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What happens when the time comes in a fighter’s career when someone should sit him down and have a heart-to-heart with him, but no one is there to be found?
Covering MMA news requires a dispassionate approach, to maintain impartiality and present the information factually. Under most circumstances, when fighters do something strange, it can be written off as them being “oddballs”—see for example Diego Sanchez’s presentation of a metallic cube in an lengthy, unusual interview with ESPN—or that they are otherwise under an exorbitant amount of stress. In rare occurrences, it may be important for media to speak out over concern about an athlete’s well-being or state of mind. This is the case for the inimitable Mike Perry, welterweight slugger and upcoming co-main event fighter on UFC on ESPN 12 this Saturday in Las Vegas.
During his strange media session that lasted over 15 minutes, Perry rambled about a series of topics, frequently returning to his clear disinterest in speaking with the media altogether. “Hell no, I’m not happy to sit here and talk to y’all,” Perry said, “when I could be laying down watching TV, cuddling with my girl, walking through Vegas, getting some sun or cutting some weight.” It is entirely possible that part of his frustrations came from a difficult and potentially miscalculated weight cut, as he expressed issues with how much he has left and spoke frequently about food.
The harsh cut to 171 pounds only seemed to be the tip of the iceberg, as Perry famously split with Florida-based camp Fusion X-Cel to train independently. Perry told media that his training consisted partially with individuals in Lubbock, Texas, while other time was spent in Florida doing it “my way.” All these tales paled in comparison to Perry’s braggadocios claim that his sole corner would be girlfriend Latory Gonzalez, with no other teammates or coaches to aid him.
According to Perry, his MMA support system consists exclusively of Gonzalez, who is his relatively new girlfriend after separating from wife Danielle Nickerson earlier this year. His instructions to Gonzalez, a former high school wrestler and boxer according to Perry, would be limited to her giving him water and holding ice on his neck between rounds. He doubled down on this strategy by flatly stating that all Gonzalez would have to do is “sit there and enjoy the show.”
Similarly, when the aforementioned Sanchez hatched such a plan to work exclusively with “snake oil salesman” Josh Fabia, the MMA community recoiled. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when Sanchez went out practically coachless to engage in hand-to-hand combat with a trained professional, it resulted in a giant mess.
The lack of a coaching staff meant that Perry was free to his own devices to train, and “Platinum” claimed that he already knew how to go about training, whether by putting in “road work” or “punching the air.” It can be argued that what he lacked in every metric was discipline. Throughout his interview, Perry slurred his words and lost track of his thoughts in concerning fashion. Drifting off from a brief discussion of training transformed into his regaling the media members of his trip to Universal Studios or watching seasons of anime series “Naruto” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender” to prepare for his fight with Mickey Gall.
Fighters detesting media is not an unusual occurrence, so Perry’s desire of “telling all you losers to go f--- yourself” was nothing out of the ordinary. When coupled with his abandonment of anyone who can provide proper guidance—Perry has previously left camps abruptly before, including a brief stint that caused a fracture between Donald Cerrone and Jackson-Wink MMA—the red flags added up rapidly in the span of around 17 minutes. When the final media member, a man who sported an accent, asked a question to Perry, the Floridian burst out laughing. After barely answering the question, Perry concluded by recalling an anecdote about Floyd Mayweather, where the boxer could not understand the question but agreed nonetheless. As far as strange media appearances go, this one stands apart from the pack.
A recent poll run by veteran reporter Josh Gross posed a simple question to the masses: ”Do you care about Mike Perry?” After over 1,100 responses in the span of a day, almost 72 percent of the voters claimed they did not. This result is highly inaccurate, as it stands to reason that almost every person that decided to cast a vote on that poll cares about “Platinum,” be it positively or negatively. Far more importantly, people do genuinely care about Perry, whether as a fighter or as a person.
Perry has been an extraordinary figure on the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster for less than four years, despite a promotional record of 6-6. His bombastic persona has inspired strange fan clubs throughout the community, exhibiting a near cult-like devotion to the polarizing fighter, even through his bouts with racial epithets and otherwise problematic public performances. On the Sherdog YouTube channel, his segment of the UFC on ESPN 12 Virtual Media Day maintains the most views, above even the headliners.
Recent matchups for Perry, where he was finished by Geoff Neal in 90 seconds or on the wrong end of a furious battle with Vicente Luque, may have caused some damage, but that is for medical professionals to determine. What is evident is that while Perry is beloved by some, he very likely needs help. Dustin Poirier stated towards the end of Media Day that “winning solves everything in this sport,” but when it comes to a fighter’s health and well-being, beating Gall might not do anything besides entrench these dangerous ideas and this disconcerting approach to the sport. Even though Perry has admittedly trimmed that amount to a small number, we can only hope that someone close to him can see the forest for the trees and get him the help he appears to need before it is too late.
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