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10th Feb 2017

WATCH: Average JOE steps into cage with elite MMA star and it’s absolutely ridiculous

Getting into a ring with a man who recently caved in someone's skull... great idea.

Richie Driss

Here’s the thing with elite sports; there is no way of quantifying just HOW skilled these people are. How much better they can kick a football, how much faster they can put one foot in front of the other, or indeed how much harder they can punch someone in the face.

So for this “Have A Go JOE”, for your amusement/bemusement, I attempted to stay in the cage with MMA fighter Michael Venom Page. And by “stay in the cage” I mean spar. Lightly. I do value having a face.

Let’s start from the top: Michael ‘Venom’ Page is a man who went viral in the summer of 2016 for two reasons, which came within seconds of each other. Firstly, he caved in a man’s forehead using his knee (feel free to read that again to confirm that your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you), and secondly he celebrated by throwing a Poké Ball at his prone opponent who was writhing around in understandable agony.

The profile of Mr.Page since blew up, winning new fans such as Lennox Lewis and Rio Ferdinand and placing him very much on the MMA map. And also placing the forboding stick-thin figure that is me in his path.

Did I mention he nearly killed a man with his knee?

The first thing I need to point out is just how humble the man is, he arrived at his gym completely on his own; no entourage, no manager, no personal assistant. Just him. And he’s quite clearly the man in the London Shootfighters Gym, everyone stopping in their tracks and going out of their way to say hello to him (understandably after the summer he had last year) before resuming their own work outs.

Having watched their training session, allow me to just highlight that these athletes’ ‘warm down’ alone would be the equivalent to a mortal’s main event. And then some. I attempted MVP’s (Michael Venom Page) warm down and it was a near death experience. I was reduced to a panting, sweating, dribbling shell of a man.

Although very much a solo sport in the cage, everyone in this gym had each other’s backs. The bond that these people, who were constantly punching and kicking and throwing each other, showed could easily have been the bond of a football team (just without the punching, kicking and throwing aspect…unless Joey Barton is part of said team).

You’ll see at the very beginning of the video that I was put on my arse with a “roundhouse kick” to the chest. Now this LOOKS like he was going easy on me. And that’s because he was. I ordered (begged) him to go 50% of what he could do, and through all six inches (half a subway sandwich!) of padding, at 50% of his full capacity, not only did he put my on my arse, but he also winded me. A lot. Unreal.

I was then given the chance to get my own back. And by that I mean he taught me how I would get my own back if I wasn’t built like a strand of cooked spaghetti. With the strength to match.

As Page held my hand through a couple of punch combos and a takedown I started to relish this, rather than worry about it. The adrenaline started pumping and I could see the draw of channelling your emotions into a sport like this.

It’s very well known that in combat sports it’s not about how aggressive you are, it’s about channeling your aggression and drawing from it at the precise moment you need to. The amount of discipline this takes is very contrary to the attitudes that your average person on the street may have to combat sports, and is also very admirable, especially in the heat of the moment. There’s a reason Floyd Mayweather Jr. defended and countered his way through 49 boxing bouts, winning over half by knockout without ever losing.

Into the cage we go. And this is when it got real. As you can see in the video, Page was clearly toying with me as I ran after him around the vage. Whatever technique I had went out of the window. I can confirm now having seen the embarrassing footage that I looked more like a drowning daddy long legs than any sort of fighter.

The images in my head from beloved films Enter The Dragon, The Fighter, The Warrior and The Matrix disappeared faster than I’d have been knocked out if MVP had decided he didn’t actually fancy having me around any more. It was similar to thinking you’re Michael Jackson when you’ve had a few drinks and find yourself in a karaoke bar, only to realise you’re not, but to the extreme.

I went for the takedown… and failed. Obviously. Then it was game over. As soon as I was back on my feet Page caught me in the corner against the fence, wrestled (as you would wrestle a broom stick) me to the ground and manoeuvred himself into a position where he could strike over and over again.

At that point if this was a professional bout my face would have become one with the canvas, but thankfully and mercifully Page chose to put me into a submission hold. Dislocating every joint in my body (or at least it felt like it) and forcing me to tap out FAR quicker than I remember at the time. He says he went at 20% of what he can actually do. I think he was being charitable for the sake of my dignity.

I think after having a go at MMA and having it caught on film for your amusement it’s far easier for me and you, and everyone else pointing and laughing at me to quantify the yawning chasm in skill, technique and raw power that separates a very average person from the elite. Lesson learned.

Watch the full video here:

*This article first appeared on