One of the MMA world’s hottest prospects, Michael ‘Venom’ Page, took time out of his busy schedule to speak exclusively to Pundit Arena as he prepares to make his professional boxing debut on Friday night.
When it comes to mixed martial arts, they say that ‘styles make fights’ and for years this multi-faceted and constantly-evolving sport has seen many forms rise to the top of the pile.
At first, it was the Gracies, who used their Brazilian jiu-jitsu to accomplish feats that many would have considered illogical at the time. Size and strength were left in the shadow of skill and technique and while you’d be hard-pressed to find a mixed martial artist who hasn’t immersed themselves in their style since.
There was a time when the so-called specialists refused to stray too far from the form that got them to the dance, a consequence of years of tradition and the narrow-minded approach that manifested itself as a result of it.
The wrestlers came next, dominating through a crushing presence and methodical use of energy-sapping pressure. Ground-and-pound became king before the likes of Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida flipped the script again, proving the fleeting nature of this crazy game.
In the last few years we’ve seen the emergence of the ‘new-school’ of mixed martial artist, a breed of fighter, who – in the words of Bruce Lee – absorbs what is useful, discards what is not and adds what is uniquely one’s own. We’ve seen the Tony Ferguson’s, the Rory MacDonald’s and the Jon Jones’ of the world prove that a singular approach leads only to dead-ends and in one rising star who is currently making a name for himself at Bellator MMA, we could well be seeing the next step in the sport’s evolution.
Michael ‘Venom’ Page is a man who has been in the public eye for some time now. As a genuine human highlight-reel, his style encompasses the best parts of sports-karate, freestyle-kickboxing, capoeira and oddly enough, salsa dancing.
At the very least, seeing MVP fight is completely and utterly unmissable as a spectacle but when you couple it with the fact that he is currently riding a twelve-fight unbeaten career that has seen him go the distance just twice, the effectiveness of what this man does inside the cage is becoming more convincing with each outing.
12-0 is an impressive record at any level but with 2017 coming to a close, Page has decided to push himself outside of his comfort-zone, teaming up with famed-British boxer David Haye and his Hayemaker Ringstar Promotions in order to make his professional boxing debut, which will take place this Friday night (October 20) against Jonathan Castano.
Page took time out of his schedule to speak to us here at Pundit Arena in an exclusive interview and broke down exactly how he has been finding the transition between sports as he prepares to step inside the ring.
“I’ve always done really well against boxers in boxing. David Haye came down to the gym one time and said to me that I should take an interest in boxing, but at the time I was more focused on the MMA.
“I’m not trying to be the same as everyone else, I’m not trying to be a boxer. I’m trying to be MVP in the boxing world. I just want to show people that I have the ability to do both. I wouldn’t train boxing if I had to change my style too much.”
The drastic differences between both sports and the type of preparation and conditioning needed for each was perhaps made abundantly clear to those who didn’t know following August’s super-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. But for MVP,
given his background in sports karate, the difficulty of making the transition was something he came prepared for from day-one.
“In terms of preparation it’s just a different type of stress on my body, which, for me, is making it seem that bit more difficult right now. When I think back to when I was a kickboxer and I did my first wrestling class, I almost died. Every session, I had never felt this type of pain before.
“So even though MMA is well-rounded, I’m now going from being well-rounded to being very specific and my body is dying because of it. But, I enjoy the challenge.”
His opponent Jonathan Castano’s record of 2-11-1 will more-than-likely excite those who are looking forward to an emphatic win from Page but in taking this fight, he appears to be setting up for a ‘dual-career’ of sorts, with conquests within both the MMA and boxing worlds on his mind.
“I would like to try and get another fight in this year, obviously because I’ve been inactive the whole year but we’ll see. It’s good that I have the ability to do both. I believe I can have an MMA fight, then two boxing fights, then another MMA fight and so on.
“I’m not just a natural talent, I work hard. I’m in the gym all of the time, I’m in the gym right now. I’m always here, it’s my second home. I work hard to have this weird, entertaining and unorthodox style so I know I deserve to be in here at the top.”
Bellator’s welterweight division is at an all-time peak right now, with some of the world’s top 170lb-ers making their living testing themselves against each other. Rory MacDonald, Paul Daley, Andrey Koreshkov and the champion Douglas Lima all stand between MVP and the belt, but now – at the age of 30 – the London-born striker believes the time is right for him to finally make his ascent.
Fighters with genuine star-power can be hard to come by these days and in the case of Michael Page, Bellator have wisely elected to take a measured approach to letting him loose.
His Knockout of the Year-nominated victory over the veteran Evangelista Santos last year did manage to expose a greater audience to his skill-set but in truth, the fans have been waiting for years to see how this truly electric competitor stacks up against the very best in the world
When asked about his title-aspirations, Page was nothing short of certain that his run at the belt was close:
“I think in a couple of fights they’re going to want me there [the title picture]. I can definitely see myself going in there and shocking the world. I already know what I can do, it’s just a case of proving it to everyone else.
“That’s just what we do every time we step into the spotlight, that’s what we’re proving to the rest of the world. We know what our abilities are and what we are capable of so we just go out there and show it.
“I’m doing something that is quite different for me in my own personal career but I still want to dominate in the mixed martial arts world.”
At 6-foot-3, Page is certainly among the taller welterweights on the roster, and with so much talk of money-fights and fighting at multiple weight-classes, the idea of seeing the unpredictable-stylings of MVP at middleweight is something that would no doubt go down a treat with the fans.
With the likes of Gegard Mousasi and Rory MacDonald now operating under the Bellator-banner, seeing Michael Page test himself at 185lbs – where both of those men appear willing to compete – just became an infinitely more lucrative option, something that he himself seemed open to, if the circumstances were right.
“When it comes to super-fights, people will do what is necessary to be ready at whatever weight it is. We’ve seen it across the board in MMA, people doing super-fights and being in the wrong weight-division, so 100%, if it’s the right fight, the right money and the right name, I could see myself doing it. It just has to be worth it.
“Cutting weight is very difficult, especially the type of weight that MMA guys cut. The older you get it just gets that little bit harder.
“I’ve put on a bit more muscle in terms of my shoulders and arms because of the work I’ve been doing. Usually it’s a little bit easier to cut weight whereas this time, it’s slightly harder because I’m now a bit bulkier than I’d normally be.”
His name has been present in MMA circles for what seems like an eternity now, but with successes in both boxing and MMA firmly in his sights, the long-awaited rise of Michael ‘Venom’ Page looks like it is finally upon us.
Page will face off against Jonathan Castano in the Indigo O2 in Greenwich, London in the co-main event of the night’s Hayemaker Ringstar: Fight Night event.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena