Here’s a question: what do you get when you cross a music career with MMA? No, this isn’t some cheesy joke, but it’s understandable if you thought that. After all, people don’t usually associate musicians and cage fighters together. The answer, however, is Mikey Rukus, a Virginian music-producer/musician and MMA fan who had the crazy idea of combining his two passions into a thriving career. Starting three years ago, Rukus began making custom walkout music for fighters’ entrances, as well as theme music for promotions like World Series of Fighting, Invicta FC and Cage Warriors, amongst others.

“I was kind of at a crossroads of what I was doing musically,” Rukus told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I didn’t want to take the conventional path. I didn’t want to be one of those typical artists that gets pigeonholed into one specific genre. I was trying to come up with an innovative way not only to corner a market, but also create a brand niche, and this was it. I love mixed martial arts, and I love music, so why not?”

Rukus now has over 150 clients and has worked with the likes of Renan Barao, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Mark Hunt. Success wasn’t immediate, however. He started out mostly by creating music for amateur fighters and regional promotions.

His first clients, as Rukus recalled, were wary of using Rukus’s services when the musician reached out to them on Facebook. He remembers thinking, “All I need is one. If I can get one person to agree to it, I’ll be fine.” Rukus guessed correctly, and he has been able to support his eight kids as a full-time musician since August 2013.

Rukus’s musical origins began in high school when he enrolled in a guitar class to learn how to play Metallica songs. Like any music student, Rukus started with basic scales. By his senior year, he was playing lead guitar in his school’s jazz band. Over his time spent in high school, he also learned how to play bass and drums.

After graduating, Rukus got into the underground hip-hop scene and also began to teach himself how to produce music, rather than just play it. Even with his success thus far, Rukus described how he’s still learning new things about the craft all the time. It really is Rukus’s knack for learning new things and his care for his clients that separates him from other competitors who have started to emerge on the scene.

“I don’t write the music for me,” said Rukus. “I write the music for [the fighter]. At the end of the day, I want them to make sure that they’re happy with their product and that their story is told.”

Other musicians are often very sensitive in making changes to their work, but Rukus prides himself in his ability to take criticism. The Virginian has the same approach to making custom music now as he did when he first started three years ago: Rukus finds out what kind of music motivates the fighter, whether it be orchestral, hip hop or rock. Then, based off whatever specification the client gives, he’ll keep making adjustments to the track until the fighter is completely satisfied. These tracks aren’t just instrumentals. Rukus also provides all his own vocals.

“If they want me to sing, I’ll sing,” he said. “If they want me to scream, I’ll scream. If they want me to rap, I rap.”

It might sound like some frivolous part of the fight, but walkout songs have great meaning to many fighters. Rukus shared the story of how Invicta FC bantamweight Michelle Waterson hired him for her title fight with Jessica Penne. Rukus recorded a song where the vocals were a poem that Waterson reads to herself every time she walks to the cage.

“It takes her to another level of adrenaline,” said Rukus. Waterson ended up taking the title from Penne with an armbar in the fourth round.

Rukus’s talents are not limited to the music world. This year, he will be organizing a tour of pre-parties for all UFC pay-per-views in the United States. These events will be a culmination of live music, fighter appearances, live radio broadcasting, giveaways and vendor booths.

“We wanted to give the fans an opportunity to enhance their experience a bit more,” said Rukus. These events are also welcome to any fighters and their corners who want to have some fun before their bouts the next day. “If the fighters want to relax and re-hydrate, they can come hang out.”

The first event will be before UFC 169 at Tiff’s in Pequannock, N.J., where UFC fighters Uriah Hall and Cat Zingano will be in attendance for a meet-and-greet.

Rukus would also love to do music for the UFC, and perhaps do the scoring for the organization’s promos. He has even had several conversations with UFC President Dana White.

“We’re just waiting for the timing to be right,” said Rukus.

Nevertheless, Rukus hasn’t forgotten about what got him to this point, and he will continue to make custom walkout songs.

“I want to stay true to myself,” said Rukus, “and help as many fighters and as many companies as humanly possible.”

Rukus is yet another example of how hard work combined with a quality product and effective branding are the key to making your own luck and living your dreams.

Rukus would like to thank his sponsors for his 2014 tour: MMA Signature, Training Mask, CP Technology, MMA Institute, Left Hook Entertainment, Boze Kennels, and Andrew Vecere. To find out more about Mikey, visit his Facebook page, SoundClick page and follow him on Twitter: @MikeyRukus. Rukus’s music is also available on iTunes.

About The Author

Zach Miller
Staff Writer

Zach is a Boston native and has had a fascination with martial arts since playing Mortal Kombat at five years old. He was introduced to MMA after watching The Ultimate Fighter 5: Team Pulver vs. Team Penn. A recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Zach seeks to one day become a full-time MMA journalist. In addition to watching the sport, he has also trained in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and tae kwon do. Zach has also written for NortheastMMA.