As some people are aware I'm a journalist by day, MMA fan boy by night. Although I'm not a sports or MMA journalist, I interviewed TUF 16 Canadian contestant Mike Hill for a feature story I'm writing on the sport in the Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada.
Mike Hill won his last fight on the show by controversial split decision over Matt Secor, a fighter who also gave him problems in the house. He talks about that in the interview below as well as how he got into MMA, his time in the house, and his future.
Record: 4-0 professional, 3-1 amateur
Fighting professionally since: Sept. 16, 2011
Fighting out of: Toshido Fighting Arts in Kelowna, B.C.
How did you first get into MMA?
I played some junior hockey and after I got as far as I could I started not really knowing what i wanted to do. And that led to more drinking, more partying, and just kind of working for the weekend. And I like to scrap. I got caught up where I had to pay the price for getting in trouble with the law. A police officer that really helped me out kind of told me MMA was blowing up. This was around 2005, so that's when the first Ultimate Fighter came out.
I came back down to live with my mother in Tsawwassen and I went to school in Surrey. I started to obtain some credentials in personal training and nutrition. At the same time I walked into Andrew Davis' gym. It was called TDS at the time, Total Defence System. That's where I started. Andrew (Davis) and Sami Gustafson and Andrew Raines.
So, right away from the very beginning you were doing striking and jujitsu and all that stuff, right?
Yeah right away I started MMA, all the disciplines of mixed martial arts.
How long did it take before you felt like you needed to take the next step and fight fierce competition?
I started going to tournaments with Andrew [Davis] and the team of TDS down in Vancouver and I actually got disqualified from one of the tournaments for hitting too hard. And that's kind of when someone, Chris Franco (FKP MMA Vancouver) actually, told me about the Ultimate Fighter trials in 2009. So, I jumped on the opportunity. At the time you needed three professional fights and I kind of just went down there and lied about my resume and they said you got the conditioning and the concentration, you just don't have the coaching.
They sent me to Kelowna, British Columbia, where now I train with Rory MacDonald and Team Toshido. They're probably the best-known fight team in Kelowna. There's other options, too, but from Seattle, I just got on the bus to Kelowna. I didn't even go home, man.
Same thing, it was tough, man. I walked in as a minnow into a pool full of sharks and I thought I was a fighter then but I wasn't even close. So my coach took 16 full months before he even gave me my first pro fight.
How did your first pro fight go. How did you feel about that?
[Hill defeated Mike Scarcello by unanimous decision, Sept. 16, 2011, at AMMA 8 in Edmonton, Alberta]
I was really nervous for my first pro fight just because it was for David Lea and Toshido and I think they had 84 wins and four losses. So, I mean, it's a pretty big deal fighting for Toshido. But once I got in that cage, once I heard my music come into my walkout anthem, I knew that's what I was meant to do. I knew I was finally fighting and I wasn't going to get in trouble.
When I was talking to Andrew [Davis] he was saying 99 per cent of people who get into martial arts just do it for fun. You are in the very small percentage of people who sort of thought maybe I can make a living from this. When did you sort of think that was a possibility?
Right off the hop, man. It's definitely not a fun living, that's for sure, and you don't make any money. I mean, I'm broke. It's a tough life, that's for sure. But you know when you're doing something that you love to do, it's not work. When you're working hard for something I really believe that hard work will pay off. I've met a lot of great people along the way through this sport and they've really helped change me as a person, as a human being, as a brother, as a son, as a friend to my friends, better boyfriend.
The sport just totally gave me a whole 180 on life and every day I'm learning. Every day's a struggle. And it's not easy, man, but you're totally right with that. This sport, when you look at MMA, people are like, what's MMA? You'll say, well, fighting. A lot of people back in the day will say, that's kind of barbaric and violent. But now everyone is doing it. Women are doing it, kids are doing it for self defense. The fitness people are doing it to lose weight. And all the professional athletes from the NHL to the NFL to NBA, they're incorporating MMA type training. Because you know we're the best conditioned athletes on the planet. And it's just a huge de-stresser and it's the fastest growing sport in the world. You can't say nothing bad about it.
You got your big break to go on the Ultimate Fighter and you probably can't talk about that but everybody kind of knows you won your last fight so that's great news. You can probably talk about the experience though?
I can talk about every episode. I just can't talk about what happens next.
So, how did you come away with that experience? What did you feel after it was over? Did you feel it was awesome or did you feel it was a relief it was over?
Well, right away the first thing I did was phone my girlfriend and just hearing her voice was the best thing. But once I hung up that phone there I wanted to get right back in that house and do it again. It's hard being in there. It's an emotional roller coaster and you really got to know how to protect your mind.
And I wish I knew that going into the house. That house, it's almost worse than-I've never been to prison but-you get no contact with the outside world. You get no TV, no radio, no nothing, and you don't talk to anyone and you know you're in there, you're starving and you're in there with 15 other guys that are fighting for one contract. You're all fighters so you're all hot tempered and you're all training hard. You're all banged up and you're trying not to show any weaknesses.
It's a tough tournament, man. It's the baddest tournament in the world, but I was very lucky to be a part of that. Sixteen top prospects in the world get to do that once a year and you know it just goes to show that hard work pays off and the hard work's not over. There's so much hard work that lies ahead.
My weight division is the hardest weight division in the UFC [welterweight] and you gotta win those fights to stay in the UFC. So my foot's in the door now and there's just a lot more hard times to come, man, but I'm looking forward to it and I'm having fun doing it.
I'm just curious. In TV, they obviously have to build a bit of tension, so they had you kind of arguing with some of the guys in the house. I think mostly Matt Secor, who you ended up fighting...
They don't do nothing, man. Reality TV is as real as it gets. I mean, I don't know what they do on Big Brother or Survivor. I've never been on that, you'd have to ask those guys but on our show there was no script, there's no nothing. We're fighters, you know what I mean?
Yeah, sorry, what I mean was, I was just curious whether maybe they showed the tension, but not the times where you were just chilling out and having a good time.
Yeah, well, you don't want to see that. That's boring. People want to see the drama in the house. That's what gets the viewer hooked to the TV. The one thing about that was, well, like that chicken incident where they were calling me the chicken thief. On the show it shows maybe a minute thirty of it and it kind of seems like he [Secor] called me a thief and the next day I'm spazzing out, but really he called me a chicken thief and it went on for about a week and a half before I started finding out that he was going around still talking about it, still making little jokes about it, still telling the producers and the cameras every time. And you know I just had to have my own back.
You know, representing Canada, with the country on my back like that, and my province, and my hometown, from Powell River to Tsawwassen to Kelowna. My friends and family don't need to be thinking that or hearing that so I had to make my point and prove that I was telling the truth. It kind of shows it very briefly but that's not really how it went down in the house.
Did you take any friendships away from the house?
Of course, for sure. You go in there all enemies, you come out all brothers. And you're going to share something very special for the rest of your life with all those guys. You know, I mean not that Matt Secor kid. I'm not going to call him and ask him anything, I'll tell you that much. But yeah, man, I made some good friends in there, some solid guys. I look forward to traveling the world one day and meeting these guys and seeing their styles and seeing how they train. I'm going to watch them in the UFC and I'll hopefully be on the same cards as them. You really do get to build some friendships in there and I was lucky to have more friendships than not friendships.
But you know, you think you even have a friend in there but the last week or the week before you're reading a blog and they're dissing you or putting you down or something. So I mean it's hard, but at the same time that's who I am. I let people in a little too easily, I'm pretty loyal to my friends and my family and that's just always the way I've grown up, man. In this sport anything can happen. It's all building the story. You do it for the business.
I'm learning as I go. I'm still so new to this sport, but I'm having a lot of fun.