People usually get involved in martial arts for fitness, self defence, fun or just to better understand Mixed Martial Arts. Some become captivated by the endless pursuit of learning and develop a desire to test their skills. A small percentage of competitors decide to combine the arts and compete in the sport of MMA. Such was the case with Mike ‘The Turnernator’ Turner, who is looking to defend his Brace light heavyweight title against Duke Didier at Brace 49 this weekend.
Turner has a proclivity for grappling with a majority of his professional wins coming by submission. However, his opponent likes to grapple too and has a well documented history in high-level Judo. As this isn’t a grappling match, Turner will have to use his entire martial arts arsenal to keep that belt around his waist.
The challenger, Duke Didier, credited Turner as one of the most experienced fighters in the Australian MMA scene. Turner holds his opponent’s skills in high regard too and with his sights set on the international stage, a win over Didier could be a big step in the right direction for ‘the Turnernator’.
The Neversphere: I believe your MMA journey started with getting into BJJ at a relatively late age. Why did you get involved with martial arts?
Mike: I started martial arts because my brother had challenged me to be more than just a couch gamer. I’d had an interest in martial arts due to watching UFC with my brother and after watching The Ultimate Fighter 3 with a friend, we became inspired and started out. I didn’t enjoy getting hit but I quickly fell in love with grappling, and BJJ class quickly became the highlight of my week.
The Neversphere: Your previous two fights were outside of Brace and weren’t title defences. How much does your camp, and approach to the fight, change with the Brace light heavyweight belt on the line?
Mike: The belt doesn’t really factor in too much. It’s still a three round fight at Duke’s teams insistence and so very little changes. Like every other fighter on the planet, my next fight is the most important one yet. The biggest adjustment that the title potentially brings is pressure but with appropriate visualisation training, it can be mitigated.
The Neversphere: You’ve said in interviews that you felt your game had some holes in it. What have you changed about you training to expand your skill set?
Mike: Our approach to this fight was unique, just like every fight. Trinity MMA’s coaches pride themselves on being professional and intellectual in their approach to the sport. We regularly evaluate each fighter based on his recent training and performances, and look for opportunities to improve.
After my last two setbacks, the coaches had plenty of areas to improve in and ensure that I could be the best Mike Turner yet. One of the advantages of having a gym with all three skill sets (the Trinity of striking, grappling and submissions) available for training regularly and a smaller focused team, is that it’s easier to tailor the program to fit individual needs.
The Neversphere: How do you think you match up with Didier, a well-known Judoka, and how do you see this fight playing out?
Mike: I think Duke is a very unique challenge for me. He’s spent his life learning to control where a fight takes place (standing or on the ground) and dictating that to his advantage. That’s usually an area that I have a lot of confidence but I’d be foolish to believe that I can meet the level of exceptional training that he has there.
I think Duke is going to test me everywhere and try to find weaknesses. It’s going to test my well-roundedness for sure. I’ve told many people that I think that this fight will be a tough war. I know that I’ve trained for one and I’m very confident Duke has as well.
The Neversphere: Should everything go to plan at Brace 49, what does the future hold for you? what are your ambitions for MMA?
Mike: UFC…Everyone knows that it’s the big show and it’ll always be a dream to get there, and prove that I belong. There are very few spots afforded though and I think it might be difficult for me to attain my dream. I’ll be damned if I stop trying!
The Neversphere: At the Neversphere we cover music and gaming, as well as MMA. Are you much of a gamer and what’s your favourite game or game series?
Mike: I play a great many games. Recent favourites include Persona 5, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Bravely Second, Fire Emblem: Fates, Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch.
All time favourite series include Halo, Kingdom Hearts, Diablo, Disgaea, Age Of Empires, Dance Dance Revolution and Initial D. I’d actually consider gaming to be my major passion. I can’t wait for the Danganronpa collection to be released after my fight too!
The Neversphere: I’d also like to know, what’s your walk out song for Brace 49 going to be?
Mike: The Terminator 2 theme. It’s badass and it’s how fans remember me. Turnernator was originally a nickname that people gave me based on my cardio and work rate, but I think that persona has its own set of fans. I’ve thought of changing it…but what else could possibly pump me up like that?
The Neversphere: That is a badass walkout song! Any shout outs?
Mike: Of course! Huge thank you to the teams at Trinity MMA, Arruda BJJ, Fast Twitch Performance Centre, Adelaide Comic Centre, Synergy Fight Shop and Grapple Apparel! I could never do it without all of you! Also, Tommy Knight from Wrestle Rampage. I couldn’t have made it through this cut (or the latest Overwatch patch) without him!