Forget what the record books say. When Max Griffin steps into the octagon Saturday night at UFC Tampa, he’s on a two-fight winning streak.
Earlier this year, Thiago Alves was gifted a split decision win at home in Fortaleza, Brazil. American welterweight Max Griffin put on a memorable performance that night, and still came out on the wrong end of the scorecards.
Judges excluded, there was little question in anyone’s mind about who actually won the fight. Even Pitbull knows who was victorious that February night, believes Griffin.
“He knows I won,” Griffin told Cageside Press recently. “The matchmakers said I won, all the UFC staff said I won, the numbers said I won. I won. It is what it is, but I take it as a two-fight win streak right now.”
He’ll take that win streak with him into Tampa, Florida this weekend. A card that was originally expected to be in his own back yard out in California. San Francisco was the rumored destination.
Instead of fighting at home, Griffin will throw down in the Sunshine state. Not a terrible trade-off, but it’s been an interesting road getting there.
First, there was the Alves fight. While the UFC seems to agree that Griffin should have got the nod, it has soured him on fighting in the South American nation. “I won’t fight in Brazil again, and that’s a fact. I won’t. Unless it’s for a title, but even then, maybe not,” Griffin told us. “I love the culture, I love the food, I love the beach. I love everything about Brazil.” Except the judges, of course.
Next, Griffin bounced back nicely against Zelim Imadaev at UFC 236, although it was another close one, this time a majority decision. And not without another sort of drama, with Imadaev, a UFC newcomer, nearly sparking a brawl prior to the fight, during breakfast at the fighter hotel.
“He ran up on me, but all my family was there,” Griffin recalled. “Luckily they were at the buffet, and not right there. Something probably would have happened to him if my son was right there.”
To Griffin, the behavior was not just boorish, but pointless. “We’re fighting tomorrow,” he pointed out. “I’m trying to get paid. I’m not going to fight you right here, right now and get suspended and lose out on my paycheck. He’s an idiot.” With UFC staff and the police attending the scene, Griffin was assured his opponent wouldn’t be a problem.
“Four hours later we went to weigh-ins, he came at me again,” Griffin revealed. “They’ve got to do something,” he suggested. The UFC’s Fighter Conduct Policy, released years ago, seems to have been all but forgotten, however.
Regardless, Griffin, for his part, sums it up to Imadaev being “a spoiled brat.” Something he believes stems from the Russian’s upbringing. “I heard after he’s like some prince in Chechnya. His parents are millionaires,” said Griffin. “That’s why he’s a turd.”
Thankfully for Max Griffin, Imadaev is a vanquished foe in the rear-view mirror. It’s on to Tampa, off two impressive performances. Griffin has been noticeably improved of late. Asked about his recent showings, he suggested it was simply that “I just feel more comfortable in there.” Which was just a matter of time.
As well as time, Griffin also sums up a lot of his recent success to level of competition. “A lot of guys, they fight Joe Blows. A lot of guys do. I don’t care who you’re talking about, the majority of them fight guys that are just kind of okay.”
On the other hand, “I fought wolves, man. I fought the wolves my whole time,” he said of his UFC tenure. “They haven’t given me any Joes. I’ve had a tough road, so it’s taken a little bit longer.”
It’s hard to argue against him. In addition to Alves, a former title challenger, Griffin has fought Colby Covington, the next man in line for the belt. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, another top welterweight, was an early foe. Mike Perry, Curtis Millender — wolves.
Griffin admits he was looking for wolf again, a bigger name than Alex Morono, who he faces at UFC Tampa. But at the end of the day, fighting is a business, and Griffin is a full-time fighter.
Plus, while Morono isn’t as well known as some of Griffin’s previous foes, “he’s a banger,” the California native told us. “He has good jiu-jitsu. He’s a tough son of a bitch, man. He’s gritty, he’s really hard to put away. But I like the match-up stylistically, I really like it.”
Calling their pending showdown a dogfight, Griffin added “[Morono]’s a real fighter. He wants to fight. He’s not just going to try to outpoint you and win, kind of lay back and not take any damage.”
Essentially, “he’ll put his head down and try to kill me,” said Griffin. And that’s the kind of battle he enjoys.
It’s just a shame the fight couldn’t come in San Francisco. Asked what he’d heard about the rumored date falling through, Griffin explained that it boiled down to money. “They wanted all these fees,” he said, noting how much everything costs in California. Plus “environmental stuff. It’s a nightmare. Even with the commission out here. The only state that does that 10% thing with your weight, and has you weigh in again at the fight. They’ll suspend you if you’re not [within] 10% [of your weigh-in weight]. California’s becoming a nightmare.”
The “10% thing” Griffin is referring to is the CSAC policy of testing to see how much weight fighters are putting back on between weigh-in and fight night. If it’s more than 10% of their body weight, the commission will recommend fighters change weight class.
In extreme cases, they’ll pull a fighter’s license, as they did with Aspen Ladd.
Ultimately, “what I heard was, there were too many hoops to go through. Too expensive,” said Griffin. Add the travel and lodging costs, and “it didn’t make sense for the UFC from a business standpoint to pay that much,” he finished.
Speaking of business sense, Griffin will enter UFC Tampa on the first fight of a new contract. “I’ve always been happy with what I got,” Griffin said. Life for the fighter has been good, he acknowledged. Admittedly, though, he’s a little more comfortable under his new deal. “Now I’m getting paid money where I can actually start buying things, start investing in properties, buying businesses — money I can do something with rather than just living fight-to-fight.”
In the end, the deal is worth “more than double what I was making,” he revealed. Which should result in a very motivated Max ‘Pain’ Griffin hitting the octagon this Saturday for UFC Tampa.
UFC Tampa (UFC Fight Night 161) takes place this Saturday, October 12 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The card airs live on ESPN+ (TSN in Canada).