the glory moments. How does your journey look from your perspective?
It’s difficult man, very difficult. People judge from the outside, the 15 minutes of work. It’s so easy to be in that place, whether it’s positive or negative comments, it’s so easy to judge just based on seeing that and not knowing what it takes to be in there and perform. It’s a difficult journey but it’s a journey I enjoy. I always say that I’m lucky to be one of the people that enjoys what he does and be able to make a living from it. I’ve always been a showman, I’ve been a showman from a young age and I get to do that on a big scale and it’s just growing. It’s difficult but rewarding.
Have you ever thought about a change in career? I’ve heard your salsa dancing skills are on point.
I’ve got a few moves, but it’s not something I would want to get into… I don’t get to hit anyone in salsa! At the moment, MMA is my focus but at the end of my career I want to look at getting into acting and entertaining in a slightly different way. I think that’s the route I’ll be taking, but at the moment my focus is MMA.
Do you have anyone specific on your radar that you want to fight in the future?
I’m always trying to beat myself, I don’t really care; there’s so many people that talk. My aim is to constantly keep growing as a fighter, I already feel like a dangerous person in MMA so if I can continue to be better than my last show, I’m only going to continue to be dangerous.
Do you think a fighters’ union would be good for the sport?
I genuinely don’t understand why it hasn’t happened yet. Because of what happened to Ariel Helwani, the media outlets are creating their own union, so if any show decides to kick one out, then none of them will cover the event. This is why the union is there, so people aren’t taken advantage of. The union should be there so people aren’t taken advantage of and I do feel that fighters are being taken advantage of, so it needs to happen.
Is there anything you’d like to say ahead of your fight with ‘Cyborg’ in London?
Make sure you go and get your tickets, michaelvenompage.com. Make sure you are there on time, don’t blink and don’t miss anything, because you are gonna enjoy absolutely everything I’ll throw. I’ll be putting on a massive show and you will see a spectacular finish. I’m excited!
Michael Page faces Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos on the main card of Bellator 158 in London on July 16th.
Tickets are on sale now: http://www.theo2.co.uk/events/detail/bellator-mma