In a sport awash with supersonic personalities, Michael ‘Venom’ Page stands out as one of mixed martial arts’ greatest showmen.
Over the course of his nine-year career, Page has mastered the art of the highlight-reel knockout. His elusive style – honed from his early days as a kickboxer – coupled with his showboating antics makes the 34-year-old a perfect fit for the social media age, where jaw-dropping performances gain huge traction online.
With five wins on the trot, a shot at Bellator’s welterweight title is within the Brit’s grasp. Yet, sat at the back of a London bus ahead of his blockbuster rematch with Douglas Lima at SSE Arena, MMA’s ultimate performer only has revenge on his mind.
Bellator fighter Michael ‘Venom’ Page has emerged as one of MMA’s greatest showmen
The 34-year-old’s elusive fighting style, and charisma, has captured the hearts of fans
‘It’s simple for me; in my gym, in my career I have always held grudges,’ Page tells Sportsmail. ‘I take it very seriously, I just need to get him back and I am happy, it settles my mind.
‘If I am in the gym and someone catches me and submits me I have to get them back. That has always been my attitude. It’s going to feel great. I have this imaginary black book in my head and I literally have names, I see the names and I cross them off one by one.’
It is fair to say that Lima is one of those names in Page’s little black book. Back in 2019, the Brazilian, 33, became the first – and only – man to inflict defeat on the Brit after securing a second-round knockout in Illinois.
Page is on the cusp of a title shot, but has revenge on his mind ahead of Douglas Lima (L) fight
For the first time in his career, Page was on the receiving end of a highlight-reel knockout. The full-fight replay of Lima’s brutal second-round knockout of the Brit has been viewed over 10 million times on YouTube, the sort of publicity that goes against the plans of this promotional strategist.
‘I put a lot of work into training and also how I market myself,’ he explains. ‘I take time thinking about how I walk into fights, take time thinking about how I leave fights.
‘These things mean a lot to me because I want to do as much as I can for anybody that is going to watch it and pay for a ticket to come and be there, I want them to get the best thing, I want it to be a memorable moment for them.’
The Hackney man was knocked out by Lima in 2019 – his only career defeat to date
When it comes to the art of self promotion, Page has his finger on the pulse. A meticulous student, the Brit takes influence from a number of sources, including one of WWE’s most iconic stars.
‘My father used to dance in his fights so I took a lot from my dad. [I take inspiration from] the boxing world 100 per cent. The Rock [is an influence] mainly because of how he interacts with the crowd.
‘I think that is something a lot of athletes are not capable of doing. I strive to have a relationship with the crowd during the event, which is difficult, very difficult.
‘It is the one liners that he does, it’s the eyebrows, he’s got so many different types of amazing things that he’s done, I have definitely learnt from him.’
When it comes to self-promotion, Page is a meticulous strategist who plots every single move
Page (L) believes that small-talker Leon Edwards (R) will not get a UFC title shot in his career
In an ever-strengthening field of fighters, the need to stand out has never been more important. For the 34-year-old, simply winning is not enough to get people’s attention.
‘A lot of fighters just go in there and fight and think “if I beat a lot of people up everyone is going to recognise me”, [but] it doesn’t always work like that. There are guys that have lost multiple fights and they are way bigger as a brand than the person winning.
‘For me, one of the most frustrating things is seeing an amazing athlete fight and then get on the mic and you can’t hear a word they are saying, they are not clear, they are not speaking well.
‘It is frustrating for me because these are all times where you can draw more eyes and people will be like “wow, I’d love to be a part of this guy’s journey” but talking like that is not going to help.’
The Brit labelled WWE star The Rock as a source of inspiration and praised the American
Conversation soon turns to Birmingham’s Leon Edwards, who is almost inexplicably being denied a title shot in the UFC’s welterweight division, despite boasting a nine-fight winning run.
‘That is disappointing,’ Page adds. ‘He has killed some great fighters, but he will never get a title shot. His biggest moment in MMA was getting sucker punched by another MMA fighter [Jorge Masvidal]. That’s disgusting.
‘That does show he is not branding himself correctly, maybe it’s not in his personality but I think he just cares more about the fight, which I get and he is great at it but he needs to understand it is a partnership that needs to be at hand here and he needs to be a bit more aware of that.
‘It’s disappointing because I want him to do well and I know he’s a sick fighter, I have sparred him before, worked with him before but I don’t see him blowing up in the same way because if you are not drawing in those people then promoters are not going to care for you.’
Page’s mind is firmly fixed on the task at hand on Friday night, former welterweight king, Lima
The 34-year-old believes it is unlikely that the fight will progress beyond the first round
For now, though, Page’s mind is firmly fixed on the task at hand on Friday night. After 27 months away, the Londoner finally returns to the capital on a redemption mission against the former welterweight champion.
‘London is a beautiful place,’ he says. ‘It’s home, my people are here. I am glad the fight came this way. I feel like it needed to be. When I lost, a lot of people from here lost with me. It’s going to be great for them to get the chance to see me rectify that and be there for it because it will mean just as much to them.
‘I am way more experienced, I have kept busy, especially during the pandemic. He [Lima] hasn’t done as much and the stuff he has done he wasn’t successful with but I am five fights more experienced and a better version [of myself].
‘He has a five round pace, he is slow, very methodical. I think his urgency in fights like this is not good enough.’
Page adds that it is only a matter of time before he gets his hands on the welterweight title
‘I said it last time, one of us is going to go down in the second round but it was just the wrong person! So I will be more specific, he is going down. The only way I see it going the second round is if this man just tries to grab me and survive and prolong the fight and lucky to see the second round.’
Page’s ability to bamboozle his opponents with his antics is all part of the show. While his rematch with Lima ‘means way more’ to him, Page’s next trick will be luring the welterweight title to his clutches.
‘I am more excited about this fight than the title. Because this one means way more to me,’ Page insists. ‘If I keep doing what I’m doing and do it well, the title will come to me. I don’t need to stress about it, it’s already on its way to me.’
Watch Bellator 267: Lima vs. MVP 2 live on BBC iPlayer from 5:30pm BST on Friday, October 1