For many American fighters, the prospect of heading across the pond to fight a British opponent in the U.K. sounds about as much fun as an IRS audit.
There's the long flight to deal with, the significant time change, the near certainty that your sponsor's hat will be stolen off your head during your entrance, and, of course, a hostile crowd that's unanimously in the other guy's corner.
But for welterweight Mike Pyle
, that only sweetens the deal.
"I love it," said Pyle, who on Saturday faces up-and-coming British welterweight John Hathaway
at UFC 120
in London. "I love that none of the fans are going to like me. That's great. But I'm telling you, by the time I'm done with him, I'm going to capture some British fans, guaranteed. ...And at least they speak English over there."
At 35 years old and with a 2-2 record in his UFC stint, you could say Pyle is at a bit of a crossroads in the Octagon. The bout with Hathaway isn't necessarily a must-win – at least, not any more than any other fight – but Pyle is well aware of what the consequences might be if he falls to 2-3 against a younger, fresher fighter who's making a charge up the ranks.
If he doesn't perform against Hathaway, there's a chance he could get dropped from the UFC altogether.
"I think that's always a concern in the UFC," he said. "They'll tell you, they got guys knocking on the door to get in there. I think if you go in there and put it on the line, you don't lay down, then I think you'll always have a job."
But if you're expecting Pyle to be blown away by Hathaway's skill, his undefeated record, or his recent win over Diego Sanchez
, you can forget it.
"I thought a lesser Diego Sanchez showed up that night. It was not the Diego that we're all used to seeing. It made John look good. That's it," said Pyle. "I think he's a basic dude. I don't think there's anything GSP or Anderson Silva-like about him. I think he's definitely a threat. He's young. He's got that youth and energy on his side. So he's going to be a threat, but I'm ready for that."
It makes sense that after ten years in the sport, Pyle is not the type to get rattled easily. For his UFC debut he took a fight with Brock Larson at UFC 98 on less than two weeks' notice, even though it required a brutal weight cut.
It wasn't an ideal situation, and he would go on to lose the fight via submission, but he just didn't know when the opportunity might present itself again.
"I was about 23 pounds overweight and I had just got done shooting the 'Universal Soldier' film, so I hadn't been training a lot," said Pyle. "But they called me up and I said, absolutely, let's do it. I mean, the UFC calls, I'm coming. No question."
Hathaway may be a bright young prospect in the UFC's eyes, Pyle said, but he's been doing this long enough to know that there are some perks to being the old guy in the cage.
"Experience is always an advantage. And in this sport, youth certainly has its advantages. But MMA is not something that you can just learn in a couple years. You can get in there and perform it, but to really know and learn martial arts, you have to do the repetitions and train your body. John is what, 22 or 23? Kids that young, they don't even know who they are yet."
To Hathaway, Pyle knows he probably looks like a stepping-stone. He probably seems like a name that a 23-year-old would love to have in the win column on his record. In fact, Pyle said, he's counting on it.
"I want that. I want him to come out with that kind of attitude and give me that kind of fight. We're in there to fight. I'm sure he's not going to lay down. He's probably thinking that I'm a stepping stone and he's just going to fight his ass off to get past me. That's perfect. I hope that kind of fighter shows up."