DUBLIN — Michael "Venom" Page is one of the most viral athletes in mixed martial arts today, and he says it's all because he studied the mannerisms and mic skills of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
"Before I came into mixed martial arts, I was saying to myself, 'How can I maximize my time on the mic?'" Page told Business Insider.
"Rather than be a typical fighter, I wanted to know what I could do to be different. So I watched Dwayne Johnson for hours on how he constructs his body language and how he interacts with the crowd."
Page put his learnings to good use and has become a must-see, TV-friendly, human highlight-reel because of his energetic personality and transcendent celebrations that involve Pokémon balls and the Thanos "Infinity" gauntlet.
He returns to competition with Bellator MMA on Friday at the 3Arena in Dublin, and told Business Insider that his viral celebrations are all meticulously planned.
He sits down with his father and the creative minds in his team, looks at what the world is obsessed by at that moment in time, and figures out how to incorporate that into the 15 minutes he might get in front of an audience whenever he fights.
The results are impressive.
One of Page's videos has been viewed more times than McGregor's Bellator cage invasion
After he fractured his opponent's skull with a flying knee at Bellator 158 at the O2 Arena in London in 2016, he grabbed a Pokémon-themed hat and rolled a Pokeball at the man he had defeated, Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos, who was writhing on the floor in agony.
Bellator MMA posted the video on its YouTube page. It has been viewed 4.5 million times.
To put that into perspective, that's three times the amount of views a video showing Conor McGregor storm a Bellator cage and shove a referee received last year.
Watch Page's Pokémon celebration right here:
Page has a flashy and acrobatic fighting style. He showboats relentlessly in the middle of a fight, and even looks the other way while throwing punches.
Gareth A. Davies, the combat correspondent at The Telegraph and talkSPORT, told Business Insider that Page is reminscent of Russian ballet dancers like Rudolf Nureyev because of the unorthordox way he moves around the cage.
"You love him or you hate him," Davies told us. "If you want to see him get beaten it's because he's this outrageous, dancing, Nureyev-like fighter."
And after he put those unconventional Nureyev-like skills to good use against David Rickels at the Bellator 200 show on May 25, 2018, he celebrated by wearing Thanos' glove from the Avengers movie "Infinity War" before doing a "Fortnite" dance.
But "The Rock" is not his only influence. Page said he has found inspiration from other wrestlers, too. "They're really good at that," he told us. "And it lacks in MMA."
Page wants to tap into new audiences
Page told Business Insider that his father inspired him to optimize the time Bellator MMA gives him, as combat athletes are only really in front of a crowd for up to 20 minutes at a time, two to three times a year. Wrestlers, meanwhile, appear many times a week.
"Wrestlers fight every week to create a story whereas I only get a short amount of time. I have to think about what's going to hit audiences immediately.
"I've got creative minds around me and we sit down and we think about what will work, and what's poppin' at that moment. I've done it a few times now — the pokeball, the 'Infinity' glove — anything that's going at the time, I'll be aware of it.
"I maximize my time while I have that 15 minutes in the spotlight and push it to an audience on different levels because not everybody likes to watch fighting, so how can I get to those people?
"I try to make it fun. They might hear about this guy who did something crazy, but it was through fighting. They watch it anyway. 'Oh, I'm a Pokémon fan, let me watch this … oh that is so funny! Who is this guy, oh I might have to start watching him more regularly now.'"
Page was an extrovert even in high school
Page told Business Insider he has always been a showman. "At secondary school, we had a school disco, and … typical school disco, not everybody knew each other yet so all the girls were on one side and all the boys were on the other, twiddling their thumbs, with nobody wanting to show off or enjoy themselves.
"It was only a two hour event but for the whole time I was in the middle of the dance floor, dancing by myself. Even back then people were like, 'This guy is crazy,' but I enjoy it! I used to do street dance and stuff around Westminster [London]."
Page, a Londoner, fights local favorite Richard Kiely on Friday, an Irishman with three wins against one loss. But Page does not feel like the away fighter coming into enemy territory.
"I feel a lot of Irish fans here are supporters of mine," he said. "They like my style. I think they understand it won't be much of an upset, they just want to see me. The opportunity came to fight in Dublin, perfect, I wanted to fight here."
Page does not anticipate too many problems when it comes to beating Kiely, as he is familiar with his opponent's fighting style and says he's already finished superior fighters.
"He came from a similar background to myself, but at a lower level," Page said. "I've seen his style so much, and I've always been dominant against it. It's just a case of doing me and to impose my will against his."
The Kiely fight is a comeback one for Page, as he was stunned by Douglas Lima in his last bout, suffering a second round knockout loss when it could have gone his way.
Davies told Business Insider that Page lost because he got overconfident in the fight, but said that Lima told him he had never fought anybody so fast. "He recovered from the loss amazingly well," Davies said.
He's 'great to promote'
Even Bellator's head of Europe David Green, who says Page is "savvy, eloquent, and intelligent" in their business meetings together, is unsure what to expect on Friday as the fighter looks to bounce back from that defeat.
"He brings an electric atmosphere into a fight because you don't know what he's going to do," Green told Business Insider. "He's an incredible fighter."
Green added: "He's great to promote and great to watch."