The British MMA fighter promised to bring ‘something big’ to the Fernando Gonzales fight
In the Platinum Theater at London’s 2016 Comic Con, above the din of comic book fans and cosplayers, UK MMA fighter Michael ‘Venom’ Page spoke on all things fighting, family, Fernando Gonzales and Street Fighter, before a showing of mixed martial arts documentary The Hurt Business.
Helping ask the questions was poet, rapper, massive MMA fan and bearded man Scroobius Pip, who begun with grand praise for Page, calling him the ‘the most exciting British fighter in MMA’. With a mixture of self-confidence and modesty, 29-year-old Page, showing love for the Con (and his nickname) in a Venom t-shirt, discussed his fighting background and his unswerving need to improve. ‘It’s an easy start to have family in martial arts. My dad was my first instructor. My mum used to do it, brothers, sisters, cousins – just everyone. The second I could walk I was punching, kicking… my first competition at five.’
But more than a fighter or an athlete, Page referred to himself as a ‘student first and I love to learn new things… I feel in love with the amount of knowledge you have to have and the challenges’. For you wannabe fighters, the British kickboxer had some encouragement to give: ‘The knowledge nowadays is so easy to come by. It’s online’, while praising the openness of younger fighters: ‘The younger kids have an open mind… If I tell them to do a cartwheel kick, no hands, and hit the guy in the head they wouldn’t even think twice.’
The London-born welterweight also revealed some surprising sources of inspiration for his moves. ‘I’ll see stuff on Street Fighter and believe I can do it… I genuinely look at films, look at games, whatever, and think, “I can do that, man”.’ So remember, if you’re playing games or watching films, you can chalk that up as training. You (sort of) heard it from Michael Page.
Though you might squint to see the link between MMA and Comic Con, the relationship is closer than you think, as Scroobius explained: ‘MMA belongs at Comic Con. It is something you can get into and passionate about, as everyone is about different comics and films. That’s what it’s the right home for it. It’s not just big blokes in a bar all talking about fighting; it’s guys going, “Did you see that transition?”.’
The topic turned to November 19th, Page’s fight with Fernando Gonzales, and the air turned cooler. ‘This is the first person I genuinely want to punch in the face. I kind of want him to feel a bit of pain at first before I hit him with something big – and it is going to be something big. I can’t even explain what it is. It’s not a basic technique. It’s something that I probably saw in Street Fighter.
‘Tune in. Watch it. So far I’ve never [let you] down when I’ve said, “Tune in and watch me fight”. I’ve always put on a show.’
Heads turned to the screens as the guests alighted from the stage and The Hurt Business was played. The film aims to be a thick metal nail in the coffin of the belief that MMA is merely a magnet thugs with anger issues punching each other in a cage. Though the success of that goal is harder to judge, it succeeds in illuminating the emotion at the core of MMA, which up until recently has been covered by the brutality of the fights.
Blood, sweat, anger and trash talk adorns MMA promotion; The Hurt Business helps to peel back the façade, reminding the audience that fights take up a tiny portion of a fighter’s life; the rest of the time they’re training, maybe holding down another job, are members of families and training more.
But if you’re wholly uninterested in the world of mixed martial arts, don’t expect to be motivated to starting bench pressing. The film engages helps to engage the audience with fighters, but falls short of making MMA accessible the way, say, 2011’s Warrior did for MMA or 2015’s Meru did for mountain climbing.
Regardless, The Hurt Business validates Scroobius Pip’s words MMA is not ‘just big blokes in a bar all talking about fighting’. MMA, as much as any sport, is based on passion.
Michael ‘Venom’ Page will face off against Fernando Gonzales on 19 November. The Hurt Business is available online.