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Mike Perry feels he is a changed man, but the ‘anger is still there’

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UFC welterweight Mike Perry would happily strap on boxing gloves to fight Jake Paul or anyone who wanted to promote the latest MMA vs. boxing crossover. He would also step back into the octagon, which for obvious reasons feels like a more natural environment.

He just needs to get a phone call.

A younger version of Perry might have been angry about his current lot and lashed out at the world for not giving him the opportunities he needs to provide for his family. Instead, at age 29, Perry is trying to let go and let things play out the way they’re going to.

Don’t get him wrong though: Perry still carries the fiery anger that’s made him one of the most watchable fighters on the UFC roster for mostly the wrong reasons. The happiness of fatherhood hasn’t come at the expense of the desire to hurt people in competition.

“I’d like to think I have changed, but as soon as I do that, the anger is still there,” Perry said Monday on The MMA Hour. “It’s still there. It depends on the situation. I feel more experienced in all types of situations. I’ve been through so many ups and downs and lefts and rights.

“I’m going to get a little philosophical here, but as my bank account gets smaller, I find myself having more faith in God and being grateful for everything I do have. The more I try, the more I need to let go.”

Perry has been in limbo since he turned down a fight with Kevin Lee at UFC Vegas 35. His team felt his needed more time to prepare and advised against the bout. Lee went on to lose a decision to Daniel Rodriguez, and Perry said he may be held out of action until January.

“It looks like I missed out on an opportunity, and I might not be getting another opportunity,” he said.

Unsure of how many fights he has remaining on his UFC contract, Perry is simply looking for some direction. If it’s MMA he’s pursuing, he’s ready to strap on four-ounce gloves and hit the mats. If it’s boxing, he’ll lace up the 16-ounce gloves and the boxing shoes.

Watching Paul outpoint Tyron Woodley on Sunday night, Perry was inspired to get in the ring and show what he could do, which he said would be a lot different than the former UFC welterweight champion’s approach.

“I feel like there was more that could be done, and I feel like with an opportunity, I would press forward and, it’s fight to knock you out or get knocked out,” he said. “I would take the shots if I had to. Woodley and me are similar in that I don’t have the credentials he has. He’s a great champion. He’s very strong and athletic. You can see he wanted to clinch and do some head pressure and grappling stuff, and I feel like punching from the outside is something I’ve been focusing a lot in my boxing and angling my shots from the outside.

“I didn’t see Woodley do that, and I also didn’t see him put him on the ropes and put him there and work on the inside. That’s something I would try to do.”

If Perry is confident his strategy would be better, it’s because he actually has experience in the ring with Paul. Prior to Paul’s fight with Ben Askren and shortly before Perry’s UFC meeting with Rodriguez, his management company set up a sparring session with the YouTuber turned boxer.

The Paul camp wasn’t on board at first, citing previous trash talk from Perry. But after some smooth talk, Perry showed up with wife and baby in tow. Paul had “like, 30 people” at the gym. Perry approached and gave Paul his props for trying to make a serious go of boxing. Then they squared off.

“I just went straight for it, and he hit me a couple of times, clean shots, but there was no follow-up. ... He didn’t have that finishing, killer instinct,” Perry said. “Once he hits you with a good shot, that’s about it, and then he’s back on his bike. I let him kind of hit me with his best shots. I kind of wanted to feel it. That does something to a man when he hits you as hard as he can, and you just keep coming at him.

“I was trying to put him on the ropes, and it started working. My pressure added up. I started landing some hooks, started making him drop into some uppercuts. ... I just knew that I was going to be able to take his shots. And I was trying to be a good sparring partner, too.”

Perry’s relationship with Paul went south after that, but it reinforced the idea that he could hang with anybody in the ring. And if the ring is where the money is, it’s hard for him not to think about a transition to the squared circle.

“I don’t want to shut a door,” he said of a move away from MMA. “I don’t want to close a door that’s gotten me so much in my life, just because of course I’m a fan of a lot of things in boxing. I do feel like the show looked a little funny at times, the setup, the ring. I don’t know. ... If the opportunity is there and someone wants to fight me, that’s it. I just want to fight. I want to know what kind of fight I’m doing so I can prepare for it.

“I have a pro boxing fight, but I took it on two days’ notice, when I was a pro MMA fighter. I took a match against a real boxer, and he was 6-1, and I thought, ‘He’s got one loss, I’m going to go in there [and beat him],’ and I was just too slow for him. He was moving around, backing up the whole time, and I bring the fight forward.”

Perry wonders how the Paul vs. Woodley outcome would have changed if the ex-UFC champion had simply stopped chasing Paul and let the fight come to him. Perry is still testing out that approach to life. Fighting might be a different story.

“There comes a time when you’ve got to bite down on the mouthpiece and go for it, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s the octagon or the ring,” he said. “I’m an MMA guy, so put me in the boxing ring and let me show what I can do. I’ll be prepared for any opportunity. Anybody wants to fight me, I’m going to put on a show, somebody’s going to bleed, motherf*ckers going to get cut open, and somebody might die.”