As good as his second-round TKO finish of Marcelo Nunes was back in April, “I’m past it,” Maurice Greene told us just a few days ago.
In an exclusive interview with Cageside Press, Greene proved to have already moved past what has come before, and is focused solely on upcoming opponent Ante Delija— while knowing full well what a win over Delija could mean.
“I thought it was great, go back and watch the footage, pull my opportunities from it really. I look at what I’ve done well, and look to work to build that,” Greene said of his showing at this year’s PFL 2 card. “Look at the opportunities, fix those holes in my game, continue to stay sharp and put my foot on the gas.”
With his foot firmly on the gas now, Greene knows exactly what he wants, and knows that many might count him out. That doesn’t seem to have deterred him any.
“I plan on winning this tournament, and I’ll say that proudly. I’m probably the only person that believes that, besides the people that are in my corner, and that’s okay,” stated Greene, noting that even if he beats Delija, there’s more work to be done. “It’s great that you win, like when I go out here and beat Ante, it’s great that I beat last year’s champ. But guess what? I’m still not the champ. At the end of the day, you’re still not the champ. You’ve still got to go out, you’ve got two more fights, you’re only halfway there.”
Perhaps with that in mind, Greene isn’t putting too much emphasis on Ante Delija being the defending PFL heavyweight champion.
“At the end of the day, if you take the name away from the face, it’s still another person. I’ve still got to go through him to the title. He’s on my road to be a world champion this year. I’ll take the necessary steps, do the proper training, and prepare for the task to beat Ante.”
Greene isn’t expecting to see a noticeably different Ante Delija than what we’ve seen in the past. “Why would you change? It’s hard to change when you’re winning fights. So what I expect from him is what we’ve seen from him for so many years. A lot of years. There’s been some changes in his game, definitely, over the years but everybody pretty much stays true to what they do unless you’re one of those guys that can kind of keep adding and keep adding and keep adding. A lot of these guys don’t.”
When it comes to that growth and adding skills, however, Greene feels he has done just that. “So when you think you got a jump on me, you’re sadly mistaken when we get in that cage.”
Maurice Greene had less than ten pro fights when he made his way to the UFC as part of The Ultimate Fighter 28 heavyweight tournament. Despite being thrown in the fire so to speak, forced to learn on the job, “The Crochet Boss,” now a teammate of UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones, is happy with how things played out.
“Ultimately look where I ended up at. I ended up in the PFL, I’m in the tournament this year with a possible huge opportunity after winning the tournament,” Greene noted. “I’m assuming that the winner’s going to fight Francis [Ngannou], and I want that one too, so I have a job to do. It’s to win this tournament.”
“As far as learning on the job, there’s no better way than on the job training. And I learned some hard lessons on the job. What I thought was going to be glorious was not, and I had to adapt, and keep my foot on the gas. A lot of guys get broken in these times, and they don’t end up coming back. I’ve been in this game 14 years now that I look at it, it’s kind of crazy to think that I was just a fat boy who never fought his whole life, and at 25 decided to take a fight in 30 days.”
Despite a few rough patches, added Greene, “I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
The possibility of a fight with Francis Ngannou, the lineal UFC heavyweight champ and biggest free agent signing in PFL history, no doubt looms large for every PFL heavyweight. Especially given that Ngannou reportedly secured a two million dollar purse for his first opponent — yet to be named.
“It’s cool, I appreciate that. I appreciate that,” said Greene. “He’s right, we should be getting compensated right. We’re the reason why these promotions are promotions. The fighters you house.”
“To think that there’s the potential to not only win a million in the tournament, but to turn around and, I’m assuming I’d fight in April or May next year, to make an additional two million dollars — to be in the MMA field and be one of those guys to accomplish something you can write home about, that’s truly all it’s about for me.”
That, and family, added Greene. ” I’ve got two kids, they’ve got to go to college, a lot of sh*t. That’s why I’m doing this, that’s my why, that’s what gets me up in the morning. Between that, and having something to call mine, like that world championship. You can’t take that away from me.”
None of that will matter, however, if Maurice Greene fails to get the job done at PFL 5 on June 16.
“It’s cool, but the reality is, it’s all irrelevant if you don’t make the playoffs. You’re not going to do that,” Greene pointed out. “Because whoever does fight him, everybody thinks Ngannou’s going to run through everybody.” Greene doesn’t necessarily believe that to be the case. “He’s going to meet his f*cking match. And as soon as he meets his match, maybe nobody is going to make two million. We don’t know. We have no clue. But I want to be the guy to test that theory. And we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Ante, right now, like I’ve said a million times, has my undivided attention.”
Maurice Greene meets Ante Delija in the main event of 2023’s PFL 5 card on June 16. Watch our full interview with “The Crochet Boss” above.