"I’m like that old school fighter, that
Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, that Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey. Those guys
didn’t care who you put in front of them, they were ready to fight." - Mike Easton
If you’re ever wondering if Mike Easton is at a fight, don’t bother looking for the bantamweight contender. Just open your ears and you’ll probably hear him. From Octagonside to the rafters, “The Hulk” has an uncanny way of making himself heard. Case in point, his coaching of teammate James Vick – from the stands no less – during The Ultimate Fighter alum’s win over Ramsey Nijem in August.
Easton just laughs.
“When you’re training and you’re with your teammates, you guys are a family now,” he explains. “But first and foremost, I’m a fan of the UFC. Even though I fight in the UFC, I’m still a fan. When I watch fights I still get excited, I get goosebumps, and then I get even more excited when my teammates fight. I’m sure other guys feel the same way about me, and it’s just a good time. That’s the main thing. I really enjoy watching the UFC.”
That’s not just talk either, as one night of hearing Easton cheer on his peers solidifies that statement. But then again, the 29-year-old Maryland product has never come off as the shy, retiring type, and ever since he walked into Lloyd Irvin’s gym at the age of 17, he’s made it loud and clear that his only goal was to make it to the Octagon. A decade later, he arrived with a 2011 win over Byron Bloodworth (in Washington, D.C.) no less, and he was off and running. And not surprisingly, the joy of being a UFC fighter hasn’t worn off.
“I love the UFC even more because I get to see the behind the scenes, what all the other fighters go through, and we’re all cutting weight together,” he said. “Even the guy you’re fighting, you’ll see him inside the sauna with you, and although it’s our job, we were all fans of the UFC first, so it makes me appreciate it even more.”
One conversation with Easton will let you know that he doesn’t just appreciate life in the UFC, but life itself, and when you ask him if he’s going to settle down a bit as his 30th birthday closes in on January 25, well, you know the answer to that one.
“I still feel like I’m 21,” he said. “Yes I have an old soul, but I still act like a big ol’ kid. I play video games with my son and we have a good time. I don’t think I’ll ever change. I’m the oldest child, but the most playful one, and I think that’s the reason why I’m so energetic. I was definitely the Toys ‘R Us kid – I don’t want to grow up. (Laughs) That’s me. 30 is the new 20.”
Maybe, but in this sport, soon to be 30-year-olds still have to watch out for the injuries that come along with the gig. Easton knows that all too well, having been sidelined for much of 2013. But the fight he did have – in April against Brad Pickett – was a memorable one, even if he did end up on the short side of a split decision.
“Little injuries and stuff happen, and you don’t want to go in there half-assed, but when I fought, I fought Brad Pickett, which was a Fight of the Night, and so every time I come into a fight I go in to fight, regardless of if I fight once a year or three times a year; it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Every time that I’m in the cage, I’m gonna make sure that I put on a show, and that’s what helps sell tickets. I want to become a household name in the UFC and I’m starting to. People know who I am and they’re starting to realize that Mike Easton is the guy that comes in there to bang and to fight. And although I come in there to bang and fight, I’m a very good fighter and I’m smart at what I do. I just want to be able to sell tickets and be one of those guys that brings the fans out.”
There should be plenty of those fans in attendance at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia that will be showing up to see Easton battle it out with TJ Dillashaw in a key bantamweight bout, and “The Hulk” has every intention of giving them something to talk about.
“I want to win, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, and I feel as though I can finish TJ Dillashaw,” he said. “Although he’s a great fighter and a great competitor and trains with a good camp, I just feel as though I’m ready to finish this guy. I’m not leaving it to the judges.”
And with that statement, Mike Easton probably made some of his fistic heroes very proud.
“I just come to fight,” he said. “I’m like that old school fighter, that Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, that Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey. Those guys didn’t care who you put in front of them, they were ready to fight. Win, lose, or draw, you put me in that cage, let’s fight, let’s rumble. I’m not backing down from anybody.”