“I’ve learned over many years and many bouts that jiu-jitsu alone
doesn’t cut it. So I’ve been training really hard on my
hands and my Muay Thai." - Mike Pyle
Mike “Quicksand” Pyle doesn’t talk like most 38-year-old professional MMA fighters. There’s never a mention of wear and tear on the body or if his timing is a little off, or how he doesn’t have the cardio he used to.
For Pyle, there’s never an excuse.
“My last fight against Matt Brown sucked,” he said. “Losing sucks, period. I appreciate my fans and my friends telling my ‘you got caught’ and all, but Matt didn’t accidentally knock me out. He threw a hard punch with the intention of hitting me, and he did. And that was that. There was no ‘luck’ to that at all. If you throw a punch with the intent to knock your opponent out, that’s not luck. That’s good fighting.”
The Las Vegas resident has fought 35 times in his storied career, having competed against everyone from Rampage Jackson, Jon Fitch, and Jake Shields, to Ricardo Almeida, Shonie Carter and Josh Neer, among others.
A quick glance at the opposition Pyle has faced should tell any fight fan that there’s not much the man hasn’t seen inside the cage.
Pyle faces TJ Waldburger this Saturday at UFC 170, and he’s looking to erase the memory of that 29 second knockout loss with a win over the 25-year-old prospect from Belton, Texas.
Waldburger is a BJJ brown belt and has finished 61% of his opponents by submission. But Mike Pyle is a bit of a legend in BJJ himself. He mostly taught himself jiu-jitsu with video tapes and a mat dummy he named Bob after attending a Royce Gracie seminar in Kentucky several years ago, after UFC 3. He became obsessed with learning to submit his opponents without using his fists, and he became proficient at tapping guys out in the gym.
“I’m expecting a lot of ground game from Waldburger,” Pyle said, "but everyone knows I’m no slouch on the mat either. Just ask Ricardo Almeida.”
Pyle defeated Almeida by unanimous decision, which was mostly a war of attrition with neither of the two jiu-jitsu aces getting the better of each other. As with many fighters who are elite at the same discipline, the end result is a stalemate, and there were many boos from the crowd during that match.
“I’ve learned over many years and many bouts that jiu-jitsu alone doesn’t cut it,” says Pyle. “So I’ve been training really hard on my hands and my Muay Thai. I’m fully prepared to go in there and treat Waldburger like a punching bag.”
Pyle says he’s not sure what a win over Waldburger will do for his prospects in the crowded welterweight division, but with longtime champion Georges St-Pierre vacating the belt, he knows that anything can happen in the weight class.
“Right now I’m ranked at 15, but a win over TJ will put me in the top ten I think,” he said. “One thing about this sport, it’s weird. Anything can happen. A number one contender can take a non-title fight because the champ is injured, and lose. Then suddenly he’s no longer number one. Or people get hurt and suddenly you’re asked to take a fight on short notice, and a win over someone ranked way higher accelerates your own contention status. It’s just a weird sport.”
And like I mentioned earlier, Pyle is not at all worried about facing much younger opponents. Waldburger for instance, is 13 years his junior.
“I don’t care if he’s been focusing on mixed martial arts since he was five years old,” says Pyle. “Younger, stronger, faster doesn’t mean anything when you get in the cage with someone like me. I’m old enough to know how to be economical with my energy. I know when I get caught in a sub not to panic and how to escape. I know how to gauge my distance, and I damn well know I’ve faced much tougher guys than TJ has. Am I underestimating or looking past him? No way. Anyone who signs on the line to fight me belongs in there with me. I’m just confident that I’m better everywhere the fight could possibly go.”
When Pyle last fought and suffered that 29 second knockout at the hands of the surging Matt Brown, there were many extenuating circumstances in his personal life. For one, he became a new father just as he began his training camp for that fight. I mention it in our interview.
“The man came out to do his job. He did his job. Don’t matter what was going on with me. That fight is in the past. I don’t look back. TJ Waldburger is who is on my mind, not Matt Brown.”
I love Mike Pyle. And so do millions of UFC fans around the world.