Danielle Nickerson wants to make something clear: She’s not out for retribution. That’s not what this is.
However, staying silent about how her ex-husband and UFC welterweight Mike Perry allegedly physically abused her is no longer an option.
“This is nothing to hurt him,” Nickerson told MMA Junkie during a lengthy interview. “I know that my words are not going to have an impact on his career.”
MMA Junkie obtained 911 audio, another police recording and court records that support Nickerson’s detailed accounts of Perry’s alleged abuse.
Nickerson, 28, alleges she was physically assaulted by Perry “a handful of times,” the worst of it coming this year in the early morning hours of Feb. 10. Nickerson alleges an enraged Perry, 29, “ground-and-pounded” her in their home until he got tired after a night on the town in Orlando, Fla. She fled to a neighbor’s house, where she was picked up by Perry’s mother, Sabra Young, who took her back to her home in nearby Altamonte Springs. When Perry arrived, his mother locked him out and called 911. According to the audio obtained by MMA Junkie, Young reported to dispatch that her son was “violent,” causing her to fear for her life.
“It was like a movie,” Nickerson said. “You’re like, this isn’t my life. What is happening right now? I (thought) if I don’t leave and run out of this house, I will die.”
While Nickerson says nothing was “ever even remotely close” to that night, she alleges other domestic abuse prior to it. On one occasion, Perry allegedly hit her on the forehead and left a hematoma from his wedding ring. He also allegedly struck her in the face, leaving a bruised eye and swollen lip.
Nickerson took photos of herself after both of those incidents. She shared the photos with MMA Junkie, but declined permission to publish them out of fear of being publicly shamed. The images accurately depict the injuries Nickerson described. Two of Nickerson’s friends, who wished to remain unnamed, told MMA Junkie that Nickerson shared details of the abuse with them.
All of this led Nickerson to file a protective order against Perry in March. As MMA Junkie first reported in late July, the motion was denied by a Florida judge on the basis that “general relationship problems and uncivil behavior are not domestic violence.” In submitting the order, Nickerson checked the box classifying the case as “domestic violence.” However, Nickerson said at the time she filed, she withheld details from her written statements because she had mixed feelings about her future with her then-husband and “didn’t want to ruin his life.”
Even now, that’s not her purpose for speaking out.
“This is not (something UFC president Dana White will see) and be like, ‘He’s cut.’ There’s no way. I don’t have that sort of impact. This is not for that,” Nickerson said. “This is for helping others. This is for getting the word out there about what you can do to help people in a domestic violence situation and the warning signs and how to not get this deep into something. Hopefully this will be something that pushes the UFC into doing more checks on their heads and brain damage and really taking care of them physically.”
Perry’s manager, Abe Kawa of First Round Management, declined comment when reached by MMA Junkie on Tuesday. A statement from Perry’s Twitter account denying Nickerson’s allegations was later issued.
“I did not put hands on my ex at any point in our short term marriage,” Perry said, adding that he’s received help for both alcohol use and anger management. “… I have realized that I have said some things in the past that do not put me and what I stand for in the best of light and for that I apologize. I am now in a loving relationship where I am looking forward and excited to welcoming my first born. I’m hopeful my ex can move on and find peace as I have.”
The UFC declined MMA Junkie’s request for comment. Perry’s next fight is scheduled for Nov. 21 against Robbie Lawler at UFC 256.
Spiraling out of control
When Nickerson started dating Perry in 2015, he was just two bouts into his professional MMA career. They met at the gym and started dating – and things were good.
Things were so good, in fact, that Nickerson, a tennis pro who took up MMA training as a hobby, regularly cornered Perry’s fights after he joined the UFC in August 2016. She became the “Platinum Princess,” a moniker Perry gave her after his own “Platinum” fighter nickname. Nickerson says they dealt with “normal relationship stuff,” but domestic violence wasn’t an issue for the first four years.
“It was not always like that,” Nickerson said. “Really just toward the end. … He always had a temper, but I was always the one person who could calm him down and bring him back to earth.”
However, Nickerson says issues escaped her control after they married in September 2019. Perry’s alcohol use almost always was a contributing factor. This past July, the UFC announced it had ordered Perry to seek treatment for his alcohol problem after video showed him punch a man outside a restaurant in Texas. It was those types of situations that Nickerson got used to dealing with during their marriage.
“He was just uncontrollable,” Nickerson said. “There was no bringing him down. There was no talking to him. There was no reasoning with him. It all honestly seemed like a horrible downward spiral when he lost the fight to Geoff Neal.”
Against Neal in December 2019 at UFC 245, Perry lost by first-round TKO. A head kick and follow-up punches led to the first knockout loss of Perry’s career.
Nickerson, who was in Perry’s corner that night in Las Vegas, says Perry’s memory was foggy when they got back to the locker room at T-Mobile Arena. He had no recollection of what just happened. She had to explain it to him.
“He just had no idea and was getting so upset that he didn’t know and was insisting that we were about to go out (to fight) again,” Nickerson said. “Like, ‘We’re about to go out, right? We’re about to walk out. That didn’t just happen. That wasn’t me.’ He kept saying, ‘That wasn’t me. That wasn’t me. I didn’t even do that. I don’t know what happened. That wasn’t me. You can’t tell me I just went out there and got knocked out. I didn’t do that.’ He was insistent on it.”
Even after that night, Nickerson says “it took a couple days for everything to totally come back. Some of it he didn’t remember at all.”
When she looks back now, Nickerson wonders whether repeated head blows Perry sustained during his six-year MMA career caused mood swings and anger issues that are often associated with brain trauma.
“If anyone’s ever watched his fights, you know that he gets hit a lot, and it’s entertaining whether he wins or loses, because he just goes forward,” Nickerson said. “That’s a lot on your head and your brain. Obviously he had never been knocked out before that. Once that happened, it was like a light switch changed. And that was scary.”
‘Craziest, worst night of my life’
Nothing was scarier than that night in February, which Nickerson calls the “craziest, worst night of my life.” According to her, one of Perry’s friends – whom Nickerson didn’t name – invited them to a bar to watch an Orlando Magic game. They went, but the plan changed when the friend asked them to meet at a nightclub, instead.
By the time Nickerson and Perry arrived, she says their friends had already been drinking for a while. Perry wanted to catch up.
“Alcohol always made things really, really bad,” Nickerson said. “That was the first sign I was nervous. I think when you get in these situations, you want to very lightly tip-toe around anything. Like, don’t breathe wrong is what I always would joke about.”
Nickerson says she found herself in that situation after Perry got into an altercation with an intoxicated woman who was part of an engagement party. The woman, who’d been hanging out with Perry’s friend all night, followed them to another bar. There, Nickerson says tempers flared when the woman gave Perry attitude.
“I immediately knew this was going to be an issue,” Nickerson said. “He said some really vulgar things back to her.”
The woman’s response was to pour a drink over Perry’s head, which “sky rocketed him into another dimension of anger.” According to Nickerson, Perry hit the woman, knocking her off a high-top chair. The bouncer, whom they knew, immediately kicked them out.
Nickerson was in full damage control during the drive home, “still trying to smooth things over.” But Perry was enraged and even sped through a red light. At that point, Nickerson wanted out of the car. Perry “slammed the breaks” in front of a house and yelled at her to “get the (expletive) out.” She did and was about to call an Uber, but Perry returned two minutes later, yelling at her to get back in. She reluctantly agreed but only if she drove. When she walked to the driver’s side, Nickerson says Perry threw her to the ground, got on top of her and made verbal threats as he faked like he would punch her.
Perry got up moments later, went back in the car and drove away.
“After that, I was nervous, so I called his friend that we were just with,” Nickerson said. “And I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t know what to do, because he just threw me in someone’s yard, he just ran a red light and is acting absurd more than ever. I don’t know if I can handle him when I get home, and I don’t know what to do, so can you please help me?’”
When they arrived at the house, Nickerson says Perry was still furious. It didn’t help that she walked in with his friend, whose presence seemed to make things worse, so she asked him to leave when Perry went to the bathroom. After the friend left, Nickerson says she walked into a separate bathroom to compose herself. She walked out still trying to calm down Perry but to no avail.
“He ran straight at me like a football player to tackle me, sprinted across the house,” Nickerson said. “Where we were standing was on tile, and I really did not want to get tackled on tile. So I ran to the carpet in the living room.”
Nickerson says she tried to put distance between herself and Perry, but he chased her. They reached a standstill, with only a plugged-in electric massage chair between them.
“He literally grabbed the chair and ripped it out of the wall and threw it across the room like Hulk-strength scary,” Nickerson said.
She knew what was coming next. All she could do was cover up in the fetal position.
“He had his knee on my belly and just ground-and-pounded me until he got tired,” Nickerson said. “I did a decent job of covering my face. I still had hematomas on the back of my head. My entire right side from my entire arm, my legs, my ribs, everything was covered in bruises the next few days. He just got all of his anger out on me, and on the last punch I clearly – I think that’s why he stopped, is we heard my rib crack. He knew and sat back, and I think he was just tired – tired of hitting me so much.”
As Perry sat against the wall and breathed heavily, Nickerson says she got up and fled to their neighbor’s house. She didn’t have her phone and couldn’t remember anyone’s number, so she used her neighbor’s phone to log into Facebook Messenger. She called Perry’s mother, who picked up Nickerson and took her back to Perry’s sister’s house where she lived. Perry saw this and followed them.
With Nickerson safely behind closed doors, Young called 911 while Perry sat in his car outside. The audio, which MMA Junkie obtained from the Seminole County Sheriff, reveals Young describing a nerve-racking situation while she, Nickerson, her daughter, son-in-law, and two grandkids were inside the house.
“My son is out in the driveway, and he’s violent right now, and I’m scared for my life, and I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Young tells the dispatch. “He’s revving his engine right now. His wife is inside my house, and I’m afraid he’s going to hurt her.”
Nickerson thought the worst in that moment.
“I was horrified he was just going to bust into the house and continue,” she said.
Thankfully, Perry didn’t. He drove off within two minutes. Police arrived after Perry left; no incident report was filed because an arrest wasn’t made.
Enough is enough
Nickerson says that was the last time Perry assaulted her. For the next few weeks, she tried to save their marriage, but Perry’s mental state was unpredictable. On March 3 she found Perry at Rachel’s Strip Club in Orlando and confronted him inside.
“He smelled like liquor, so strong,” Nickerson said.
Before walking in, Nickerson called a friend who didn’t want Nickerson to go it alone, so she stayed on speaker. Nickerson says Perry shoved her when she found him at an ATM. A bouncer kicked them out, as a result, and an argument ensued in the parking lot. Nickerson says Perry admitted he was upset because he paid to be with a stripper in a private room and still had time left.
“I was like, ‘What are you so upset about? Are you mad because you don’t get to go party for the rest of the night?” Nickerson said. “He was like, ‘I still had 45 minutes left with her in that private room. And I was like, ‘OK, so are you mad that you didn’t get to have sex with her? Is that what you’re so upset about?’”
Nickerson’s friend, who wished to remain unnamed, confirmed those details to MMA Junkie. She recalls her emotions listening to the ordeal over the phone.
“I was on the line honestly in fear, in panic, as I usually am,” the friend said. “I, for years, told her that one of my biggest fears is him crashing his car with her in it. There’s always been behavior of his that has put me in mom mode in moments and really made me nervous. Going into (the call) I was nervous, and then hearing his tone, I wasn’t sure if he was on drugs or he was drunk or both, or I don’t know what. I just really wanted her to leave. …
“What I was hearing over the phone, what I know of him – what I know of them – I did not feel she was at all safe in that moment.”
After the argument, Nickerson says Perry left. Before she would stay with a friend that night, Nickerson wanted to grab some things from home – but she was nervous.
“I was like, if he goes back to the house, I’m not having Round 2 of (what happened Feb. 10),” Nickerson said. “This is clearly unfixable at this point. … I can’t die for him to live.”
So Nickerson called the Orlando Police Department’s non-emergency line for an escort, the audio of which MMA Junkie obtained.
“I’m in a potential domestic violence situation that I don’t want to happen,” Nickerson tells the dispatch. “I need to go to my house immediately and get things out of it, but I just don’t want to be alone – just in case.”
A police incident report confirms that four officers arrived; no other details were provided. According to Nickerson, Perry caused a scene by yelling and making verbal threats at the officers. He eventually calmed down, and they escorted Nickerson inside while she quickly grabbed her three dogs and some personal items.
The next morning, Nickerson hired an attorney and filed for divorce, as well as the protective order that was denied. Why wasn’t she forthcoming with her abuse allegations then? She has her reasons.
“First and foremost, he was my husband. We were married, and I never ever wanted to do anything to hurt him,” Nickerson said. “His mom did call the cops that night, and I was like, ‘I’m not talking to them. I’m not telling them anything.’ Because this person is already spiraling. Ruining his life isn’t going to do anything. I don’t want him to kill himself. After the fight with Geoff Neal, he had said that in the back, talked about killing himself. And I was (thinking) I cannot contribute to that. That can’t be on my conscience. I’m not reporting him.”
She continued, “I tried to put as much as I could (in the protective order filing) that wasn’t too much for him to get arrested and all that, because he already has a crazy record, and I didn’t want him to get fired from the UFC. That would literally kill him.”
Message to other survivors
Although their divorce was finalized in July, Nickerson says she’s been free of Perry for eight months. Both of them have moved.
Perry is in a relationship with Latory Gonzalez, whom he let corner his most recent fight, a June 27 win over Mickey Gall at UFC on ESPN 12. One month later, Gonzalez announced her pregnancy with Perry, who will become a father for the first time.
“I really hope history does not repeat itself for this girl or any other girl with him – or with anyone else,” Nickerson said. “That honestly is what I’m trying to get to not happen and do as much as I can to help people.”
In the months since leaving Perry, Nickerson has taken control of her life and is turning her traumatic experience into a positive. She still goes to therapy. Her main objective is helping women who’ve endured domestic violence similar to her.
Nickerson partners with BetterHelp.com, which offers affordable virtual therapy to survivors of domestic violence, by doing outreach through social media. She also runs the private Instagram page @treated.like.a.princess for women who have suffered, or are suffering, through an abusive relationship.
“It’s just a safe place for us to talk and have daily affirmations of something positive,” Nickerson said. “I’m constantly sending them things, just positive reinforcement – if they need help, that sort of thing. I’m by no means a professional. I can only speak from the experiences I’ve been through.
“I think it’s nice to have some sort of community, especially when you’re going through something, and you just need somebody to talk to, and maybe you can’t afford therapy, or you don’t want to go, and it’s too much of a commitment. This is something. I just want to help anybody who’s been in my situation or is currently going through it. If I can help one person get away from that, that’s my life’s work. I’m thrilled.”
It’s not how she envisioned, but Nickerson has felt “a sense of peace” being able to focus on herself and her cause for much of this year. When she looks back on those final months with Perry, she doesn’t see herself as a victim but rather a survivor.
More than anything, Nickerson hopes women will be aware of any signs of domestic violence in their relationships and find the strength to walk away.
“Really the biggest thing is I know it’s horrifying to leave. You have so many emotions,” Nickerson said. “You feel like you’re going to let everyone down. You feel like you failed at this relationship for whatever (reason), but there is a point that you just have to draw a line in the sand, and you can’t sacrifice your life for somebody else’s in that sense, literally, where you could almost die. That is not OK. No one will ever blame you for that.”