Mike "The Hulk" Easton, a UFC fighter who lives and trains in D.C., talks to WTOP about what it means to be a fighter.
Alex Beall, special to wtop.com
WASHINGTON — “Fighting out of the red corner, standing 5 feet, 6 inches tall, weighing in at 135 pounds, from Camp Springs, Maryland, we have Miiiiiiiikkkkkkkkeeeeeeee “The Hulk” Eeeeeeeassstttooooonnnnn!”
Mike “The Hulk” Easton, 29, is a bantam weight mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter in the UFC, whose last fight on April 6 against Brad Pickett earned him the Fight of the Night title.
Easton grew up in Southeast D.C. before entering the fighting world. Now as a UFC fighter he still lives in the District with his 5-year-old son and trains at a local gym six days a week.
So your nickname is “The Hulk.” Where did you get that one from?
I had a fight in Virginia, somewhere I think in Richmond, and actually the fans, I got it from the fans because I was slamming someone around, picking him up off the ground, grounding and pounding and using double hammer fists. Of course, the way my body looked it was just like, “Oh man, you’re just like a mini hulk! You’re like the Incredible Hulk, like a mini version.”
What was it like growing up in D.C.?
I loved growing up in D.C. But I was born in the ’80s; I’m an ’80s baby. And D.C. in the ’80s was pretty rough; going into the ’90s was really rough. Seen a lot of things growing, but I had my mom and my dad, my sister and my brother and they just kept me straight and narrow. Just seen a lot of things, violent things happen.
How did you then get into fighting?
My dad was like my first coach. He taught me how to fight, how to keep my hands up because I was getting bullied in school. It just helped me out and then I started doing Taekwondo at the school I attended, Orr Elementary School. It started off from there. Then I met Master Lloyd Irvin, who’s my grandmaster, and I’ve just stayed in martial arts ever since — me and my little brother and my sister.
When did you really start fighting?
Right around when I turned 17. That’s when I met Master Lloyd Irvin. That’s when I started doing mixed martial arts.
What exactly were you doing at that point within the fighting world?
I was amateur. I was doing jiu-jitsu and amateur fights, and I was doing amateur kickboxing.
How did you transition from amateur fighting to the UFC?
I went through my amateur circuit then that’s when my manager, also one of my coaches, told me, “Oh you’re ready to go pro.” I turned pro in 2003 and I started in a bunch of different circuits, getting different fights, and I actually took a two-year layoff because of injury. After the time off, going right back, I came back into the UFC and it was awesome.
What does being a fighter mean to you?
I want to be the guy who just teaches people how to accomplish their dreams, follow their dreams. I definitely fight because of my dream and because of my son. He’s the reason why I fight hard and I train hard because I am teaching him you can be whatever you want to be.
If you want to race cars, race cars. If you want to be the president, be the president. Doctors, lawyers, and so on. And if you want to be a fighter, you can be a fighter. Whatever dream he has that he wants to be I would like to push him toward that dream that he has.
Just let people know, man, just follow your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it because you can.
Looking ahead, what do you think you’ll want to do in the future?
Of course, eventually coaching is one of the things I’d love to do. Coaching is awesome. Being a commentator. Mostly teaching, teaching people how to coach. And basically one day be a ref as well when I get older. I’d love to be a ref for mixed martial arts.
Who would you want to coach?
I’d love the young kids who are looking to get into MMA, amateur fighters and university guys going pro. You know, whoever wants to learn mixed martial arts.
I want MMA to grow even more in this area. It’s doing a good job right here and it’s going to be great especially for the inner city kids and low income families, for those kids who don’t have the right opportunities or perhaps the money to be able to pay for classes. But somehow we can make it so that they’re training and practicing hopefully because it can keep them out of trouble.
Are you working on that now?
Yes, I’m actually trying to get a couple things started now with the local recs, and seeing what I can do and seeing what’s happening like speaking to kids, and also to teenagers, those who are in high school. I want to speak to everybody about not giving up and following your dreams because all of this started out from a dream. I always wanted to be in the UFC.
Have you been able to start any programs for this goal yet?
It’s more of a vision right now because I’m training so much, perfecting my craft. But I do work with kids and I do talk to a lot of kids. As long as I can just give a little bit of knowledge, that’s awesome.
What would you be doing if you weren’t fighting?
What has been your favorite fight?
Actually believe it or not, my last fight. My last fight with Brad Pickett was my favorite fight. It was a super exciting fight, very action packed. I lost by split decision, but it was Fight of the Night and it was a great performance by both of us.
What is your favorite technique?
Everything! I don’t have just one favorite technique. I’m a mixed martial artist so just me having my own game is awesome and having my own style of fighting is great, so I don’t have any one particular technique. I just want to fight.
You don’t have any specialties?
I’m good at everything!
Now, what would your dream fight be?
Of course, fighting for the title. Basically, working hard to make that happen. And whichever fighter, I have to win to get the title. One of my best friends has the title: Dominick Cruz, who has the belt. But he’s injured right now and Renan Barao has the interim belt. That would be an awesome fight; that would be the dream fight right there.
Where are you currently training?
Right now I’m at Lloyd Irvin Mixed Martial Arts Academy, but for this last fight I went out to San Diego at the Alliance Gym because we’re real close and have a bunch of good guys there, a lot of guys that fight in the UFC, and real good trainers especially for MMA.
What does a day look like when you’re not training?
Going home, picking up my son, hanging out with him, having a good time, playing video games, watching TV. You know, normal man things.
Watch Mike Easton’s UFC Fighter Diary. Editor’s note: The music in the video is not censored.