SB Nation Exclusive: Mike Pyle Gives Us A Peek Inside The Life And Times Of One Of MMA's Little Known Greats


Mike Pyle chats with SB Nation about his upcoming bout with John Hathaway, acting in films with Jean-Claude Van Damme, making his Pro debut against Rampage Jackson, being the only man to choke out Jon Fitch, and what it's really like backstage at a fight in Japan. There may even be a Bas Rutten story somewhere in there.

Mike Pyle's name won't ring many bells in the minds of casual MMA fans, but among the hardcore minority, he is known as the consummate journeyman, genius gameplanner, and one of the best training partners in MMA. A man whose first two fights were a loss to 'Rampage' Jackson and a submission win over Jon Fitch, Mike 'Quicksand' Pyle has been in the fight game far longer than many of his colleagues. In a career that has taken him around the world more than once in the last ten years, Pyle seems to have finally found a home in the UFC. He takes on 22 year-old British phenom John Hathaway this Saturday at UFC 120 in London, and Mike was kind enough to tell me a bit about his life.

Like I said, Hathaway is a phenom. At only 22, the young undefeated fighter is a solid 14-0, 4-0 in the UFC. While his most recent win over Diego Sanchez at UFC 114 opened the collective MMA world's eyes, it was his win over Rick Story at UFC 99 that impressed me the most. I asked Pyle how he felt about fighting an undefeated fighter.

I just want to go in there and mix it up with him. I want to take the fight where ever I feel it needs to go. I'm going to give him hell and we'll see how it goes. I feel like we have some of the best guys in the business right here at Xtreme Couture. You can't ask for a better training atmosphere or training partners. It's great for me to be able to go in there and compete with the top level guys. That's why I'm looking forward to this matchup with Hathaway. We're a great matchup. It's going to be a great fight.

Pyle -- along with fellow Xtreme Couture teammate Jay Hieron -- is perhaps best known amongst other fighters as one of the top training partners in MMA. With such a natural talent for training and developing other fighters, I wanted to know how Mike felt about his perceived roll in MMA as someone who is a go-to training ally. Pyle quickly dismisses any future plans of becoming the next Greg Jackson.

I enjoy too much of my spare time, doing different things, going different places. If I commit myself to coaching there is always going to be someone fighting, someone who needs to be trained. I've chosen my profession because of the liberty of life it affords me. Of course I need to train hard, but there's plenty of time to play. That's what I like. If I were coaching, things like that would get in the way. Maybe once I retire from fighting I'll reconsider, but probably not. I'm trying to get more into acting so I'd rather go down that road.

Acting? Is Xtreme Couture becoming a hotbed of budding action stars? I thought it had started with Randy and stopped at Gina Carano, but maybe I was wrong.

I work with Randy's agent and have already done one film. Universal Soldier: Regeneration with Jean-Claude Van Damme. I had a starring role in that one so I've already gotten my feet wet as far as acting goes. I look forward to doing more if it.

At the very mention of JCVD my pulse quickened, my mind immediately being filled with images from such classics as Bloodsport, Kickboxer, and The Quest. I flat out asked Mike just how crazy Jean-Claude Van Damme was, but being the gentleman he is he was quick to downplay my notions of his eccentricity.

He was actually pretty laid back, pretty docile for the most part. The craziest part of the whole thing was that a country boy from the trailer park got a big role in the movie.

Pyle has fought almost everywhere, including places like Denmark, Russia, Lithuania, and Biloxi, Mississippi. Still, I wondered if traveling to far off places still hampered any part of his competitive edge.

I'm not worried about any of that. I've done everything I can do to train for this fight. I'm in excellent shape. There are no excuses about traveling. I'm ready to fight, ready to compete. I want to put on a good show. Travel is not a problem for me. I've done it in the past. It's one of those things you just can't worry about. It's all about being in shape and making that weight before you fight.

I had to know. What is it like backstage fighting for a promotion in Japan? I watch The Smashing Machine every night before I go to sleep, so I naturally assumed it was the wild west of guys sitting around mainlining pain killers and Charles 'Krazy Horse' Bennett getting into fights with Chute Boxe black belts. This would not be the last time my preconceived notions of delusional awesomeness would be heartbreakingly disproved.

For the most part it's all the same. I haven't fought anywhere that runs as smoothly as the UFC. They run a tight ship in the back. But really, it's pretty much the same everywhere. In Japan they gave you a little cot with some blankets and pillows and brought in some food, things like that. It was something I had never really experienced. It was pretty chill for me. I only fought there once so I can't speak too much on it. Krazy Horse probably brought all that shit on himself.

That he did.

They don't call him 'Quicksand' for nothing. Once you get sucked down into some grappling with Pyle, you better get comfortable because sooner or later, you're going to get up in it. The ones that seem to get away are guys I would label as 'the athletic type.' Guys like Rampage Jackson, Jake Shields, and Brock Larson. Does that type of fighter just have Pyle's number?

I've felt like every fighter I've fought was pretty damn athletic so I'm just going to approach this fight like I do every other fight. Gameplan is a gameplan, but once you start getting hit in the mouth and things aren't going your way you have to be able to adapt and do what you have to do to win. That's what make a fighter, a fighter. I'll have some idea of what I want to do, but you always have to be ready for changes.

Speaking of guys like Rampage, how's that for your first fight? Fond memories? Next up was Jon Fitch, a fighter currently ranked the No. 2 welterweight in the world. Pyle not only beat Fitch, he submitted him. Something no other man has ever been able to do.

The fights I had with those guys were a long time ago. I was able to finish Fitch, but it would be a totally different story today. We were both just kind of getting started in our careers and I was just the better man that night. Rampage? Everyone was just jumping on that bandwagon. 'I want to be a fighter, too.' Everyone just wanting to try it out. It was fun. 'Hey, you wanna fight this guy?' Sure. Weight classes weren't part of the deal. You just went in and fought. Rampage was like 205 pounds and I was about 175. Good times though. Everything was a learning experience. Those guys have got into some great fights and God bless them, they've done well and made a name for themselves.

After fighting such tough guys like that so early on his career, it's hard to see how Mike isn't right up there with the big name stars always in contention for titles. Why did it take almost a decade of blood, sweat, and tears before finding his place in MMA's premiere promotion, the UFC?

I got stuck in the working life. I was working as a machinist which made it hard to train. I had to go out and get fights on my own and try to make money at it. It took me a few years to really get going. I moved to Europe to try to pursue it 100%. I knew a guy who wanted to bring me out and offer me a job teaching in Copenhagen. Most of those guys are all stand up so he wanted me to come over and help train Jui Jitsu and develop an MMA program. I sort of just said 'the hell with it. Screw it. I'll quit this job and go for it.' The guy promised he could get me fights out there so I agreed to move out there. I was tired of living life in a factory all day when my true passion was fighting. The rest is history.

I stayed out there for a few years before moving out to Las Vegas. I showed up in Vegas with nothing but a suitcase. I started training at John Lewis' school and that was around the time I won my championship belt in the WEC. I met Randy as he would come in periodically and he asked me to train with him whenever he was in town. He asked me to help him get ready to fight Chuck Liddell and to corner him. That was the beginning of what we have going on right now. Guys started trickling in shortly after that.

In addition to fighting all over the world, Pyle has also fought for almost every major MMA promotion that has ever existed. Fortunately for Mike, that included a stint fighting in the short lived 'International Fight League' as part of Bas Rutten's Los Angeles Anacondas. I had only one thing on my mind.

Crazy stories about Bas? Man, I wonder how many people have crazy stories about Bas.

I do.

In fact, it's the delightful kind of story checkered with pure, unadulterated violence. The best kind of Bas Rutten story. As a disclaimer, I must warn you that this story was told to me by someone who was a former training partner of Bas', and the individual has no reputation for hyperbole. That being said, I have no idea if the story is, in fact, true. For legal purposes the following account ALLEGEDLY took place some years back...

Bas was working as a bouncer in the The Netherlands. For some reason, a gentleman at his bar started arguing with a young women and became furious. The man ALLEGEDLY reached for a glass ashtray, smashed it, and attacked the woman with a piece of the broken glass, slashing her face. Bas sprang to action and ALLEGEDLY tackled the lunatic, choking him unconscious with a rear naked choke. While the man was still out cold, Bas ALLEGEDLY heel hooked both of the guy's legs. The regular old heel hook you ask? 'No No, Inverted! I gave him the good stuff,' said Bas.

'I guess he pissed him off,' said Pyle. (Damn skippy he did.)

We had a crazy time in Cabo doing some Marlin fishing. We had a great time out drinking and catching some fish. That's probably my coolest memory of Bas.

I was hoping for a story about Bas maybe using the sword of the marlin to stab and kill a pirate or something, but Mike had to crush that dream along with JCVD.

We would climb up the mast of this ship and jump off the top, but that's about it.

Bite-Sized Chunks-

Thoughts on Forrest Griffin fighting Rich Franklin. Where has Forrest been?

Yea, he's been off doing some other things. He's been doing really well for himself with the book so he's got to go around promoting it and things like that. I think his fight with Franklin should be great. It's a great fight for both of them. Franklin coming off that KO on Chuck and Forrest beating Tito.

Dunham's loss to Sherk looking a bit shaky?

It is what it is, you know? I don't know what else he could have done to win the fight. He won that fight hands down. Everyone knows it was BS. Can't do anything about it other than suck it up. Get in the gym and get back after it.

Maynard's fight with Florian helping Dunham prepare?

I just worked out with Evan this morning and we were talking about that. Gray just having fought Florian definitely helps. I'll pick his brain about the small stuff.

Thoughts on Maynard fighting Edgar for the lightweight title?

I think it's great. Gray's already beaten him once so he can beat him again. He knows how to beat him because he's already done it.

How would you train to fight Georges St. Pierre?

I think for the most part the person has got to be 100% in shape. I'm talking unbelievable shape. That is a huge part of being in there with him.

Any holes in GSP's game?

Hardly anything aside from little boxing habits. He's not so tight after throwing punches. Other than that you can't really find much on him.

Message to fans?

Thanks to Xtreme Couture and all the fans out there. Tune in on October 16th because it's going to be a great fight.

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