Mike Pyle chats with SB Nation about his huge upset win over John Hathaway at UFC 120, derailing the hype train, his thoughts on British fighters, making a giant statement, and where he goes from here.
You didn't think I could do it. It's all good.
I have to admit that even after hearing about his escapades of bad-assery -- making movies with Jean Claude Vann Damme and training with Bas Rutten -- I had a hard time pulling the trigger on picking him to win his fight with John Hathaway at UFC 120 last Saturday. I chickened out and I immediately regretted the decision. Every fighter I have done a feature on this year has gone on to win, so I should have known better. Never again. Blind allegiance henceforth.
While I'd like to think the MMA gods had a hand in my fate, I imagine Mike Pyle would balk at the notion. My psyche has been battle-hardened by years spent on the mean streets of suburban northern Virginia, so there's very little cringe-worthy content left for the world to throw at me. That said, what Mike Pyle did to John Hathaway for the better part of the second round in their fight made me about as uncomfortable as doing algebra on the chalkboard, Sr. Maureen Christopher's eyes burning holes right through the back of my polyester sweater. After winning a wrestling exchange in the second round, Hathaway quickly realized that he was ill equipped to hang with Pyle on the ground. Hathaway was in the wiley veteran's sights and soon found himself on the business end of a nasty S-mount/reverse triangle. Basically, Pyle was able to sit backwards on his opponents face, trapping one arm, and proceed to reign punches down at will. It probably looked like something you did to your little brother growing up.
You know when you get put in a position where you just feel like an idiot?
When you're being put in such a way that you can't do a thing and you're just getting your ass beat?
Still with you.
To me, it gets in my head more so than if I were to get caught in a guillotine or foot lock after making a small mistake. When you're twisted up and getting pounded? That's just the worst. It breaks people. I knew I had a long time to sit there and beat on him. If he were to slip out I would have gone for the submission, but I had him. There was no reason. I didn't want to let go. I really wanted to make a statement and beat on him. I wanted him to remember that fight.
I think anyone who says they weren't a bit surprised by what they saw Saturday night is completely full of it. Pyle on the other hand seemed convinced from the get go. I mistook his confidence for cockiness, but the man went in a did exactly what he told he was going to do.
I never believed any of the hype whatsoever. The whole time the kid was coming up I could see holes in his game. I could see his inexperience. I've got an eye for this sport when it comes to preparing gameplans and I've helped a lot of people in a lot of big fights. Now it's time to help myself out in these bigger fights. I just knew that this matchup would be the perfect scenario for me to just go in and dominate. I wasn't surprised at all. I knew about the kid in my heart and that was the only thing I was focused on.
He just couldn't get anything going. I shook him in the first round with a good right hand that seemed to get him off track. My style is just hard to deal with. It's not exactly unorthodox but it's something you just can't bring a sparring partner in for. I just tried not to get hit. I don't like to stand toe to toe and trade, coming out looking like a zombie afterwards. I don't like to bleed in my fights. I just wanted to stay elusive and unpredictable. Make myself hard to find in there. I wanted to make sure he never took me down, which he didn't. I took myself down once. He reversed me after I tried a lateral throw. I put my own self on my ass.
I just knew I was the better wrestler. I've been doing it a lot longer. I knew bringing my experience to the game was going to overwhelm him. A lot of people haven't been able to see my wrestling because it hasn't ever really been a part of my gameplan in my other fights. For this fight my wrestling was a big part of the plan. I train with some of the best in the game, guys like Gray Maynard. Getting that takedown off the third attempt after the other two is where it really counts.
I had to know how Hathaway came out that third and final round after spending about three minutes getting de-humanized. Did he slump off the stool sulking like a whipped puppy?
To his credit he seemed like he came out the same every round. He wanted to get after me and go for the finish, especially down two rounds. Experience really comes through at times like that. You've got a guy down two rounds, just got his ass whooped solid, and he going to be a little upset. You have to be ready for that.
I know the Brits didn't exactly have their best showing at UFC 120, but the alarms sounding at the perceived weak state of MMA in the UK has been a bit ridiculous if you ask me. UFC 120 certainly could have gone better for guys like Hardy and Hathaway, but I don't necessarily think the sky is falling. Pyle seemed to agree.
It was just a bad night for them. I think we just had a statement to make, Condit and I, just to shut them up. The British fighters are doing the exact same shit we are. It's not like they don't have jiu jitsu mats to work on. They've got all the tools, they just have to put it together better. I don't care if they're British or whatever else, I plan on making the next guy look the same way. I just want to dominate.
So there was no 'rah rah Team USA' stuff going on backstage?
No. I don't care. It doesn't matter where we are. You just have to focus on the one guy in front of you. You can worry about all that other shit later. You can't focus on thoughts like 'oh God, everyone is going to hate me.' It's too much to worry about. I just needed to destroy a Brit and get out of there. ALIVE.
Where Pyle goes from here is anyone's guess. I should be interesting to see what the UFC has in store for him coming into the new year. He may not have a set date or an opponent, but Pyle is already back in the gym training. I'm carrying on a conversation with him as he sits to the side in the gym, someone furiously working combinations on tai pads nearby. 'No rest for the wicked,' he tells me.
Right now, it's whatever the UFC wants to do. I'm in no position to call out anyone. I only have two wins in a row. I'm not the kind of guy that's going to say 'I just beat Hathaway, give me St. Pierre!' There are other guys who have been in there and earned their spot. It's going to be their time coming up, it's not mine yet. It will be.
Opponent wise? It doesn't matter. I don't care. Ultimately it's going to be up to them anyway. If they give me a bigger, high profile fight, that's fine. If not? That's fine, too. I'm working my way up and beggars can't be choosers.
Like I said it's whoever but I think Condit is a little bit higher up the totem pole and is looking like he deserves a shot at that title. But if the UFC wanted it? Of course. It would be foolish to turn down a high profile fight like that.
After talking to Pyle for a while I could just get tell how much this win meant to him. He seemed like he had a huge weight off his chest, as if he could finally tell the world a secret he had been forced to bury deep down inside.
This win means more to me moreso because of all the hype that was behind the kid and the way I handled him. I just absolutely handled the kid. He didn't have a chance. Anything he was doing well that night, I was doing better. I out wrestled the supposedly superior wrestler. I just outclassed him. I outworked him. Making that kind of statement makes everything that much more rewarding. No one had any faith in me. No one thought I could do it. I was the big underdog and sent in there to be a stepping stone for John Hathaway. I smashed his 14-0 unbeaten record and I smashed him. I couldn't be happier. It just goes to show I've overcome my previous two losses in the UFC and have gotten over the big show jitters. I'll be looking forward to taking the bigger fights.