A Q&A With Mike Perry, MMA Fighter and Animal Impersonator
On Saturday, the surreal Perry takes on Santiago Ponzinibbio on UFC on FOX.
Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports
Like falling asleep with the TV on and failing to discern your own dreams from what happened in an early morning Friends rerun, there’s a surrealistic quality to the things UFC welterweight Mike Perry says and does that makes you question whether they actually occurred at all.
An interviewer once asked him about the meaning of his nickname—Platinum—to which he replied, “If we wanted to set up a satellite to talk to God, we’d probably make it out of platinum so it could reach across the universe, and the energy would stretch far beyond anything we’ve ever known.”
In September, he celebrated in the cage with an eerily accurate pantomime of a strutting rooster.
Recently, he showed up in Poland dressed like prime Joey Fatone, and Photoshopped himself into a Kung Fu Panda movie poster.
But fight sports reward original personalities to the exclusion of almost everything else, and Perry, through saying and doing things that force a second look, has a charisma his Conor McGregor-biting peers would kill for. Plus he fights like the second coming of Chuck Liddell, a hands-down-chin-up fighter who’s notched all of his 11 victories by some variation of knockout. On Saturday, December 16, he fights fellow top-ranked 170-pounder Santiago Ponzinibbio on UFC on Fox: Lawler vs. dos Anjos. Perry allowed Vice Sports passage into his brain. (Interview has been edited and condensed.)
Vice Sports: You made your UFC debut while you were on probation for burglary. Tell me more about the lifestyle you were living back then.
Mike Perry: Really, what that was was just ignorance in my past. I was playing Grand Theft Auto in real life. That tough guy thing—I’m gonna call that a persona because, now, I’m a real tough guy. I’ve got, like, a family of dogs and my girl and a house that I own, cars, and I gotta be responsible and pay bills. That shit makes you way stronger than if you’re just some little kid who thinks he’s tough and is out here trying to get money. That kid felt like he ain’t got nothing to lose even though he has his whole life ahead of him—he never had anything and doesn’t know where he’s gonna get his money for his next bills. But I’d fuck that kid up now, man. The guy I am now would fuck that kid up so bad.
What about fighting speaks to you and brings you satisfaction?
Other than it being really easy—it’s an easy way for me to make a living because I enjoy working out. This job probably has the least amount of reading and writing than other jobs, so I don’t have to do any homework, you know? Also, it’s so real, man. When I say real, I mean like growing vegetables and raising cattle and living life off the earth like we were supposed to. The original way of living. And if a motherfucker walked off in my village, and we didn’t know who he was, I’m the warrior that’s gonna destroy this motherfucker before he even gets an idea.
I was watching an interview with you from after your first fight in the UFC a little over a year and a half ago, and you seemed guarded, closed up, not so eager to talk. But since then you’ve grown really comfortable with the PR aspect of fighting. What changed?
All it is I’m able to be myself even more now. Maybe you’re right: maybe I was closed up, trying to hold some things in. Sometimes I feel like I can get a little out there and I needed people to pay attention and see what I’m capable of doing. [But] something in my head changed. When I talk, I talk to myself: I’m trying to listen to what I’m thinking about, out loud, so I can analyze and really see where I’m trying to go.
What does a perfect fight look like to you? Is it something with a lot of give and take, or a knockout inside of a minute?
It’s just who owns the night, who does the night belong to. It’s not just me and my opponent either. I gotta shine on the card. There’s 10 other fights, 20 other fighters on a card looking to shine. I can’t just win. I can’t just have a good fight. I gotta be tremendous.
You once said “Kids: don’t get tattoos on your face until you’re old enough and living your dreams.” What did you really mean by that?
There’s many reasons I have this tattoo on my face. One is to keep people away from me. Another is I got split, like, 12 days before my UFC debut—I took an elbow in training and I had this nasty line above my forehead from the stitches. I’ve always wanted a tattoo on my face. and I was like, man, now’s a better time than any to get the tattoo. So I went and got it, like fuck it, I got nothing to lose now, I got everything to gain, we gonna take over.
Has your life been different, or have people treated you differently, since you got your face tattooed?
Not at all, to be honest.
I’m assuming you didn’t do any film study, but what went into the rooster imitation you did?
Martial arts and animals go together—they go hand in hand. Each animal symbolizes a different style of martial arts, all different moves and techniques you can use to finish an opponent. The rooster was about, I just got in a little cock fight and pecked him to death. I gotta get more animals. More styles. More souls.
Do you have any other animals—from the farm, the zoo, wherever—that you have in mind for future impressions?
Yeah, I’ve been doing a T-rex and a velociraptor—getting prehistoric on these motherfuckers.
You’ve also said that you have “a really strong face.” Explain that.
I mean, I can take a shot. I’m Platinum, man—I absorb heat. I’m definitely willing to take a couple to give one. And I know how to move. I’m not getting hit like y’all think I’m getting hit. I’m so fast, as soon as that shit touches me I’m out the way [even if] it’s still grazing my face at the same time. Most of these motherfuckers don’t even know how to punch anyway.