We caught up with British MMA sensation Michael ‘Venom’ Page ahead of his fight with Fernando Gonzales at Bellator 165, shortly after his crushing of ‘Cyborg’ Santos in London. Mike goes into great detail about his martial arts career and background. Before he became an MMA fighter, he was a multiple time world champion in Kickboxing and comes from an incredible martial arts pedigree. Without further ado…here is MVP!
Hi Michael, great to connect with you! Are you keeping well?
Yeah man! I’ve obviously been doing a lot of travelling recently, usually after that trying to get back into training can feel a mess!
That’s understandable, OK, so let’s get into this! If we could ask, what do you think of the name Kung Fu Kingdom?
I like it because I come from a Lau Gar Kung Fu background, haha!
How do you feel about joining the Kung Fu Kingdom Hall of Fame along with top martial artists like, Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace, Michael Jai White, Ray Park and Taekwondo Olympians?
It sounds good to be a Hall-of-Famer!
Absolutely! Let’s cover some other basics if we may; when and where were you born?
I was born 7th April 1987 in St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London.
What is your height and weight?
I’m 6’3” tall and usually about 85kg in general.
That’s your ‘walking’ weight?
Yeah, that will be my walking weight and I fight at 77kg (Welterweight).
So what led you to take up martial arts?
Well my dad was my instructor at the time. It’s definitely a family thing because my mum used to do it as well, my brothers and sisters all did it, so definitely a family thing.
Very cool! Can you please tell us a bit more about your martial arts background then?
Well I started with Lau Gar Kung Fu when I was three-years old. I was obviously doing all the forms and sets and training at classes, then when I was five I had my first competition in freestyle kickboxing which is more like sport karate before it kind of transcended into what it is now. From then on, we did a syllabus consisting of a lot of Lau Gar mixed with kickboxing and was competing near enough every weekend.
Nice to get an early start. So would you credit your dad as having influenced you most in the martial arts?
Both my parents, 100%. They were the biggest influence in me actually doing what I’m doing.
Right! Can you tell us a bit more about your competitive career in martial arts before competing in MMA?
So, at the age of 12 I won my first World Championship. For me it was the turning point in my career and the reason I say that is before then I was losing multiple competitions. Like, I was struggling to even place or get third. I just managed to qualify for that World Championships and for some reason that day everything just clicked. Everything that I had been taught, everything that I had been watching for all those years before just fell into place on that day, which is obviously a good day for it to happen!
It was in Disneyland, Florida and was probably one of the hardest competitions I did because there were so many people ‘seeded’ from rankings and competitions they had won before and there were a lot of Americans that were ranked on their circuit.
I was fighting all day but for some reason I was just getting everything right and beating one person after the next. When I came back from that competition it changed me as a person and from then on I was winning British Championships, World Championships and at 13 I was fighting with the adults. I was probably one of the youngest people to do it but I was winning British Championships in the 18+ Adults’ division. It all just changed me completely.
Fantastic story. On to your MMA career now. Adding to your original martial arts style, how much did you have to learn in MMA before you felt comfortable enough to compete?
Oh there was loads and even now there is still so much to learn. It’s one of those sports that is constantly evolving and changing. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, it wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be, but that is all credit to the sport I came from that made it easy for me to adapt to the new style.
Also, just the mentality you have when you’re points fighting, where it is not power based, it allows people to use their head and mind a lot and I think, that was a massive influence on me in learning another sport. I took to jiu-jitsu a lot quicker than I did to wrestling, then later on the wrestling started to click. It probably took me a solid year of being in the gym before I understood just the basics and from then on just kept adding to it
I see. So, how is your training time divided between different aspects of MMA, how do you mix components such as striking and grappling?
I am in the gym for a whole day sometimes and in that day, you are going over multiple aspects of the art. The thing I like about my gym is that we don’t just have individual classes, we have a coach that then teaches you how to blend all the different styles.
We may do wrestling one day then later on wrestling with striking, so Shootboxing and taking people down as well, so incorporating what we’ve learned. We may do Jiu-Jitsu then add it to our cagework so you learn how to stand up if someone’s on top of you, as well as trying to submit them. There are just so many aspects to MMA, people think of the individual sports but MMA itself is its own art and there’s a lot to learn from that.
Everyday is different, I should say, we don’t always go over the same things, a lot of the time what we’re going over is usually influenced by our next opponent. Because we usually have a few people in the gym training for fights we go over a few different game plans as well. For me, it’s good because it keeps it interesting all the time.
Variety certainly keeps things fresh. OK, people like yourself and Stephen Thompson, who has a background in Karate, have had a lot of success recently with stylistically unorthodox striking in MMA. Do you think this style has been ignored in MMA and will that change in the future?
Yes 100%. The reason people are so shocked with my style, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson’s kind of style, the Machida’s style, is because they don’t appreciate it, yet. People think, only put power first; with a lot of the kickboxing styles that’s what they do first, you have to be tough enough to take hits and powerful enough to land hits and they only focus on that aspect of things. My thought process is, no matter how much power somebody possesses, if they can’t land shots on the target, that power means nothing. So, we focus on the speed, timing and that in-and-out movement which I think people are more and more starting to appreciate and starting to incorporate in MMA. There are certain guys that I’ve seen, in general, who are a lot lighter on their toes than they normally would be. There is still a lot to learn from it but it’s good that it’s changing already.
Please tell us where does the name ‘Venom’ come from?
From my Lau Gar circuit! I have, I say, my brothers and sisters that I was raised with like a second family. One of my brothers, Marvin, he always used to call me that and this is from when I was, 8 or 9. He was like, “You got venom, man! I call you Venom!”. He was laughing about it because every time I hit somebody (because I was really skinny and gangly) he didn’t expect the response from the shot -it didn’t look that powerful but people would be falling over and stuff so he’s like; “You got venom man!”. So he kept calling me that and later on it kind of sat in the middle of my name, Michael ‘Venom’ Page which later became, ‘MVP’ so it just worked out perfectly.
Awesome! Tell us about your work with movement expert, Ido Portal, did it affect your MMA style?
I do multiple different things just to change it up and to add to the growth of my mind as well. What I mean is, I’ve done Yoga, I’ve done Salsa and multiple different things and it all just challenges my brain. It’s all based on body movement and keeping your mind open to learning new things.
Ido had no major influence on my MMA, but what I did take from him was ‘body-proofing’! He’s very flexible yet strong in specific places and that’s just the way he trains his body. So, a lot of the stretches he does I’ve kind of kept on board. We spent a week together and in one week you’re not going to get massive differences in your style and that’s with anybody, no matter how good an instructor they are. But I’ve taken a lot of notes from him and worked them through, more to do with the body-proofing than anything else.
That’s interesting. For what reason do you showboat in the cage: do you ever consider this as disrespectful to other professionals or is it just a fun, entertainment element which you’ve brought over from WWE wrestling of which you’re a big fan?
I just see it as entertainment. People usually write things off as disrespectful which they don’t understand, that’s the first thing they do. Not paying attention to anything out of the ordinary. Tito Ortiz burying a body after he knocked somebody out, or someone doing a backflip or throwing their gumshield…I could go on for days about things that people have done that could be classed as disrespectful but because that is the norm they kind of overlook that. The second I come in and do something which, again, they don’t quite understand (they also don’t get why it’s so successful as well) then it’s written off as disrespectful.
For me, I don’t mind people questioning what it is, it just means they are talking about it! It just adds to the growth of my career. But I’m a very respectful person, I come from Lau Gar Kung Fu where you have to bow to walk in, bow to leave, bow to do everything and you have to show that respect to be given respect and that’s how I was raised. But, with the entertainment side of it, that’s just me and my personality coming out in my fighting.
Good to know. OK, so, what do you think UK MMA needs to do to get more representation at the highest levels of the sport?
I think we’re a very reserved people so we don’t like to do certain things. I feel we’re less competitive across multiple sports, I’m not even just talking about MMA; we’re a lot less competitive in most other sports and I feel that last bit of confidence and competitiveness is the difference between the champions and the participants. So I feel the UK guys need to express themselves a bit more and be a bit more confident and forward with, not only their personalities, but how they fight.
Certainly, something to think about. A couple of us at Kung Fu Kingdom were present cageside for your fight against ‘Cyborg’ at Bellator 158 in London: it was a devastating finish, with the impact of your knee denting Cyborg’s skull! What went through your mind at the moment you realised you did that much damage?
He was turned face-down so I didn’t see anything -he’d already left the cage when I actually looked around for anybody.At the time, I was celebrating the win with my friends and family, I was happy it was over and that I landed the shot that I’d been training to land.
I only knew the next day when I saw the pictures afterwards, when I found out about it, I was massively worried about him, his recovery and just making sure he was okay. The first article I read scared me a lot actually but after I found out he was okay, he’d posted pictures smiling, fist up, it was a bit more settling.
That particularly skilful win has got a lot of people talking about you, what changes have you noticed in your career overall after that event?
I just find myself a lot busier! (laughs). Doing similar kinds of things (like this interview!) talking to more and more people, being a hell of a lot busier. So many people are contacting me which is good, I feel like it’s helping push me out there. That’s something I want to do, I want to be more visible to the world so the next time I fight, hopefully I’ll have a lot more eyes on me and I can again, keep demonstrating my skill.
Do you think the recent addition of Rory MacDonald to Bellator is a statement for the company and would you be interested in welcoming him to the Bellator cage?
100%. For me, the journey that I’ve been on so far is more about me developing as an MMA fighter. Now, it’s about me being an MMA fighter and destroying anybody that is anybody so yeah, 100%. I think it’s good for the company having someone of his calibre, for one. For someone to leavewhat everyone considers the main show to be on, in order to come to this show -it looks good for everybody, but now the Bellator fighters need to show that MMA is MMA. No show possesses the best fighter, it’s just an MMA fight.
Which active fighters in your weight category, from any organisation, would you be most interested in fighting against?
It’s weird, even from kickboxing days I’ve never been a person to chase or hunt down anybody. I’ve always found people usually end up wanting to fight me more than I want to fight them. I find it to be the case now, I’ve got a lot of hype and excitement around me and people are almost ignoring the person with the title, just to see if they can beat me! So I find I’ve got that draw anyway, regardless. If I had the belt or not I’ve got that kind of draw so for me, it’s anybody who wants it, let them come and get it.
Right! Which martial artist, dead or alive, would you be most interested in fighting? (This can be a historical martial artist from any field).
Bruce Lee. And the reason I say that is because I want to know. I think he timed everything really well, coming out, I think he’s an amazing martial artist as you can see but I kind of want to know how fast he really was. Was he really that fast or was that a bit more…hearsay and talk? You know, people get over-excited about him, being the first person out there. He’s the kind of person from who I want to feel that speed, that power that a lot of people talk about. People hear stories which can get over exaggerated, I’m not saying it is but I would love to fight and feel it for myself.
Your next Bellator #165 fight is coming up shortly against Fernando Gonzalez on November 19th in San Jose, California. You’ve been scheduled to fight Gonzalez before, are you looking forward to finally meeting him in the cage?
He’s the kind of person who’s been a bit of a fly around my face for a bit too long so, I need to squash him. He’s been talking a little bit as well, so I genuinely want to punch him in the face.
What kind of finish can we expect from the fight?
A spectacular one, as always and a celebration to go with that. I’m about entertaining. I’m about winning fights first and foremost but I feel my style is an entertaining style. So anytime I go out there, you know, I could finish him with a jab and it would be spectacular because of the way perhaps that I’ve drawn him into it or the way I’ve landed it. I’m just not the conventional fighter at all so I feel anything that I do, is going to be a ‘talked about’ ending.
How far do you think you will take the dancing, the showboating, the entertainment aspects of your game into your career, will we get to see you body-popping in title fights?
I’m creative so you’ll see it all! You might see me do a salsa move and then kick someone in the face, or something. I’m just very confident about body movement. Body movement in MMA doesn’t just mean, you know, your general basic stance, punch, kick, jab, cross; it’s everything combined.
Our bodies are capable of doing so much, we don’t explore that territory. I’m a person that will try it, you know what I mean? I will try it, I’ll make sure I try something, I’ll bring it to my coach and he’ll say: That’s a bit unsafe, try it this way. He will never shut it down, he’ll say: maybe try it a different way or, try it from here or, do this kick or punch first and then try it, just make sure you’re a bit safe first then we’ll go from there.
You know, 90% of the time it’s stuff that you know and that’s been drilled and the last 10% is just that added creativity of mine, just adding my personality into it. I think that’s what makes it so entertaining.
With superb results so far! OK, what one move would you absolutely love to unleash and surprise your opponent with?
The 720 (720 degree spinning kick)! I’ve landed it in kickboxing and I still say I’m going to land it in MMA. Whether or not it finishes them? To be fair, I think every person I’ve landed it on in either training, or in kickboxing usually signalled the end of the fight, just because of the kind of momentum that you generate. That’s definitely something I want to hit in the cage and if I hit that, the whole world is going to be talking about it.
Looking forward to that. On to movies now. Have you been involved in any movie work, is this something you would like to do?
I haven’t at the moment but I am going to be talking to a few people very soon, in terms of going into that. It’s something I definitely want to experience for myself and see if I enjoy it or not and see if it’s a move that I want to make. Maybe after I’m finished with MMA. You’ll definitely see me in a few things.
Who do you admire most in the martial arts movie world, can you give us a brief view on some you respect? You mentioned Bruce Lee, how about Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen?
I was raised so much on Jackie Chan, he’s one of my all-time favourites, I’d love to meet him as well. He and Sammo Hung are among the people that I can appreciate in martial arts’ movies, not just their fighting choreography but also getting hit and falling over and then using something fallen over as a tool!
I like Jackie’s creativity and the way he thinks to choreograph the fights – it seems way more realistic than just one guy killing 20 people with his little finger, if you know what I mean? So I’ve always enjoyed that, he’s a bit of a funny character as well, I’ve always admired his films more out of anybody, I would say.
Agree! So what are MVP’s Top 5 Kung Fu movies, let’s do this!
There’s actually a very old school Chinese movie that I used to love called “The Five Deadly Venoms”. This is another place where the ‘Venom’ name thing ended up sticking as well. Then there’s “Drunken Master”, [Jackie Chan], “Twin Warriors” [Jet Li] and “Kickboxer” [Van Damme] was just a classic, you know what I mean? I could watch that and his other one “Bloodsport”, even now, those are some of my favourites from Van Damme. I’ve got multiple movies that I used to watch, but I’d say those are the ones in my head that I can relate to at the moment -that I could just watch at any time and enjoy.
Cool choices. OK, on to training, how often do you train and what do your workouts consist of?
Monday to Saturday. Sunday I usually rest but I’ll still go for a light jog, or a skip or maybe a swim. We don’t have a set schedule, which is actually the way I like it, our fitness comes at random times and at times your body feels crap but the coach says wait, you’ve got to do it! (sigh!)
I feel like that’s the way a fight is, you don’t know where a fight may end up. You train to be in control as much as you can, but the fight can end up anywhere and your body needs to be able to respond to that at that time.
For training we do a lot of cage defence, cage attack, Jiu-Jitsu, anti-Jiu-Jitsu where we’re just blocking moves or Jiu-Jitsu where we’re going for submissions, wrestling, anti-wrestling, a lot of shootboxing, sparring, explosive weight training, endurance training, a hell of a lot of fitness, literally everything man! Everything that’s necessary and then a lot of technical drilling, I think that’s the most important, just drilling moves over and over again until they become a natural response and I think people don’t do that enough. That’s just with your partner, working on set piece drills.
Hardcore! What special training techniques really work for you?
Ladder drills, it keeps my footwork on point. Every time I’ve done ladder drills, the second I spar with anybody afterwards I feel like my speed has gone up tenfold because my feet are working so explosively at the time. So yeah, ladder drills for me specifically and it’s more to do with my style obviously, that it’s helped me the most and I really enjoy doing it.
What’s the most daring stunt you’ve ever done?
Well I landed a bicycle kick and kicked someone in the face. I’ve also tried to land a, what we call, ‘kick the moon’ so you go backwards over yourself and kick and try to land it. Basically a backflip and kick the guy in the head and I completely missed! Haha, that one didn’t work out too good, but my brother CJ managed to land it in one of his fights. I’ve got a few more that I’m gonna land…
Cool! What’s the most serious injury you’ve ever sustained and how did you work around it?
A broken jaw took me out for the longest I’d ever been out. That was due to a kick, but more to do with me being stubborn in the moment. But, yeah got a kick, dislodged my jaw and cracked it as well and carried on fighting for 9 bouts afterwards like an idiot. It just took the longest time to get back, it was hard to do anything. That was when I was just doing kickboxing. In MMA I’ve never actually had a severe injury, I had the cut over my eye, I’ve tweaked loads of ligaments which is all normal, not massive injuries so we just train around them. Sometimes the timing of it could be bad because you’re right before a fight or something but in general in the MMA world I’ve actually been okay!
How do you unwind from a particularly tough day of training, and, what’s a good stress buster you can recommend to others?
For me anything to do with stress; relaxing yourself, I always go back to music. I feel music can really control our moods, very easily. It can excite us, it can calm us down so it’s always something that I go back to. Also, just general stretching, I feel it’s the most boring aspect of our training and I think a lot of us don’t pay as much attention to that but that is what helps prevent you from getting the injuries that you get -you’re not as tight, you’re not as tired. Just stretching out and having a good stretch after your training sessions -really, really stretching out.
Let’s spend a moment to talk about equipment. What piece of gym, exercise or training gear do you really enjoy using and recommend to others?
Well here’s one I don’t enjoy using but I just know it’s really good for you -the Versaclimber.
I’ve got a complete love/hate relationship with this machine, in terms of MMA and how you use your body it’s all round good for your legs, your arms, everything and your fitness. We live on that machine and it does give you that feeling of an MMA fight so that’s definitely the one I love/hate. I enjoy it when I hit my targets but I don’t enjoy going on it!
Hope that relationship improves, good luck! OK, so on to nutrition, what kind of diet do you follow?
I work with a company called Fit Fuel and they usually provide all my meals. Even on a general day-to-day it will just be like, fish, chicken, sweet potato, steaks. I get multiple different foods but in good portions, salads, veg, everything and it tastes absolutely amazing. Closer to the fights, when I’m cutting, I cross over to just the white meats so it’s chicken, fish and turkey. From then the portions just get smaller and smaller. I try not to stress myself too much about food, I’m a person that enjoys food too much to try and cut too much out. I just try and reduce the portions and cutting weight has never been a problem for me. Enjoying food and cutting weight is the best way to do it I believe.
Which foods do you find, give you the highest energy and performance edge during training and combat?
I’ve never really paid attention specifically to how I respond to different foods, so it’s something I probably have to look into a bit more. I’ve never really looked into it that deep, to actually give you a legit answer.
Are there any supplements that you find have worked best for you over the years?
Yeah BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) after training, just to get the recovery in. MyProtein is my supplier and at the moment they are killing it in the UK -a lot of their products are amazing. I’ve never been that heavily into it but if they taste good as well as give you the performance that you need, it’s definitely better and MyProteinhave definitely covered that with their general protein, and their cookies and cream (I love that one)! They’ve got protein milk as well which quickly gets into your system. So, they’ve got multiple things that I’m using at the moment that I’m enjoying.
Sounds good. On to fun and leisure now, what’s one geeky thing that people don’t really know about you?
I’m pretty open in that sense, people might not know it but I love dancing and all that kind of stuff. I usually try and join different groups so now I’m enjoying the salsa group.
I’m a foodie and I like to go and experience different restaurants around London with my misses, who is also a foodie, which is good because it works for both of us! A lot of people tell me London can be boring and I’m like; you haven’t experienced it then! Because, there are so many different things you can find when you actually look for it and the best way to experience it is through food! (laughs) So that’s another thing that I like to do.
What are some of your other hobbies, outside of martial arts?
I’m a very sociable person, so usually it’s mixing with family, catching up with friends. One of the things that I used to do and haven’t done in a little while is having regular barbecues at my house with a lot of my old-school friends, we’d all catch up and I’d do that once or twice a year.
I’ve just been a bit too busy to do it lately but sure enough I will have another one soon. I just love catching up with people that have been across my life and seeing how they’re getting on -just keeping in contact with people. So, sociable things, we usually go out, it could be bowling, a barbecue or going to the park if it’s a nice day. I enjoy it most because I’m catching up with people, having a joke, a laugh and eating food!
What’s your favourite music?
I listen to garage, grime, revival, reggae, slowjamz, rock, everything! There are so many musicians out there. When I show somebody the mixes on my phone, they’re like; wow, why does it range so far? I have French…German music on my phone like, everything! So, I’m just a fan of music, full stop.
What are your favourite non-martial arts movies?
I like the action ones, you know, the classics. I would say “Predator”, with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I actually love thrillers and the first couple of Saw movies, when they came out, I really enjoyed those. I just got so many films that are up there, even down to the Disney and the Pixar films and all that kind of thing. “Finding Nemo”, for me, I was dying! [of laughter] when that first came out! I haven’t even seen the new one yet. It’s hard for me to decide because I’ve watched so many and enjoy so many, for different reasons.
What one thing in life do you: a) really like and b) really dislike?
- I’d say family. I do a lot with them. We work together, we run businesses together. Yeah, definitely family.
- That’s a difficult one. I’d say, just the way the world is, you know what I mean? People don’t want to help people, they want to help themselves and a lot of the time they do it, regardless of how it might affect others. I just feel people can be very selfish, it seems to be the world that we’re kind of in at the moment. So, just the way the world is and what’s been going on across the world in general. It just feels like there’s a lot of hate around, that’s just one of the things I hate hearing about, full stop.
What would you say is your proudest accomplishment so far?
I would say the first time that I won the World Championship. It was a turning point that did so much for me; being able to say ‘I am a World Champion’ was a proud moment.
What are you really keen to accomplish in the next 5 years?
I want to take over MMA in terms of the style. I want the style to be a well-recognised and dominant one within MMA. I want my face to be the head of that style. I want the Hands Down movement to be seen everywhere. We’re doing multiple things across the sport, I want Hands Down to be a big brand because it means so much to me, it represents the style where I come from, they’re my family to be fair. I just want that to be all over the place.
Ambitious! What special message would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom readers and your fast-growing fans and followers around the world right now?
I want to say thank you for all the people that are appreciating me. Especially with the style I have because people tend to put out negative thoughts first, before they take new things onboard and enjoy them. Every single person that’s out there supporting me and spreading a good word helps me in so many different ways. Go out, tell more people about me, support and follow me on all the social media. Help push me in that way. Again, I don’t feel I’ll let anybody down, every time I step in the cage I’m there to entertain so I will give it back to you guys. That’s massively important to me!
Sadly we’ve got to wrap, but before we do, where’s the best place for people to go and find out more about you and your upcoming fights etc?
I’d say my Facebook fan pageI post a lot on there and we’re looking to pump out as much information on social media as possible. Also, my website will have a lot more information, we’re just finishing that off so stay tuned! Have a look at any of my social networks and you’ll find out about me. (Also on Twitter).
Well, this has been totally riveting and so much fun! Thank you Michael for your kind participation in this exclusive interview. We hope it gives our readers and visitors a special glimpse into the world of MVP! We’re so looking forward to your upcoming fights and we’re sure, much more, keep in touch!
Yeah man definitely! Thanks for having me on Kung Fu Kingdom, it’s so much appreciated. Thanks to all the readers and all the people that will be following me.