by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo Courtesy of IFL)
Anytime a new organization comes around wanting to survive in what is becoming a very cut-throat MMA industry, they need one essential ingredient to survive: Consistent and entertaining fighters. Welterweight Mike Pyle is one of those fighters.
For much of the past year, Pyle has carved a serious name for himself in the string of fallen opponents behind him. At the first ever IFL show this weekend, Pyle will look to continue his ascension as he represents Bas Rutten’s team, the Anacondas, against Pat Miletich’s Silverbacks squad.
Shortly before leaving for Atlantic City, MMAWeekly caught up with Mike to discuss this weekend’s fight, the IFL, and what he sees in the future of his blossoming career.
MMAWeekly: First off, Mike, how did you get involved with the IFL?
Mike Pyle: Randy Couture. He’s a training partner of mine and I guess he was approached with the idea, but he’s a UFC guy, so he stuck with the UFC and passed the opportunity down to me to be involved with the IFL on Bas’ team.
MMAWeekly: What do you think about the team-based format that the IFL is using?
Mike Pyle: It’s definitely something different. It’s something to try to adapt to. Nevertheless, it’s still going to be a one-on-one battle with the guy in the ring. I don’t know, we’re just going to have to try this show out and see how it goes. It’s kind of hard to say.
MMAWeekly: You’re on Bas Rutten’s team. Have you had a chance to work with him at all prior to heading to Atlantic City?
Mike Pyle: No, I have not. I’ve been out there a few times with him, but I never got the opportunity to train with him. Everybody’s got to get to know each other, but we live in different places so we’ll have to adapt.
MMAWeekly: You had a chance to get together with the whole team not too long ago for some IFL photo sessions. What do you think of your team, the Anacondas?
Mike Pyle: Our team is a strong team. I’m a big 170, and we have a pretty good-sized 155er. We’ve got Jay Hieron, who is a back-up at 170, who is also one of my training partners, and [Alex] Schoenauer as well. We have a pretty good team.
MMAWeekly: Do you know anything about your scheduled opponent, Rory Markham?
Mike Pyle: I don’t know much about him. I think he’s 5-1, but I’m not impressed. I think it’s going to be a tough fight for him.
MMAWeekly: How do you think the Anacondas match up with the Silverbacks?
Mike Pyle: Well, Pat’s team is tough and anything can happen. Some of the teammates that Pat has, I don’t know anything about. There are a lot of newcomers coming on. I fought [Gustavo] Machado [a welterweight on Renzo Gracie’s Pitbulls team] before and knocked him out, and I have no problem knocking him out again. Brad Blackburn [of Maurice Smith’s Tiger Sharks team] doesn’t have experience for me. Neither does this Rory Markham guy, but as for their team as a whole, I don’t know a lot of those guys to really say how we match up. Travis Wiuff will be a tough match-up for Schoenauer, but Alex can do it. We’re training hard, and it’s going to be a fight. Travis is not going to push Alex around.
MMAWeekly: The IFL has some slightly different rules… do you have to alter your gameplan at all for them?
Mike Pyle: No, it really doesn’t change a gameplan. The only thing is, there are no elbows on the ground. Pretty much the rest of the rules stand. It’s almost like Pride rules without the head-stomping. It really doesn’t change anything for me. I’ve fought under UFC-style rules, and rules like what the IFL is using. It doesn’t change anything. The four-minute rounds will make the fight happen and make him come towards me harder. Maybe then I can catch him in something, or with a punch or submission. I like that kind of rhythm of a fight. I like it when a guy tries to out-hustle me and I’ll give him an illusion that I’m moving backwards and maybe catch him with a punch or a kick. It’s just one minute shorter. I’m not sure how other guys are approaching it, if they’re going to try to turn it up and end it, but I’m ready. I’m still training like it’s five minutes anyway, so cardio-wise I’m fine.
MMAWeekly: As you’ve mentioned, both Jay Hieron and Alex Schoenauer are part of the Anacondas, and are also your training partners. It seems like that group of guys at the Xyience Training Center are really becoming a cohesive team and not just a bunch of individual fighters.
Mike Pyle: The group of guys I work with, I feel is the best that I can work with. Jay’s a hell of an athlete and has a lot to teach me as far as wrestling. He’s a great supporter in the gym as far as pushing cardio. Forrest [Griffin] is good with that, too. He’s tough and doesn’t give up. Everybody has a lot of characteristics… everyone can look up to and support each other. Schoenauer is a good guy. He helps with anything in the group. The coaching is good, and I feel we’re the strongest camp Vegas has to offer. I’ve got a good leader in Randy as far as teaching techniques and how to exercise right and prepare right. It’s a great group of guys, and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
MMAWeekly: Now that he is retired, I’ve noticed that he hasn’t gotten black eyes from you like I’ve seen in the past.
Mike Pyle: Well, Randy’s at 230 pounds right now. He’s a big dude, so it’s hard to get in there and muscle him around a little bit [laughs]. He’s got other things going on as well. He’s got things in LA, traveling back and forth. He’s not in the gym as much as he was when he was active, but he’s got a lot on his plate and is trying to situate all of that. He still comes down and tries to put pot-knots on us young guys. It’s always great to have him around. He’s a hell of an inspiration and a hell of a great guy, but don’t think I won’t try to punch him in the face any damn chance I get [laughs].
MMAWeekly: What do you see for yourself the rest of this year after these first couple of IFL shows?
Mike Pyle: I don’t know. We’ll see how the public perceives us with these pilots and see what kind of popularity we get. I want to make sure that it’s full-proof as far as sponsorships because we can’t have our own sponsors. They [the IFL] are going to provide them for us. They’ve got it so they’ll give a percentage out to us fighters. I like my own sponsors that I have because they treat me well, and if they [the IFL] can’t match that, that’ll be a problem. [There is also] the caliber of guys I hope will step up, because the caliber of guys I’ve been fighting is over the level of the guys they’ve got fighting. I want to fight the best there is, and hopefully they’ll have that to offer. There are a lot more things to think about than what I’m used to. I’m on-board for these two fights, and I want to see how their theories go. If they stick with what they say about treating fighters as professionals, if that’s the case, then I’m in it for the long run. I’ve got to still look out for what’s best for me. I’m not 22 years old anymore… I want to make good money and also be known as one of the best welterweight fighters. I don’t want to fight mediocre guys, I want to fight the best, so we’ll see what these two shows have to offer. If they go forward, I’ll probably go forward with them, but we’ll have to see.
MMAWeekly: Understandable, Mike. Thanks for your time, as always. Is there anything that you’d like to say as we head out?
Mike Pyle: Everyone that supports me and loves me enough to watch me, that’s all I need. I’m already secure with however my performance is, so all I need to do is go in and get it done. After this fight, I’m going to take some time off, go to Cabo, and do a little deep sea fishing, then get back in the gym and start getting ready for June 3rd.