Like the majority of the people at the 1stBank Center at BKFC 41, Mike Perry had no idea Conor McGregor was going to stroll into the building.
Perry’s warmup room was near the top of the arena, so all he heard was a loud commotion before his coaches told him the face of combat sports was in the building. Then he saw “Notorious” and started wracking his brain.
Perry was the favorite to beat Luke Rockhold. Assuming he won, how could he capitalize off the moment?
“I was already thinking, ‘I have to live up to the expectations,’” Perry said on The MMA Hour. “When Conor came, I was like, ‘This is really an opportunity for me to live up to the expectations and do what everyone expects me to do.”
McGregor’s presence could be explained one way: He had history with BKFC 41 co-headliners Chad Mendes and Eddie Alvarez, both of whom he’d beaten in the UFC. But Perry felt confident that everyone in the arena was really there to see if he could beat a former UFC middleweight champ — a bigger, more decorated opponent. That would put the spotlight on him, and he could get some extra shine using McGregor.
So he kept thinking.
“It’s hard, because first of all, you’re thinking, ‘I need to focus and think on who’s gonna win this fight first,’” Perry said. “But then it’s like almost like a destiny. I definitely had God’s help.”
Perry recently had suffered a personal tragedy with the death of a family friend, Michael Milmerstadt. He believed Milmerstadt was looking out for him and would guide him in the ring.
In less than two rounds, Perry made Rockhold quit with a flurry of punches that sent the ex-champ’s tooth flying — literally. The floor was his, and he decided to ask McGregor for a staredown, the most basic and to the point way of promoting fights.
McGregor, of course, is under contract with the UFC. Had the UFC known he intended to get into the ring with a competitor, executives probably would’ve had something to say. But the Irish star couldn’t help himself and hoisted a BKFC belt over his shoulder — on loan from two-division champ Lorenzo Hunt — before stepping into the ring.
It was a wild moment that went viral. Perry has had some serious beefs during his time in the UFC and beyond. But this time, he chose to play the nice guy.
“What’s a respectable way that you can maybe start a fight with a professional fighter in a professional manner?” Perry said. “Not be disrespectful, not trying to talk so much trash. I was like, ‘What is the word for the feeling I’m feeling?’ And you said it, and I was like, that’s it: I’m on cloud nine. So there was nothing that could get to me at that point.”
That’s how Perry and the former two-division champion came face-to-face on BKFC’s biggest night. McGregor was nothing if not a good sport; he Perry his props and expressed interest in a fight somewhere down the line. McGregor said he would “never” retire when Perry playfully jabbed him about his future.
“How great of a guy, too,” Perry said. “Just him entering the ring just being there that night adds so much to the show. ... He just adds so much attention to such a great moment for me in my career. ... It just added so much positivity to that moment.”
That being said, Perry wouldn’t be a fighter if he didn’t declare victory over his would-be opponent — and talk up a future fight. “Platinum” may be in a different world from McGregor now, but if he’s learned anything from the massive UFC star, it’s that anything is possible with the right promotion.
“Conor McGregor gets me excited, and he’s still a little bit to go with the UFC,” Perry said. “I hope he goes out there and beats [Michael] Chandler and then maybe a pay-per-view main event. We’re going to throw hands anyway.”
“Absolutely, I do [want to fight him],” Perry added. “We were in the ring. He was ready to punch me right then, but it was my moment that night, and I got the last word, because when Conor left the ring, yeah, he had the belt, but I got my belt. It’s platinum over gold, baby, and when he left the ring, they put the mic back in my face. So it was my night to shine. I got the last word.
“He was just trying to be very violent, and he was ready to fight me right then, and I was just very calm-minded and grateful for the opportunity. It’s a faceoff, and he’s talking about it on Instagram. He’s posting about it. He’s interested in it. He knows it looked exciting, he knows it looked fun. BKFC put on a great show, and I capped off the night.”