The last time UK Fight Site and Mike Ekundayo crossed paths was 3 years ago. He was deep in camp for his biggest fight to date facing Jack Shore, he was undefeated and had just signed a multi fight contract with Cage Warriors. Mike was riding a wave.
Fast forward to 2021. Things haven’t gone as smoothly in the interim. Firstly, Mike lost to Shore in that title fight. He then had to wait over a year for his next bout against Luca Iovine. Despite winning, it was a frustrating experience lasting just 30 seconds due to an illegal knee from his opponent. A full year after – and after parting ways with Cage Warriors – Mike was scheduled to compete at Bellator 267. He had to withdraw due to COVID-19 and niggling injuries.
In 3 years – Mike has been in the cage for just 30 seconds.
It would be very easy for Mike to have become bitter and negative since late 2018. But what struck me spending time with him – is that he has lost none of the positivity and enthusiasm for MMA. I wondered where that attitude came from.
“My surname Ekundayo is a Nigerian name with the Yoruba meaning of your sorrow becomes joy and that’s how I choose to view things day by day. I wasn’t dealt with the best hand in life but I’ve always been optimistic that I can turn things around to work in my favour. I constantly look for the positive aspects to a seemingly negative situation”.
Mike then went onto say how important keeping consistent was during this period of time. If you look at any personal development or coaching book it will talk about ‘controlling the controllables’. It seems that Mike takes this philosophy very seriously.
“Some things are out of your control, other things you can control fully. What I could control was how often I showed up to training. My coach Brad Pickett would say “As sure I am of the sun rising is as sure I am that Mike will be at training”. I stayed patient and consistent regardless of the world issues and my circumstances.
From an outsider – a change I noticed from 2018 was his authority with the younger fighters during training. Inbetween rounds when he was resting, Mike was keeping an eye and coaching from the sidelines – picking up on little things that could be improved on and tweaked.
“I’ve been coaching MMA a lot more lately so that’s where my perspective has widened. Training and coaching definitely both compliment each other because you must acquire the correct knowledge and apply it/pass it on”.
When the gloves are left in the ring for the final time – it seems clear that Mike will become a great coach. But what about now – What are his goals? When that question is asked you usually get a stock answer – legacy, titles or UFC etc but with Mike you get something deeper, something that taps into his frame of mind and how he sees the world.
“My goal is to become a great mind in Mixed Martial Arts…a genius. And geniuses generally get paid healthily and provide for their families very well”.
December 18th will see Mike step into the cage once again against Festus Ahorlu for the Fightstar Championship Bantamweight Belt. He’ll control what he can, he’ll accept what he can’t and whether it is sorrow or joy when the curtain falls, Mike won’t get too up or too down.
He trusts his process, his attitude, his philosophy. He is in it for the long haul.
“As sure I am of the sun rising is as sure I am that Mike will be at training”
Mike Ekundayo vs. Festus Ahorlu
Fightstar Championship 20
Saturday 18th December
Crystal Palace National Sports Centre
Story and photos by Benjamin Bowles