Roughly five years ago Mike “300” Hayes decided he wanted to do a little MMA training just try it out, two weeks later he was in his first amateur fight. Being a competitive person by nature he immediately knew competing in MMA is what he wanted to do. Five years later he has over 20 professional fights to his name and a shiny new championship belt wrapped around his waist. Mike took a few minutes out of his day to talk to Front Row Fights about his recent win in Dubai, the current path of his career and being involved in the disastrous Bellator season 5 heavyweight tournament.
FRF: I know the majority of your fights have been in your home state of Washington but for your most recent fight you were in Dubai. How was the experience of fighting outside of the states for the first time?
MH: It was amazing, I’ve never been out of North America for anything so going to Dubai I had a lot of preset ideas of what it was going to be. I started to do my research on the internet about what it might be like and was getting a lot of weird feedback, for a place like that especially over in the middle east and it wasn’t anything like I read or expected. It was amazing and the people were all great to me over there. It was nice getting the sunny weather since I live out in Washington. Overall it was an incredible experience.
FRF: It wasn’t what you expected at all.
MH: No Not at all. I thought as an American I’d have to be more worried over there and everybody was saying there are really strict rules and customs you have to follow. Dubai wasn’t really that way, it was very westernized.
FRF: Cage warriors brought you in to fight Andreas Kranitakes who was 3-0 in the promotion and kind of the poster boy for their heavyweight division. Did you feel like all the pressure was on him to win and there wasn’t a whole lot of expectation on you?
MH: It’s kind of a double edged sword. I felt like I was still the favorite on paper and in the media but at the same time going into the promotion it’s understandable because he had been with the promotion for a while. He won a bunch of fights with them so he got more press from cage warriors but honestly it was ok with me since it put more pressure on him. It was kind of both. I have my own pressure, but I have enough fights now that I’m not going to feel the added pressure of being a favorite or an underdog. My pressure is more from my life and having to provide a life for my family.
FRF: Did it seem like even though they were doing a lot of press on him you were brought in because you were a known fighter from Bellator. Your stock was rising and it would have been a good win for him over a known American fighter.
MH: Absolutely, I think it was a very good fight for him. He definitely came to fight and if he had beaten me it would have been a big win for him and put him on the map. I don’t know exactly if that was why they brought me in? If they were hoping he would win? As far as that goes it doesn’t really matter anymore for me. All I knew is that I had to get in there and I had to win. Cage warriors treated me great they are definitely a very professional company, it was a pleasure working for them.
FRF: Was that just a one off fight or will you be doing more fights with them?
MH: I’m in a semi exclusive contract with them. I agreed to defend the belt if I was to win. Since I did I’m kind of under contract with them but still allowed to fight other laces if they don’t have anything for me.
FRF: That kind of works out for you. You’re able to keep yourself busy without worrying where your next fight is coming from.
MH: Right, that’s my biggest thing right now. I need to stay busy. I got another baby on the way I need to make money. After being with Bellator and not fighting very much for a couple years I’m in the spot I really need to fight.
FRF: With your last two wins being over well known fighters, being on a five fight win streak and winning a championship within a big promotion do you feel like your career is headed in the right direction?
MH: Yeah absolutely. I feel like I’m in a great spot as far as my career goes you know. I’ve won 9 out of my last… Well technically it’s 10 out of 11 I got one in there that didn’t show up on my record. My only loss in there was a very questionable split decision. So yeah I feel like I’m in a great spot, I’ve got a lot of momentum right now. Also with cage warriors and getting the belt that just changed things and gave me a huge boost in momentum. Now I’m just excited to see where it goes and what comes next.
FRF: The Bellator heavyweight tournament turned out to be a disaster. There were visa issues and injuries which you were amongst those people. The final turned into a no contest then ultimately a weight issue that ended the tournament. Then we got the news that Blagoi Ivanov had been stabbed outside of the completion. It seemed like the tournament was cursed from the get go. What are your thoughts on everything that transpired?
MH: That was just a mess. I mean Honestly Bellator needs to take a very long look at their structure as far as it goes. It didn’t make any sense you know. The tournament turned out to be something without… For example all the alternates. Was it Ivanov that ended up getting an injury as well?
MH: You had multiple guys out because of injuries. It was extremely frustrating for me because I had my injury and they basically wait an extra 30 days for me to fight, to take my rightful spot in the second round. Instead everything happens and they get the no contest and have to wait an extra five months to get the final back. Then they push it another week back because Eric Prindle had the flu or whatever. Then the weight thing at the end that was just ridiculous. I’m so frustrated in it because it cost me a lot of money and a lot of time in my career. Overall I got a very sour taste in my mouth over that tournament and I feel like Bellator needs to take a look at their structure and find a different way to do it.
FRF: That format was a great thing in the beginning but it seems like it’s starting to drag them down a little bit. The champions really suffer due to the format.
MH: Absolutely. Cole Konrad fought what once in the past year and a half? It’s not good at all for his career and a lot of those other guys. They have a couple champions that fight a lot but you can’t make a living fighting like that. Even if you win the tournament you make some good money but that’s only going to last so long if you’re trying to support a family.
FRF: What’s your contract situation with Bellator?
MH: It’s done now. We’re done. It took a long time and basically I got itchy cause I wanted to fight. I couldn’t get a fight, I was under full contract with them and they weren’t allowing me to fight for other shows. It was a sticky situation and finally I got them to release me.
MH: I don’t have any fight plans right now. I’m waiting to hear back from cage warriors to see when they want me to defend the belt and go from there. Like I said I want to fight, a lot. I’d prefer to fight within the next few weeks if I could. I need to knock of some of this ring rust that developed and get in there as much as possible within the next like six or seven months. See where that takes me whether it’s with cage warriors because I know they just signed something with ESPN. We haven’t heard the details yet but I’m very curious to hear about that. Whether it’s with them or the UFC or wherever I want to make a living for my family, that’s what it all boils down too for me. But at the same I’m an extremely competitive person and I want to win no matter who I’m fighting. I want to and I need to win.
FRF: Is there anything else you want to add?
FRF: I hope everything keeps going well for you and no more of the hold ups.
MH: Yeah seriously. Thank you.