There is a romantic-comedy feel to Mike Perry’s impending return to the Octagon on Saturday night in Florida.
If you’re a fan of the genre, you know how frequently stories are based around a guy or girl returning home to find out that what they were looking for all along was right there, staring them in the face the whole time.
Seriously, that’s the plot to at least three Ryan Reynolds movies, a couple Jason Bateman flicks and at least a dozen other really quality rom-coms that have come out just in the last decade alone.
After spending his last few training camps at the Jackson-Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the 27-year-old welterweight shifted his camp back to Fusion X-Cel Performance in Orlando, Florida, where he prepared for his main card assignment against Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira alongside Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, who headlines the event opposite Jack Hermansson.
He also tied the knot with his long-time girlfriend Danielle, who remains “The Platinum Princess,” but can also officially be referred to as “Mrs. Perry” now.
“I’m loving being back home. That’s where I always wanted to be,” said Perry, who looks to rebound from a first-round submission loss to another “Cowboy,” Donald Cerrone, when he steps into the Octagon this weekend.
The decision to depart Orlando and train at the famed Albuquerque outpost was never meant to be a permanent change for Perry, who raced out of the gate with four stoppage wins in his first five UFC appearances, all in the span of 13 months. It was an opportunity to surround himself with elite coaches and training partners and experience something new.
What it ended up teaching him was that he had everything he needed at home in Orlando.
“One thing that going taught me is that I never needed to go,” said Perry, reflecting on his time away. “I had everything I had always needed right here at home. All the great training partners, all the skills, all the techniques that we needed to know — my original coaches and team had known it.
“I’m not saying I didn’t learn anything, but I guess I had to go to learn that I didn’t really need to go and it’s good to be back home. It’s good to be back home fighting in Florida, with a chance to redeem myself from the last time I fought in Florida.”
Redemption is another staple of the rom-com genre and it’s a theme for Perry’s fight with Oliveira this weekend as well.
Last February, the UFC made its third appearance in Orlando — and first since Perry joined the roster — with the hometown favorite stationed in the opening bout of the main card against Max Griffin. Entering off a loss and eager to show out for his city, Perry promised an electric affair, but when the cage door closed, he wasn’t able to deliver the type of performance he envisioned.
Instead of coming out, clobbering Griffin and blowing the roof off Amway Center, Perry got out-worked and out-wrestled, ultimately landing on the wrong side of a unanimous decision result.
“I’m ready to redeem myself,” said Perry, who carries a 12-4 record with 11 of his wins coming by way of stoppage into this weekend’s main card engagement. “I didn’t really feel the urge to really push myself with the last fight in Orlando. I was so calm in the back; there was no sense of urgency.
“My cardio was good, but all I focused on that camp was running sprints around the track. I didn’t warm up in the back, so I didn’t warm up until the second round of the fight and I was already busted up and then I started chasing the guy down.
“I put on a show for my people like I said I would,” continued Perry, “but it’s funny how you’ve got to be careful what you say out here, how you say it. You’ve got to be specific and detailed.
“I want to put on a show, but I want to get that KO victory for my people this time.”
Every good rom-com needs a good villain — or at least the worthy rival for the hero to go up against — and in the case of Perry’s return fight this weekend, he’s found that in Oliveira.
One of the most active fighters on the roster both in terms of the sheer number of fights he’s had since signing with the UFC (this will be number 15 in a little over four years) and his output inside the cage, the Brazilian “Cowboy” is an all-action crowd favorite who has engaged in memorable battles with the likes of Gunnar Nelson and Yancy Medeiros, while also producing highlight reel finishes against Ryan LaFlare, Carlos Condit and Carlo Pedersoli Jr. in recent years.
“I’m going to go out here and I’m going to fight, and I think that’s the best way with this opponent — to go out here and hit this guy,” Perry said of his matchup with Oliveira. “I’m going to hit this guy.
“He’s going to get hit. He’s going to realize who he’s in there with and he’s going to run into trouble. I’m sure we’re both going to run into trouble and I’m ready for it. I’m sure he is too. We both welcome troublesome fights, but I’m going to hit him harder than he’s going to hit me. I’m going to hit him more than he’s going to hit me. I’m going to hit him again and again until he stops moving.
“Let’s meet in the middle. Let’s clash. Let’s fight. Let’s bleed. Let’s cut each other open,” added Perry, clearly excited by the violent possibilities that are now just days away. “When I hit him, he’s going to try to take me down and I need to shut that down. Then he’s going to try to run and I need to just stay patient.”
Keeping his emotions in check has been an issue for Perry in the past, and he knows that pushing too hard, too soon while giving into those emotional urges can be problematic for him later in the fight.
But he’s also acutely aware of who he is as a fighter and what he does best, so while he’s worked throughout camp on staying calm and focusing on technique, don’t be surprised if this one devolves into an old fashioned donnybrook just a couple minutes into the fight.
“This whole camp, I tried to focus on technique so much and getting my cardio up,” began Perry. “I let my emotions get ahead of me a lot, which can gas you out, so this whole camp, I was like, ‘Try to stay calm. If you get in bad positions, try to relax and flow with the technique.’
“Last Saturday, I went in the gym and I just fought and I pushed myself and I was done well before everyone else and realized it doesn’t seem to matter. So I’m going to just let my emotions — they almost seem uncontrollable, so I’m going to go out here and I’m going to fight.
“Sprawl-and-brawl, baby! Let’s go!”
If Perry’s return is indeed the thing romantic-comedies are made of, he’ll emerge victorious on Saturday night, winning in dramatic fashion before he and Mrs. Perry ride off into the sunset as some guilty pleasure pop song blares through the speakers and the credits roll.