It was far from his first fight. He had a few knockouts before, few being the operative word. But for Mike Pyle, finishing off Ricardo Funch 1:22 into the opening round via TKO in January meant more than the obvious win. It was a statement. A self-reckoning still resonating within, over three months later.

“I had a good knockout. Mostly I am the submission guy, but that was a technical and accurately executed KO. I think it sent a message to the UFC and the fans. I am over the hump in being able to finish a fight that way. I had a couple of knockouts but not that way,” the 36 year old Pyle reflected with a reserved pride.

It was his first win by way of knockout since 2006 and one of his strongest showings since joining the UFC in May 2009. That UFC debut was something in itself, a loss but it won over the organization for his courage to step onto the biggest stage of the sport on just over a week’s notice.

“I was doing a movie (Universal Soldier: Regeneration) and eating anything I wanted but when they (UFC) called, I knew I had to do it. I worked as hard as I could, they knew it was short notice but I think they appreciated I didn’t hesitate.”

He never has been shy about a challenge; from leaving his Dresden, Tennessee home at 17, eventually making his way to what has been his base for years, Las Vegas. He made his debut over a decade ago against future UFC champ Quinton Jackson, who outweighed Pyle twenty-five pounds or so in those still wide open amateur/ semi pro days It was a regional show, both were young, Pyle could have won on forfeit because of the weight difference but in his way that wouldn’t have been fair to Jackson or the few fans who showed up because everyone wanted to see a fight. After that began an interesting journey that took him all over the country from rings to cages and mostly wins all the way earning him the reputation as an always ready to go, formidable opponent from the defunct IFL and Elite XC to his shining moment as the WEC Welterweight champion.

He’s also displayed some solid acting chops to go along with the submission skills that earned the nickname “Quicksand.” The movie thing “fell into my lap, they needed a fighter and after Randy (Couture) and (Rich) Franklin couldn’t do it, then, it trickled down to me.”

Pyle’s nature just wouldn’t allow him to take this side work lightly, he offered advice on fight scenes he was in, caught the attention of directors with his “full speed ahead” attitude that has led to steady work when his training will allow. He currently has a role in “Safe” and another in the upcoming “Men In Black III” where he plays an alien.

He likes to laugh about his movie experiences but he is dead serious about the change in approach to his chosen profession – dead serious about enjoying it more. Pyle has won four of his last five UFC fights as he prepares for a crucial showdown with Josh Neer in June, and the veteran is riding a rebirth in style and approach.

“I would get so pumped up for a fight that I over-trained. Sometimes guys say this as a way to escape from the fact they got beat. I don’t use this as an excuse. The fact is I was mentally exhausted in training sometimes to where the final two weeks (leading to the fight) were downhill. I don’t have excuses when I lost, I got beat. But I did see the need to settle in and relax, come into a fight nice and prepared.”

He has made a series of calculated choices in recent years that has given him a renewed spirit. This for a man who has always seen the glass totally full, the one who is the positive spark in the gym, as his team mates will tell you.

“It’s always about improving. Not matter what you’ve done or come close to doing, it can be better, you can change. That’s been big for me.”

Never having to worry about weight, he missed on the scale only once – that first short notice UFC fight – but Pyle felt his diet as well as his approach to camp could use tweaking. He turned to weight control guru Mike Dolce.

“It’s not just about what you eat,” Mike also shed light on the way to go to camp, “don’t just start eating right then or a few days before. It’s a lifestyle. Now I go to camp with more energy for training and I’ve noticed small things, I’m really listening to my body. I used to never want to miss a second of training no matter how ineffective I was that day.”

“Now when I feel like crap I take a half day off. Sometimes I take a weekend off. When I come back I am crisp, ready to go and feel great. I get more done in that day than if I had gone through the motions of forcing in two days of training.”

This is the new Pyle? “We always try to get better, smarter in everything we do. This (welterweight) division is deep and tough, there really are no easy fights, no one can be taken for granted and you can’t take your training for granted.”

Take nothing for granted. Not even the possibility of a few more knockouts.

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