Most fighters riding a three-fight losing streak would retreat from the chance to face an undefeated and brutally efficient heavyweight such as Jeremy Joiner in a home-town title fight. Mike Turner, though, stared down and defeated imminent death when aged just 13; overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds is his forte. Sometimes, it is a struggle to be inspired by anything less.
Adelaide’s Turner, fighting out of Trinity MMA, after his title loss to Duke Didier at Brace 49, made the decision to make the move up a weight class to heavyweight. It is a decision that has had a profound impact upon his mood and the focus of his training camp, as he explains.
“You’ll notice I don’t sound vague and tired and like I’m dying because no weight cut. Loving that aspect of life.
“[Light heavyweight] was working for me and I feel like I could get [weight cuts] done but the big problem that we were having was, in the last couple of years, a lot of my fight camps felt like they were dedicated to me getting to the weight. It wasn’t about me becoming a better martial artist and improving my skills.”
When Mike expressed his desire to test the waters in the land of the behemoths to his home-town promotion, Diamondback Fighting Championship, they returned to him with an irresistible offer.
“They got back to us and said that they really wanted to give Jeremy [Joiner] his due, he’s done well for the promotion, we’re looking at a title fight for him, would Mike be interested in that? Once they got back to us with that, I was like hell yes, sold!
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been a couple of years since my last win. With a dry spell like that, it’s really, really hard to look at Jeremy. I would love to just get a sort of warm-up fight or tune-up fight or fight someone a little bit easier but man, I like Jeremy, I like the way he fights, I like interviewing and talking to him in commentary. And fighting at home, there was just so many bonuses to doing this.”
While sharing a cage with Jeremy will undoubtedly be daunting, it will inevitably be less horrific than going toe-to-toe with death itself. Mike, when diagnosed with an immune deficiency in his teens, was given only six months to live. Twenty years later, he relishes having his back against the wall.
I’ve always got to be that underdog; I always need someone chasing me with a stick saying go harder.
I’ve always considered that I do pretty well for a sick kid.
Mike’s mental strength, forged during a childhood of struggle, is one of his weapons but his support network, including the Trinity MMA team and US born featherweight Raja Shippen, is just as important.
“I’ve always tried to make sure I’m using that mentality of just trying to earn everything, be thankful for every little thing you get. That helps to attract the right people around you. I think a lot of times it’s the day to day people, whether it’s your family or it’s your partner or even just your coaching staff or your training partners. You need to have the right people around you otherwise you’ll mentally break.
“This is a hard life as it is, you don’t need any added pressure to that.”
Mike takes on Jeremy Joiner in the co-main event at Diamondback FC 4 on 15th of October at Adelaide Oval.
James Murphy is a South Australia based contributor for Fight News Australia.