Mike Trizano is an undefeated professional MMA champion who’s been leading the pack since his early amateur days. A fierce competitor, he’s called “The Lone Wolf” because of his self-reliance and his keen instincts that explode into action once he enters the cage.
We caught up Mike to learn more about how growing up NJ, martial arts training, and teaching at Tiger Schulmann’s Paramus have pushed him to become the alpha he is today.
Where did you grow up? What was your family like?
I grew up Ramsey, NJ—very North Bergen County. My upbringing was nothing out of the ordinary. I have a great family: a younger brother, 2 great parents. I’m lucky to have been brought up and raised with the family I have. We were living in a wealthy area, but we weren’t rich. My parents made me work for everything I had in my life. From an early age, they instilled the value of hard work in me. I learned the principle of perseverance, and how to actually earn something, because nothing would be given to me. So from an early age, I learned that I need to just go out and work my butt off.
What brought you to Tiger Schulmann’s?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. Out of high school, I probably would have gone into the military if not for my training at Tiger Schulmann’s. School was not for me. I tried it and couldn’t do it. It’s just not how I learn. I’m a physical learner; I have to be in the field doing it. You can teach me all you want on a blackboard, but it’s not going to click.
At 17, I took a more serious interest mixed martial arts training, and one of my buddies told me I should check out Tiger Schulmann’s, which was where his mom was training. I went in, took a class, and I was hooked immediately. I would go to school, then go to the gym. Sensei made sure I did all my homework, and then I’d help with kids classes, take my own three classes, then go home, sleep, wake up, and do it all over again. At that time, I played football, but then I quit my senior year to dedicate all of my time to martial art training.
How did your family support your decision to become a professional athlete?
In the beginning, they liked that I was working hard at something, but they weren’t 100% behind it. My parents wanted me to go to college, get a good 9-to-5 job, do the typical life thing. But that wasn’t for me. I can’t be behind a desk; I need to move around. It was a battle for a while; I fought with with my parents a lot over this.
At one point, I was going to school, working a separate job, training, and assisting at Tiger Schulmann’s—all at the same time. Something had to give. I was overwhelmed, and school—the thing that I cared least about—dropped. Eventually, I failed most of my classes because I just stopped going. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had 8:00 a.m. classes that I was missing because I would get home at 2:00 a.m., and then would still have to eat and do my laundry before going to bed.
So one day, I walked in, and my parents were sitting in the kitchen. I knew I was going to get a ‘talking to.’ In the back of my head, I was expecting this big lecture about school, how I got to stop training, but instead they told me they wanted me to stop going to school. When I heard that, it was like 10,000 pounds of stress was taken off of me. They said they saw how focused I was on training, and if that’s what I wanted to do, they supported it.
From that moment on, I dropped everything and then it was Tiger Schulmann’s 24/7: training and teaching. I started doing really well in competition, and things started taking off for me. I knew my parents were 100% behind me. And now, I’m in the UFC!
Before you started training, were you always a fan of MMA??
I was into it, but I was far from a diehard fan because I wasn’t too familiar with it. I associated combat with boxing, not MMA. When I was young, I remember my Dad made me watch Rocky, and that got me interested. When I first came to Tiger Schulmann’s, I didn’t think that I would do MMA, but when I started to train in other disciplines and could see how to put it all together, I saw how all these options combined could be so much more than just boxing with my hands.?
Were there other athletes you looked up to?
I never really looked up to anybody, but as like a fighter, one of the guys that I really loved watching was George St. Pierre. I loved his mentality and the technical aspect that he brought to the game. You gotta remember, at that time there weren’t as many technical fighters as there are now. It used to be more like wrestlers that brawl. He showed that you didn’t have to be a bigger or stronger guy if you had good technique. If you were crisp and solid, you would be able to piece people up. ?I learned so much from watching him.
What does your nickname, “The Lone Wolf,” mean to you?
?Because I’m the only one in that cage. Even though I have a huge support, I’m the one who goes in there trying to just rip the flesh off my opponent.
Think about it: a wolf has a pack for support and protection, but a “lone wolf” is more lethal because it’s got to be able to fend for itself—t can’t rely on others. When I’m competing, you have your coaches but they can’t jump in there and help you pull the guy off. In life, like in the cage, you got to rely on your instincts, and be able to adapt in whichever way possible at that moment to survive, to win, to be successful.
What was it like being on The Ultimate Fighter, and seeing yourself on TV?
It’s weird. Absolutely weird. I was the kind of person that laughed at people that were on reality shows. I always thought they were staged, but on The Ultimate Fighter, it wasn’t staged. Granted, there were some things that we had to do over because they didn’t like the angle of the shot or something like that. But we didn’t have scripts or anything. The whole experience was absolutely genuine.
What did your parents think about your being on TV?
Oh they loved it. They watched it every week. They would invite they would invite have people over to watch it with them. (Laughs)
Have you been recognized in public?
Once in a while.? I was out at a diner a couple of weeks ago, and a guy came up to me and asked, “Are you Mike Trizano?” I was like “Yeah.” He said he saw me on the show, and that he was a huge fan. I signed an autograph for him, haha. I mean, that’s only happened a few times, but it may happen more as I continue on with my career.
How are you preparing for your bout this weekend?
I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked before. I always? watch my last fight to look for improvement opportunities. There’s always something I can work on After each fight, I go right back to the drawing board, and I just try to learn and learn and learn. I focus on making sure that my cardio is good, and I’m always in solid shape. I push myself day in and day out and get better.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as someone who was inspirational for younger athletes coming up. Through my journey, I hope that I can show that if you have talent, and you work hard, you can be successful. That if you put your mind to something, you can do anything. You’re not limited to certain things because of situations that you’re in. People like to make excuses and say, “Oh I can’t do that, because of this.” No, you can do whatever you want. You’re only limiting yourself because you’re telling yourself you can’t do it. I truly believe that ANYBODY you know can do ANYTHING they want: it’s all in how your mind sees it. We can manifest negative things in our head for no reason. We can set limitations for ourselves for no reason. I want to send a positive the message for people that they can achieve what they dream if they put in the work.