Mike King, the last name says it all. You may not have heard of him yet, but one thing is for sure – you will soon. With a 5-0 professional record, all coming as finishes, Mike has already been turning heads around the MMA world; gaining notice that will likely have him fighting on the biggest stage in MMA in the near future. Currently, training with American Top Team in Coconut Creek (Florida), Mike has had the chance to work with some of the best in the world… and we have no doubt that he will be fighting alongside some of the best in no time at all.
We recently took some time to talk with Mike to learn a little bit about his inception within the MMA world, and his thoughts on the sport as it currently stands…
What drew you to MMA/fighting in the first place?
I actually got tricked, by a football coach that I had in College. I guess I’ll go all the way back tot he beginning… I got started wrestling at the age of 4 and the coach that I had in College actually knew that I had a wrestling background, so he got me started in boxing classes while I was still in football. Because it was illegal to play two sports as a scholarship NCAA athlete, as soon as I graduated – literally a month after – he entered me in my first MMA tournament. The boxing he had me doing, he told me that it was for conditioning in the off-season, he said to me ‘ok, well you’re going to be doing this fight thing too’ – so, he kind of pushed me into it. Once I got into the cage for the first time and did the one-on-one combat sport thing I was in love.
How would you characterize your particular fight-style?
I had almost 20 years of competitive grappling under my belt, so that’s something that my game is based on. So, what I m trying to develop now… I am working with two ex-Olympic boxing coaches a lot on handwork and footwork. In fact it turns out now, that even with that extensive wrestling background, I actually tend to be a better striker, and that’s what we’re starting to find; because of my lankiness at 6″3 185 lbs I was a big middleweight. We’ve learned that I am pretty rangy athletic guy and I’m actually liking the striking more. Actually, you’ll notice in the beginning of my career a lot of my wins were by submission, and if you start to take a look at just my pro-fights now a lot of my wins are TKO due to punches – where I’ve dropped a guy where he wasn’t completely out and I’ve just gone down and finished him with a couple of punches.
What do you see as the most important technique to have honed down in today’s MMA world?
Just coming form the wrestling background, I’m a diehard wrestler. I feel that wrestling or top game jiujitsu is probably the most dominant when it comes to MMA. Just because, when you can control somebody’s hips, that’s what you’re taught to do in wrestling anyway, it’s really hard for them to fight back as they’re constantly on the defense. The best fighters are the one’s that always have their opponents moving backward or countering what they’re doing, and not letting them get any kind of attack build-up. I’ve fought a good top game, and it just shuts people down.
It’s structured dominance. It’s not truly a fight because there is a structured way to it. The way to win these days is to have good control, positional dominance and you’re going to be guaranteed to win the fight.
Who would you say is your inspiration as a fighter, as in who do you try to model yourself after?
He talks a whole lot, but I really like Chael Sonnen. He’s a hard-working blue collar guy with a good wrestling background. Similar style as me, he likes to move forward, working on his boxing.
I’m also very similar (to Sonnen) in terms of conditioning. Training your body properly and healing your body properly, you get a lot more out of your work-outs.
What has been your most defining moment thus far in your career?
I took a fight for a promotion called WCMMA (World Cup of Mixed Martial Arts) out of Connecticut, and I had been training out of American Top Team, but I hadn’t had a spot under their banner yet. Ricardo (Liborio – one of the founders of American Top Team) was training the American team, so one of our guys went down with an injury and I took a fight on 5 days notice. I keep myself in pretty good shape all the time, so I agreed to help him – and completely dominated. It was a fun fight to see – I dropped the kid early and wound up getting on top of him and dropping a bunch of elbows. It was at the point that I think I opened up Ricardo’s eyes, which opened a lot of doors for me. It was a day of self-realization for me, having him (Ricardo) in my corner, one of the top coaches in the country, maybe the world, to see him proud of me was a big deal.
When is your next fight?
Tentatively right now, April 20th. I’m on the card and they’re looking for an opponent for me, but right now at 5-0 it’s really hard to find opponents.
My management company, which manages guys like Nate Marquardt, Brendan Schaub and Rory MacDonald, so like a bunch of blue chip guys, they’re projecting in the next six months I’ll be fighting in the UFC. One more fight to get me to 6-0 and I’ll be there. I actually got the call, they wanted me to fight on UFC 156, but it was on 5 days notice and I had just fought the night before – I was already 20lbs overweight. Any opportunity to fight in the UFC is a great opportunity, but it wasn’t my right opportunity. We think that I might have a chance to make a title run and we want to be able to pick the right fights going into that. We’ll just wait a little bit longer, and I think we’ll be better for it.
How has your dedication to MMA impacted your personal life?
I quit drinking. I used to go out and party quite a bit, and you know it’s hard to stay focused. Even at the beginning of my career, while I was still an amateur, I was still going out and doing a lot of partying and it’s hard to stay focused. I don’t want to say it made me grow-up, but it helped to gain control. It terms of my control and health it’s done a lot, but in terms of a social life – it’s kind of killed that.
What has been the biggest hurdle within your MMA career?
I guess it was just making that move from Central Ohio to Florida. I tried to do it for almost two years, then I finally got the opportunity. I knew I had to get down to one of these bigger gyms and it’s hard to do that, it takes a lot of maneuvering – it took me 6 or 7 months just talk to the right guy. Marcos Da Matta, brought me in to his gym, American Top Team West Palm Beach, which is a satellite gym, and then he has to introduce me to the head coaches at Coconut Creek, and you have to impress those guys. It was a year long process just getting into the right gym.
If you had your way, and you could fight anyone in the world right now, who would it be?
Right now I’m at a point where I want to see where I am at, and who I size up against. However, my ultimate goal is that I want to fight the guy with the strap – so, if you’re asking me that question I want to fight Anderson Silva.
Once we got to learn a little bit about Mike on a personal level, we thought we would ask him his thoughts on some of the current pressing and hot-button issues in MMA today…
Who would you put as your top pound-for-pound guys in the world right now?
In no particular order, would be Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and GSP.
Each of those guys has different strengths, so I think it depends on how you want to rate ‘pound-for pound’. In terms of control in the cage, Anderson Silva never gets rattled. When it comes to athleticism you’ve got to look at Jon Jones – the guy is an absolute freak. When it comes to conditioning and being able to beat your opponent at his own game that’s GSP – the guy has untouchable determination.
Who do you think is overrated and not worth all of the attention?
I think Alistair Overeem is pretty overrated. He’s been around the sport for a long time, and yeah he’s fought and won in other promotions, but if you’re not winning in the UFC than it really doesn’t mean a whole lot. Over the last year his career has really fallen apart, what with the PED’s and being beat by (Antonio) Silva.
Do you buy into the “I didn’t know I took PEDs excuse”?
For Overeem his levels were like 13:1, to have levels that high you’re obviously injecting yourself. There’s some over-the-counter things that can elevate your levels slightly and I can maybe understand that – but, when you’re 13 times over the limit, that’s ridiculous. The guy (Overeem) has put like 80lbs of solid core tissue over the last 5 year span.
ZUFFA’s conquest of the MMA world – good thing or bad thing?
I think it could be a good thing.
In my eyes it almost feels like they’re buying up all of these small promotions so they can control what’s paid. You saw 2 or 3 years ago there was a serious influx and there were some guys making some serious money, and then they starting buying up all of the small promotions and you saw a backslide on what people were getting paid.
If you had a guy running the company who was concerned with fighters safety and the longevity of the sport instead of just turning a quick dollar then I think it could be a good thing. However, with the way Dana is I don’t see the fighter pay increasing.
The only benefit to consolidating all under the same banner, is that you have all of the best fighters under one umbrella – but, you also have to be paying fighters. You’ve only got a 5-10 year window to make your money as a fighter.
Dana White – good or bad for the sport?
Dana is good for the sport. He’s what got it off the ground and into the mainstream. He does like to be in the spotlight, but that’s how he works. He’s also put together some big deals that have really helped the sport (FOX).
What are your thoughts on women’s MMA?
I watched last night, because it is what it is – it was history being made. I think the fight showed what I don’t want to see in MMA; it showed unathletic people. It’s no fun to watch someone hold somebody and punch them in the forehead. It’s just not entertaining to me. It’s like the difference between the NBA and WNBA – you want to watch high-flying action and dunks, you aren’t going to get that in the WNBA.
What about Rousey and Carmouche headlining UFC 157?
When it’s a title fight, I guess you kind of have to put them as a main event… unless there was another title fight – maybe that’s something they could have done. I just in general will not be interested in watching two women fight, and it’s not because I’m a chauvinist, it’s because I want to watch the highest level of athletics.
What do you think the cut-off age is for MMA fighters? Is there one?
It’s almost like the way a warrior lives, he wants to go out on his shield. From that side… they’re all fighters to the core. They don’t neccessarily want to go out on top, but they want to go out as a warrior would go out.
We want to thank Mike for taking the time to talk to us, and for being so candid about his way up through the MMA ladder and on some of the button topics currently around the MMA world today. Mike is one of the true “nice guys” in the sport, and a great reflection of the direction that the sport is headed in today. We look forward to seeing Mike in UFC, and making his run at the title soon.
Follow Mike: @MikeTheManKing