Bellator MMA superstar Michael ‘Venom’ Page has reflected on his own experiences of racial prejudice and how the killing of George Floyd has been the catalyst for change in society.
The mixed martial artist of Trinidadian and Jamaican descent is one of Britain’s deadliest fighters, with a scintillating record of 17 wins and just one defeat.
MVP, who turns 34 this month, spoke to Sky Sports’ Ed Draper in an exclusive interview for Bellator MMA Recharged in which he opened up about coming to terms with racial discrimination in inner London.
Page admits he has gone back to basics to research racism in society, which he says is still affecting people’s lives on a daily basis.
However, he does feel positive change is happening after George Floyd’s killing sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the world, as well as prompting conversations that might never have happened before.
It’s only now that I’m doing even more research that I realised how bad it actually was and how bad it still is.
“As unfortunate as George Floyd’s death was, it is the catalyst now,” says Page. “There was a tone there almost waiting for something to happen, to catapult into the headlines and the forefront of everybody’s minds.
“It has been a difficult time, even for myself. It’s only now that I’m doing even more research that I realised how bad it actually was and how bad it still is. But I think there has been a lot of positive change come to light, because people have been forced to pay attention and see how they themselves are a part of it or maybe can just help.
“With me in regards to racism, obviously everybody can identify when something is wrong. What is more damaging is when you don’t realise that you’re a part of the issue but because of this incident, that awareness is coming forward so I believe this time there will be a positive change from it.”
MVP, who suffered his only career loss to brilliant Brazilian Douglas Lima in May 2019, says different communities find it difficult using the word black.
He believes it is important for everybody to feel comfortable when talking about racism and have conversations on people’s understanding of the subject.
“Having more sit-downs, informal or formal, just allows us to hear both sides of the story a bit more regularly. I have these conversations a lot with my family, my close friends, and we have deep conversations all the time,” said Page. “I feel as if it’s important for me to spread the message of how I see it from my point of view but spread it to people who are not comfortable with these things. I think everybody should be comfortable. It’s our history regardless of what it is.”
I feel as if it’s important for me to spread the message of how I see it from my point of view but spread it to people who are not comfortable with these things.
Page added: “I have found in different communities white people struggle to even say the word black – they don’t know where to go, so they end up saying the wrong word because of how uncomfortable they are just using the word black to describe someone. I think if we spoke more, everybody would be able to have these kinds of conversations so you understand what’s offensive and what’s not offensive.”
MVP does not think there is direct racism in the world of MMA, but claims he would be a marketing dream if he was a white male fighter.
“In terms of very obvious or direct racism in MMA, it doesn’t happen,” admitted Page. “People are either a fan of yours or not, but there are politics involved. I don’t believe it’s racism, I believe it’s a bit of marketing.
“I feel there are biases there, but it’s not one of those things that anybody is going to be aware of. I genuinely believe that if I was white and I’ve been doing the same things as I have been doing in the cage, I would have a bigger fan base because more people that are buying into the sport, buy into myself, being more familiar with the sport. But I’ve never experienced racism in that sense. If you’re doing your job in the cage, then people appreciate you.”
Page, who is known as a showman in the cage, feels he has to live up to his reputation to be appreciated.
He added: “People don’t necessarily buy into you and that changed how promoters then promote you. I feel as if I have to work even harder and do even more of my antics to be like ‘I’m here’ but I don’t find it racist, per se. Unfortunately, in the black community, especially in the UK, they don’t necessarily buy into it.”