UFC Orlando’s Max Griffin feels it’s an honor to fight a “junkyard dog” like Mike Perry — but he has no doubt he’s getting his hand raised after their bout this Saturday.
Max ‘Pain’ Griffin has what is almost certainly the highest profile fight of his career this Saturday at UFC Orlando. Opening up the main card against ‘Platinum’ Mike Perry, Griffin is in the perfect spot to make a statement. Thanks to a Fight of the Night effort against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos last time out, he’s been able to become more focused than ever before.
Cageside Press had the chance to speak to Max Griffin heading into UFC on FOX 28, as UFC Orlando is otherwise known. And he made it clear that things are looking better than ever before, as he has made the transition to a full-time fighter following that bonus winning appearance at UFC Fight Night 119.
Check out the audio from the interview below, starting at 42:51.
“Honestly it’s a game-changer,” Griffin said of his ability to train full time, without having to worry about the restraints of a day job. “Typically you don’t get to this level being part-time, you know just training in the morning, training at night.”
Illustrating how key bonuses can be to UFC athletes, Griffin explained that “with that bonus, I was able to invest in myself, and train the way I always wanted to train.” He’s no longer struggling to get the rest and recovery necessary, either. “I was only getting four or five hours of sleep [a night] for the last ten years. So now, to actually get my sleep, and be able to schedule my massages, I’m not doing any trade-offs. I used to say ‘s***, am I going to do jiu-jitsu tonight, or am I going to recover? Am I going to do wrestling, or am I going to do boxing?’ Now, I do everything. It’s totally different.”
As Griffin summarized it, “it’s amazing. It’s like I had a handicap all these years. Now that I’m able to go all-out, everyone’s in trouble.”
The lifestyle change had an even bigger impact thanks to Griffin’s position in life, as a father, with bills to pay. “I’m older, I have responsibilities. So I never had the chance to have the luxury of just training,” he explained. “Now, since I’ve been doing this so long, now I know what to do. It’s like I’ve been fantasizing about my dream all these years, and now that I get to have it, I’m executing it.” And he points out that he’s far from alone, even at the highest levels. “Even the high-level guys, they’re teaching, training, picking up classes, doing security.”
“Even when I was working, I had two or three jobs,” he continued. “I had a career, I worked corporate real estate, which is like an office job. You dress nice, you’re doing e-mails, cubicle, all that stuff. But also, I was a bouncer at a club, for extra money. It takes a lot away from what you’re doing, and you don’t even realize how much you’re not focusing. Even though I shut all that off, or I thought I did.”
Though the result didn’t go his way last time out, Griffin still took a lesson from the fight. “You gotta focus. I lost focus for a second. Before I got hurt, I was winning the fight.” The welterweight was quick to praise his opponent at the time, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, as a “great fighter” and a “killer.”
“Elizeu’s an excellent fighter, he’s going to be around for a long time. But I was beating him before I got clipped in the first. You know, dropped him, I was having my way, and I lost focus for a split second,” he continued. The end result, Griffin got caught and was in survival mode from that point. “He almost put me away in the first, and my cardio and resilience saved me. You gotta focus, you can’t make those mistakes. But I believe it happened how it’s supposed to happen. I dropped him in the first and the second, and I was hurt. If I was healthy, I probably would have finished him in the second, but then I wouldn’t have got Fight of the Night.”
The biggest takeaway was that “I can take a punch. And I’m still dangerous at all times. My cardio’s great. It really validated a lot, to be that hurt and still do that good of a job.”
And while being on the main card of a FOX show is a definite break, it’s not something Griffin is spending much time thinking about. “I don’t care,” he told Cageside Press. “I mean, I used to care, right.” That’s because outside the UFC, he’s been the champion. He’s been the main event. And when he got to the UFC, he learned the hard way what distractions can do to a fighter.
“He’s a banger, he’s a junkyard dog you know? It’s an honor to fight him, honestly” – Max ‘Pain’ Griffin on opponent Mike Perry
“I actually learned my lesson in the Colby Covington fight, about the lights and the stage,” Griffin explained. “Because my first [UFC] fight was on 202, arguably one of the biggest cards ever in history, McGregor-Diaz 2. I was star-struck in that fight, I’m not going to lie. To see everyone walking around, and signing posters with ‘Rumble’ Johnson, and all this and that. To see Bruce Buffer, and all these guys… I was like a deer in the headlights.”
“It did get to me” he admitted, adding “that was kind of like a slap in the mouth to me, like ‘hey man, you’re fighting!’ That’s why, when I went to Mexico that next fight and smashed the guy, it was just business.” So that now, “it’s me and the guy in the cage, and it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Max ‘Pain’ is positive about where he sits with the company right now, however. “What I do like — I feel like they like me, the UFC likes me. They want to see action, and they know I’m going to bring it.” As evidence, he pointed out that despite losing his last fight, he’s been promoted to the main card. Which is “win-win for me, I’m going to bring it. The whole world’s going to know me after this.”
On opponent Mike Perry, Griffin was complimentary, despite his competitive spirit. “He’s a warrior man. I know a lot of people like him, a lot of people don’t. He’s a big talker. I kind of know him a little more personally.” What Griffin sees is, perhaps, something of a kindred spirit. “He’s a banger, he’s a junkyard dog you know? It’s an honor to fight him, honestly. We talked to Sean Shelby at the retreat and said how we wanted to fight each other. We have respect for each other, because we’re both warriors.”
“I think it’s great that it’s in Orlando, with his people. It’s going to be a freakin’ madhouse in there, a madhouse.”
It was that UFC Athlete’s Retreat that set the stage for this fight. “I’ve always wanted to fight him since then, I just didn’t think it would be so soon. Because he is ranked, he’s ranked up there, he’s pretty popular. For him to take the fight — I didn’t think he’d take it honestly.” There had been talk of Perry facing Darren Till or Donald Cerrone, after all, despite losing his last bout. Instead, the UFC booked Perry against Griffin, who pointed out that his name is “getting out there” a little.
In the end, the fight is a blessing for Griffin, who said he appreciates Perry. Of course, he also said he plans to beat him, but “I’ve got love for him.”
If you feel this bout is going to be a brawl, you’re not alone. “That’s what they want, I’m gonna beat him up.” There’s a key difference between the two, of course: “I know he fights really emotionally, I try to fight more technically,” Griffin said.
His last fight “was a brawl not because I wanted a brawl, it’s just ’cause I’m a fighter, I’m a warrior.” It could very well happen again, technical or not. “If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes, and both of us have the same attitude. He’s a little bit more emotional, but it’s gonna be fireworks. Because we both can bang, and we’re not scared. We’re not, you know, fighters that are real timid.”
Max Griffin doesn’t mind going into enemy territory, either. “We’ve got balls man, both of us. I think it’s great that it’s in Orlando, with his people. It’s going to be a freakin’ madhouse in there, a madhouse.” In fact, fighting behind enemy lines is something Griffin finds can be a positive.
“I fought the Ultimate Fighter winner [Erick Montaño] in Mexico, beat him,” he recalled. “They sent me to Brazil to go fight one of the best Brazilian welterweights there is right now, got Fight of the Night with him. It’s like they like me going into the backyards of these guys. I like it though, honestly.”
Reason being, it takes you out of your comfort zone. “It puts you in a different mentality. When you have all your friends around, it’s like a loving crowd and that. It’s kind of like an artificial kind of thing,” Griffin explained. “But when the crowd hates you, I remember in Brazil, even Mexico, when I fought, it was during the election in the U.S., and Trump, F America and all this. And I had the flag, they’re booing me, throwing beer at me when I was walking out. Even Brazil, they were more respectful, but they wanted me to die. So it was kinda putting me in an ‘F ya’ll, F everybody’ kind of attitude. It pulls the killer out of you.”
That killer’s goal for 2018 is the finish the year ranked. “As simple as that,” Griffin said. “My fights are going to speak for themselves.” And in the immediate future, the plan is to “keep that momentum going, first by putting Perry away.”
“The world’s gonna love that” he finished.
Don’t miss Max Griffin taking on ‘Platinum’ Mike Perry this Saturday at UFC Orlando (UFC on FOX 28), live on FOX — CTV 2 in Canada. The main card kicks off at 8 p.m. EST. For more coverage of the event, check our UFC on FOX 28 page, and catch our full chat with Max on the Throwin’ Elbows podcast!