For some people, a stint behind bars is the tipping point in a downward spiral, a point of no return.
For others, it’s the wakeup call they need in order to get their lives in order once and for all.
Fortunately for “Platinum” Mike Perry, his six months in a Florida jail led to the latter.
“Best and worst experience of my life, I have to say, because it changed my life,” Perry said during an in-studio appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, one in which Perry opened up about his upbringing and the mistakes he’s made in life. “It was like a school for hard heads. There’s two ways you can go, you can go the other way. You either learn or you don’t.”
Perry, then 19, and a pair of accomplices drove to a home with the intention of committing armed burglary back in 2011, picking a house Perry knew from a good neighborhood.
“We’re driving around and I picked the house because I knew someone who used to live in there,” Perry said. “I grew up playing in the house. And it was a nice two-story house in a decent neighborhood and I was like, well that kid back then they had nice stuff and decent money so whoever has the house now must have some stuff, so that’s what we did.”
That’s about as far as they got. Someone was in the house, so they had to ditch their plan, but not before several cop cars scoped out the neighborhood and caught them.
Perry was originally sentenced to two years house arrest and two years probation. He got a year and a half done when he violated his terms by failing a drug test, which led to finishing his term in jail.
Once he got there, the simple lack of freedom became real.
“That’s one of the toughest parts, when you’re so hungry, man, and you can’t leave and you can’t go to the store, and get some food,” Perry said. “And you can’t use the bathroom by yourself. There’s 20 toilets and 20 showers and you can’t shower by yourself.”
There were stories of inhumane treatment, as well, the type that has gotten politicians on both sides of the aisle to take up the cause of reforming the nation’s correctional system. One such example was an experience he and three other inmates experienced being transferred from one facility to another.
“This one time, I was with three other people, and they put is in this little, it was like a dog truck,” Perry said. “There’s a metal wall right in front of your face and I’m sitting next to the other three dudes and I’m shackled up, and then they shut the door and it’s completely dark. You can’t see your hand in front of your face. And then they turn the heat on and we’re yelling at them like ‘yo, turn the heat off.’ We couldn’t breathe, and they like turned it up.”
Ultimately, Perry decided to use his remaining time to get his act together. He got himself onto a road work crew, which got him outdoors four days a week.
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He had already done amateur MMA fights, so progressing toward the pros seemed natural.
“I guess I always thought I would be one [a fighter],” Perry said. “I just would train sometimes and I always beat people up so I thought I’m gonna be a pro fighter someday. But then you really get into it, and really apply yourself, and it’s different.”
Two days after his release, Perry took a job at a local UFC Gym. It’s been a meteoric rise in less than four years from there to where he is now, at 26, with a 4-2 UFC record and main card spot in his adopted hometown of Orlando against Max Griffin at Saturday’s UFC on FOX 28.
Perry says he appreciates where life has brought him, and that he has no intentions of ever turning back.
“I feel like I’m past that point,” Perry said. “There’s no reason for me to go to jail because I’m want to be a good person. I’m not trying to do no wrong, I’m not trying to hurt anybody out here unless they’re going to sign the contract and I’m going to entertain thousands of fans and we do it on national television. I was a dumb kid who didn’t know what I was doing.”