Mike Pierce wants respect. The UFC welterweight has quietly established himself in his weight claiming victory in four out five bouts, with the only loss coming in a close decision against perennial contender Jon Fitch at UFC 107. While Fitch walked away with the victory, Pierce walked away with the scalp as he roughed up AKA's unsinkable star worse than anyone has outside of Georges St. Pierre. The Washington native didn't allow the loss to slow him down as he jumped back on track by collecting back to back wins over Julio Paulino and Almicar Alves. Another victory would put Pierce on path to bigger bouts and he looked to keep the momentum burning when he faced Kenny Robertson at UFC 126 on February 5th.
From the opening bell Pierce pushed Robertson into the cage where he unloaded with knees and punches from the clinch. Pierce's aggressive attack easily won him the first round and shortly after the second frame began, a left hook smashed Robertson and dropped him to the canvas. Pierce immediately pounced and after adding several shots the referee called a stop to the fight. Determined to make a statement Pierce showed up to UFC 126 in Las Vegas ready for war and in a little more than one round of work, Pierce had secured his third consecutive victory. Pierce had made his statement loud and clear and now the Team Quest product is looking for his place amongst the division's best. I caught up with Pierce several days after his victory at UFC 126 and in his Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview, he talked about the bout with Robertson, including the minor setback that occurred at the pre-fight weigh-ins.
"Friday, I weighed in at 172 lbs. the first time around making me one pound over," Pierce stated. "I think my scale's battery was running low because I checked it at the beginning and then I always check the official scale that is being used for the weigh-ins. Normally in the past my scale has always been close, maybe .02 to .10 off and I felt pretty comfortable. I weighed in on a couple of other people's scale and everything seemed to be right on but when I stepped on the official scale I was exactly one pound heavy. I was a little surprised but I easily cut the extra pound. I went back to the sauna and it took ten to fifteen minutes to shed, then I came back...weighed in and it was a done deal. After the fight I watched the tape and on the commentary Joe Rogan expressed some concern that my missing weight may have been indicative of an injury but I was completely healthy for the fight. I was just thrown off by the scale."
After making the weight limit Pierce turned his focus back to facing Kenny Robertson. While this would be Pierce's fifth appearance under the bright lights of the UFC, the fight was Robertson's official debut for the organization.
"I anticipated a few things from Kenny by watching his fights and by reading some of the interviews he had given," Pierce explained. "I anticipated him being a little nervous or hesitant because it was his first fight in the UFC and maybe he got a little case of the UFC jitters. He started off hot in the first round and progressively took a dip while I went the other route, a slower start and picked up as the fight went on. I took the fight to one place and then increased the tempo and pace as the round progressed. My goal in that first round was really just to wear Kenny down, make him feel my weight and to take him down to tire him out and fatigue him."
Pierce continued, "The second round is where I really wanted to turn it up and thanks to my boxing coach Jamie Huey, I was coming over the top of his jab with a right hand and follow that up. That was something I was able to do and spend a lot of time during camp working on, just coming over top his jab and then following up with the hook. We worked on a lot of combinations. One of my problems earlier in my career was that I would throw one maybe two punches and that was it. Having a combination to follow up every punch is something that I really stressed a lot during this fight and I was able to follow that right hand up. To be honest, with the situation turning out like it did, I really don't even remember throwing that left hook it just came so naturally. Once I hit him and he fell to the ground the mind snapped back like, "it's time to finish" and that's when I followed him to the ground and went for the finish."
The victory over Robertson at UFC 126 now makes it three in a row for the Washington native and it would seem likely the next time the UFC calls, they will bring someone with more experience to the table. Pierce has been content with the quality of fights the organization has given him but is eager to get to bigger tests now that his introduction is complete.
"They gave me a couple of rough fights right out the gate," Pierce replied. "They have given me guys like Brock Larson, who was a top guy at the time, then obviously Jon Fitch. Everybody knows where he stacks up in the division and I did really well against him. Then they gave me three newcomers to welcome so now I'm on a three fight win streak, finishing the last two fights, one by submission and the other by knockout. So now they (UFC) are sitting in a position where they almost kind of have to turn me loose. That was one of my goals coming into this fight with Robertson. I wanted to finish him and hopefully that would promote me to fighting on a main card where I can fight someone with a little more experience inside of the octagon. Hopefully I put myself in a position the next time around."
The only loss Pierce has suffered in his five octagon appearances came against perennial contender Jon Fitch at UFC 107. He was originally slated to face Fitch's AKA teammate Josh Koscheck but Pierce was pushed to the next card when the UFC replaced him with Anthony Johnson. Pierce sprang to the challenge as he took Fitch to the wire and midway through the bout, it was anyone's fight. When the action concluded the judge's awarded Fitch the unanimous decision victory but he didn't exit the cage without knowing he had been in a fight with Mike Pierce.
"Going into the third round I had that do or die moment where I didn't care if he got me knocked out, I was going for his head," Pierce declared. "I came out pissed off and wanted to take this guy's jaw off. I ended up catching him with that hook and I tried to throw uppercuts because I knew he was trying to close the distance and hang onto me. I just didn't have enough time to do anything at the end. He said that he wasn't hurt in his post-fight interview but I tend to disagree. You don't buckle down to one knee if those hard shots weren't hurting you. If you look at me and then look at Jon Fitch at the end of that fight, based on damage alone I had a minor black eye and he was cut up on his face. Not to mention Fitch received a two month medical suspension while I wasn't given one."
At the present time nearly all of the top ranked welterweights are committed to upcoming fights and Pierce will be watching the outcomes closely. With the depth of the welterweight division there are plenty of interesting matchups the UFC could sign but there is one fighter in particular that Pierce has been wanting to face for awhile now.
"There was a time not too long ago where I was calling out Thiago Alves but he ended up getting matched up with Rick Story," Pierce stated. "Alves was actually playing into it a bit and during one of my interviews they asked me who I'd like to fight. This basically lead to me supposedly calling him out which I was doing because I think a fight with Thiago would be an exciting fight. We both fought Fitch, both like to throw down and it's a fight I think I can win. That turns into them saying I was trying to call him out and that carried over to Twitter and Facebook and it blew up a little bit it quickly got squashed because he was matched up with John Howard at the time and now he has Rick Story next. Thiago was the only guy I really have a specific interest in fighting right now but I don't even really care to be honest. All I want is to fight someone who has some experience inside the octagon and doesn't have the UFC jitters. I don't care if they give me another wrestler or if it's a striker...it doesn't matt er to me. They can give me anything and I'll be ready."
In the world of mixed martial arts anything can happen and a fighter's fortune can turn on a dime under the proper circumstances. When a high profile bout is disrupted due to injury, the UFC typically calls on exciting fighters who are known for their toughness...a bill Mike Pierce fits perfectly.
"I like to have at least an 8 week camp but coming out of this fight I didn't take any damage," Pierce explained. "He didn't cut me, left a little bit of a bump on my forehead that is already gone and left a few scratches but that's it. Typical things that happens in every fight. I feel completely fine and would be ready whenever to take on another opponent. I really don't like to take fights on short notice because I like to prepare but if push comes to shove I could do anything."
The UFC's welterweight division has seen its top spots held by the same batch of fighters over the past few years. The only notable shake-ups occurred when British slugger Dan Hardy shot to the top for a title shot and most recently when former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields skipped to the front of the line after defeating Martin Kampmann. With up and comers like Rick Story facing Thiago Alves and fighters like Jake Ellenberger and Pierce on the rise, the top positions will come under fire in the coming months.
"Absolutely and that's what I'm here for," Pierce answered when asked about the division's new blood being a threat. "I'm not going to be one of these fighters who sit around and talk about who they would like to fight with half-assed confidence, shit this is what I want to do. I want to be the best and I want to have a belt around my waist. I don't care if it's GSP. I don't care if it's Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch or whoever because it's who has the belt because that is my ultimate goal. I didn't come into this program to be middle of the road or a gatekeeper...sorry, that's just not why I do this. I don't think anybody comes into the UFC just to fight...well maybe some people do, but that's not why I'm here. I want to work my way up and I think I'm on the right path to accomplish that and I want that fights that are going to get me to the top."
Pierce continued, "There are guys who are content with their position in the division and winning and losing isn't that big of a deal to them. It makes me think of a guy like Matt Hughes. I think him losing any fight is a blow to him because nobody likes to lose but at the same time he has already left his mark on the division and has been a multiple time champion. He's made his money so I think he's doing it now for the love of the sport or maybe to settle some old scores maybe, but that's not me. There is all of this new blood coming up so there is changing of the guard on the way and I'm the right kind of guy to be a part of something like that."
Mike Pierce's win over Kenny Robertson at UFC 126 continued his impressive run and he has no plans of stopping anytime soon. With that being said, Pierce made sure he extended his appreciation for the team that has played a crucial part of his success.
"I want to thank the people that came to help for this last fight and will continue to help me in the future. I want to thank my condition coach Phil Claud at Sports Lab. My boxing coach Jamie Huey and all of the guys at Team Quest...Scott McQuary, Chael Sonnen, Nate Quarry and all of the guys over there have been great. Also, I want to thank my jiu-jitsu coach Trevor Burnell as well."