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Max Griffin: It Takes A Village to Raise A Champion

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By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA

Photo courtesy of Max Griffin

Photo courtesy of Max Griffin

At a quarter to 5:00 p.m., Urban Sprawl Fitness in El Dorado Hills, an MMA gym to the east of California’s capital city, awaited its transformation into a more competitive atmosphere. Prior to the start of practice with Urban Sprawl Fitness’ team, MMA Gold, and a kids boxing class, mixed martial artists: shifted their kinetic energy into potential on one of the four leather couches in the lobby, slowly began their warm-ups, shared tactical knowledge on the periphery of the mat space, and two were teaching an MMA grappling class designed for kids. A mother and elementary school-aged daughter walked into the gym, eager for the first day of boxing lessons. Quickly taking inventory of the surroundings, one of the MMA grappling coaches extended an invitation for the girl to join the class for the remaining fifteen minutes. After a brief glance at mom, the little girl’s shoes were flying off, and she was tumbling to the floor.

Photo courtesy of Max Griffin

This brief exchange mirrors why Max “Pain” Griffin (11-2) added MMA Gold into his recipe for cooking up success as a professional mixed martial artist. Cracking the gym’s threshold, Griffin holds his head up high, unlike his fighting stance, greeting everyone he comes into contact with a soft-spoken confidence. His twenty-four carat personality appeared to lighten the load of his equipment bag that he carried in for the day’s training session. Approximately a week out from the biggest fight in his career, Griffin exudes a synergy that runs the length of the gym, reflected in the smiles of those who share his space. It’s incredible to fathom MMA Gold only represents one-third of Griffin’s power source. He explained,

“I actually train at a few gyms. Marinobles Martial Arts and Kickboxing; that’s my main gym. I went there when I was little. He [Dave Marinoble (pictured above)] was like my dad almost. My Dad took me there six days a week when I was a kid, so I’m loyal to him. I’m there four days a week, putting it all together. I come over here to MMA Gold, and I’ve been here three, maybe four, years. Over here, they have a great program: coach Doug Casebier, my strength and conditioning coach, and the wrestling is second to none. It started off more of like a grappling thing when I came over here, and they’re known for their wrestling and cardio. Then, I’m over at Team Carnage with Jaime Jara, focusing on my gi jiu-jitsu.” Griffin admitted the benefit to such a variety, “I’ve got the three gyms going, so I get different looks and guys. It’s really effective for me. I try stuff at this place, and I’ll try things on these other guys.”

Griffin’s warm charisma melted the notion of conflict in relation to training at different gyms,

“It’s cool because people are so open to train with me. I’m not a dick. Most guys can’t go train at different gyms. They can’t. They don’t let you. Not even just the coaches, but, as a fighter, people aren’t open to that. But I haven’t burned any bridges. I help people out. I’ve been the champion in the region since 2004. I’m known around here, and the doors are open.”

Photo courtesy of Max Griffin

In contrast to the smile plastered on the little girl’s face when making contact with the mat during her first experience with MMA, Griffin hardened at the thought of his upcoming contest against David “Bulletproof” Mitchell (19-5) at West Coast Fighting (WFC) 16: King of Sacramento. Climbing the ranks in a sport he loves, Griffin doesn’t shy away from the level of hate this regional rivalry has conjured up. Dropping the volume of his voice a level or two, relaying the seriousness of his words, Griffin expressed what it means to beat Mitchell in the main event of WFC 16,

 

“I want to beat him. I don’t care about what any of the stats are. He’s talking about all the UFC stuff. I don’t care. I want to beat him. Whatever happens, happens, but it’s me and him. He’s been talking a lot of junk for two years, since I left [WFC]. I went to Tachi Palace Fights, fought in Warriors Cage, and took like five fights out of West Coast. I got the Tachi belt. I came back to West Coast, and I’ve been wanting to fight him. He’s been downplaying me like I’m just supposed to drop my Tachi contract. I’m telling him, ‘I’m fighting for the title at Tachi, and I’m supposed to scratch that to fight you? Fuck you!’ Now, he’s just been talking shit for forever, so I’m glad to finally get a hold of him.” A maniacal smile crept across the face of Griffin, illustrating the destruction running through his mind, “Honestly!”

Since his first fight in WFC, Griffin has been forced to prove himself, and he intends on punctuating the largest show in the promotion’s history in the same manner in which he capitalized,

“I started at West Coast 1, and I fought Jaime Jara. The CSAC (California State Athletic Commission) wouldn’t let me fight. They were like, ‘This guy is like 3-0 taking on a guy who is like 36-7. We’re not going to let this fight happen. This isn’t Gladiator Challenge. This is West Coast, an official, sanctioned show. We can’t allow this guy, 3-0, to get murdered by this other guy.’” After a strong case was made by Griffin and his supporters, the CSAC deemed Griffin worthy of the bout, “Finally, they allowed it. They said, ‘Ok…’ But they were nervous. I went in there and knocked him out in like 40 seconds.”

Photo courtesy of Max Griffin

Thinking back to the girl toppling to the mat, she entered the facility under the impression that her back would never touch the ground. As all good instructors, the coaches of the kids MMA grappling class met their students’ needs with targeted instruction; therefore, one of the two coaches maintained their focus on the newest member of the community. When Griffin, WFC’s welterweight champion, signed on the dotted line to meet Mitchell, WFC’s middleweight champion, at a catchweight in the middle (175 pounds), Griffin’s team set to task to prepare for every ounce of difference,

“I’m going to scrape in there. I believe we get a one-pound allowance because this isn’t for a title, so my coach says, ‘Oh, we have eight pounds of muscle we could put on you.’ That’s what he immediately thought, so that’s what we did. I’m bigger and stronger now. For the first three months of camp, we did purely size and strength, just brute power, lifting incredible weight. The goal was 600 [pounds] on the deadlift. It was up a little, but I still pulled 600. The bar was bending. I haven’t been that strong ever in my life, ever. He [coach Doug Casebier] has not only been getting me stronger but using that muscle without fatigue, building my veins bigger, building my oxygen, so I’m actually using that muscle. It’s not that I look that big, but I’m strong as shit. He [Mitchell] is going to find out. Throw me around? Ask anyone who has grappled me. I’m stronger than a heavyweight.”

More than physicality alone, Griffin has also sharpened the mental side of his game, tuning into the wisdom being passed down to him. Griffin shared one of his recent lessons,

“I’m not going to lie, I get nervous before a fight. It’s anxiety. My [MMA] coach, [Daniel] Brito, told me: You feel butterflies and anxiety, but it’s your body getting ready; it’s fight or flight. You get butterflies because the blood leaves your body, and it goes to your extremities.” Griffin demonstrated the instinctive armament in humans by raising his two fists and hiding his chin into his chest, “It’s arming you for either fight or flight, so don’t be scared-embrace it. People act like being scared is a bad thing. No, it’s a good thing; it’s getting you ready for battle.”

UFC fans and Dana White, President of the UFC, have already captured a glimpse of Griffin’s potential as a contestant on season 11 of the UFC’s reality show, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). Recently, a new reality series launched on the UFC’s membership site, UFC Fight Pass, titled: Lookin’ for A Fight, sprouting the possibility of MMA’s top promotion plucking dynamic talent from developmental promotions around the nation. Hence, WFC has stacked WFC 16, hoping to incite White to pull up a seat along the cage. If White is in attendance, Griffin plans to highlight his improvements since the exhibition match on TUF in 2012,

“He [White] told me to get some wins when I was on The Ultimate Fighter. They [UFC] just want wins. When I was on The Ultimate Fighter, I was ranked high on there. Looking back, I fought Matt Secor for the two rounds, and it went to a third. I got submitted with 10 seconds left. I watched the replay on TV when it came out, and he [White] was more excited about my fight than ten of the other fights on there. He said, ‘I definitely thought that kid was going to win. He was exciting and explosive.’ Dana totally thought I was going to win; he’s all about it. I wasn’t ready then. I’m ready now.”

Before leaving Urban Sprawl Fitness, the same girl who only dabbled in MMA grappling for fifteen minutes and spent the remaining hour in a boxing class was dragging her mom back to the front desk to research when the next MMA grappling class for kids is scheduled. Covered in the same glow, MMA fans surrounding Northern California will flock to McClellan Conference Center on January 23, 2016 to witness Griffin’s attempt to deliver the “Pain” to Mitchell. Be sure to follow Griffin to discover what’s on the horizon for this rising star at:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/maxPAINmma

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maxpainmma/

Twitter: @maxPAINmma

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FURY FC 17 Preview: UFC Veteran Roger Narvaez Set to Fight For Gold

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Deep in the Hill Country of Texas, there is a storm of MMA action brewing on the horizon in the historic city of San Antonio.

In 1836 the most iconic siege ever to take place in the American West was waged between Santa Anna’s Mexican forces and a small band of Texans fighting for their independence at the Battle of the Alamo. On June 10th that tradition of never backing down continues as Fury Fighting Championships 17 takes place at the Shrine Auditorium with a card that was originally slated to have 20 bouts of MMA action. At the top of the bill, there will be a familiar face as former UFC fighter, Roger “The Silverback” Narvaez, looks to capture his first championship in the sport when he faces Antonio “Doomsday” Jones for the vacant middleweight title. The event will also feature a hot prospect, a kickboxing champion, and a grudge match.

Fury FC 17 will be broadcast live on FloCombat.com.

While the 33-year-old Narvaez (8-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) has already realized his ultimate goal of getting to the highest level of MMA, fighting for a title has always eluded him. The 6’3″ fighter nicknamed “The Silverback” due to his abnormal 79.5″ wingspan, or monkey arms as he calls them was twice scheduled to fight for the Legacy Fighting Championship Middleweight Title against then champion Bubba Bush who now fights in the UFC. An injury caused the first fight to be canceled. Then a call up to the UFC to fight an unknown opponent on short notice put an end to plans for the another scheduled title fight.

Theodorou vs. Narvaez at UFC 185 (photo: Matthew Wells – MMA Latest)

 

To Roger, the secret to grabbing the attention of the world’s biggest MMA promotion is fighting for several different promotions. He fought for six different organizations winning all of his fights before getting a call from the UFC’s former matchmaker Joe Silva to ask if he was ready to make the move. Narvaez feels that fighting for multiple shows tells the UFC that a fighter is ready to fight whoever and whenever. His first fight for the promotion was a loss to Patrick Cummins at UFC Fight Night 42 in Albuquerque where he fought at an altitude of over 5300 feet sea level, something he says will not do again unless he is training at altitude. To put it bluntly, he plainly states “the altitude in Albuquerque sucks.” After a win against Luke Barnett, he faced Elias Theodorou. In that fight, he broke his arm before ultimately losing, and was then cut by the UFC.


At this point in Narvaez’s career, his goals now are different:

“The next goal for me, to be realistic, is to make as much money as I can. I love fighting, but at the same time, I have a family that I am trying to support. That is always first and foremost now…[and] Fury is doing a pretty good job of taking care of me…This is a really big deal for me. I am probably training harder for this fight than I have ever trained before. Part of that is with age comes knowledge and experience and I am doing everything I need to do the right way to get ready to come home with that strap, but that strap means ever thing…I didn’t quit fighting with a broken arm, it is going to take something pretty drastic to get me stop. I don’t think the guy I am fighting is going to be able to break my will or test my heart to where I am not going to be able to pull through…coming home with that title is a big deal.”

That home is one of a fighting family. Narvaez’s wife Brandi is also a fighter who recently made her professional debut at Legacy Fighting Alliance 7. His stepson is a gray belt who competes in Jui-Jitsu year round, his daughter also trains in the sport. They understand the hard work that their dad puts in more so than the average fighter’s family. As he puts “it’s not normal, but it is normal to us.”


The prospect to keep an eye on is Two-time Alabama state wrestling champion turned lightweight MMA fighter, Alec Williams (5-1 MMA) from Birmingham. Williams will be looking to rebound from his first professional loss as he takes on Travonne “Prince Scorpion” Hobbs. In his last fight, Alec relied on his wrestling and got it in his head that he did not want to stand and trade with his opponent. That mentality ultimately not only cost him his undefeated record but also to sustain four broken bones in the right side of his face.

“I didn’t get knocked out, I still got the takedown after I broke those four bones. I know it is going to be pretty difficult to knock me out…Honestly, the loss kind of took any pressure off. Before I was undefeated, that loss was going to be a big change and now a loss is just another loss.”

For this fight, Williams says he has been working with MMA legend and former UFC fighter Pete Spratt on his stand up and will not make the same mistake twice.


Also featured on the card is the first Brazilan World Cup Kickboxing Champion, welterweight Washington “Washingthai” Luiz. Originally slated to fight Nickolay Veretennikov, “Washingthai” Luiz will now take on lesser known Danny Ageday. With a new opponent on just four days notice, the man who has aspirations to become a champion in GLORY Kickboxing is not fazed.

“I did my whole camp studying my first opponent who is a striker like me, but I do not feel harmed by the change. I’m ready for this war…The main reason for my change to the USA is the opportunity to be in the biggest events in the world I have already fought the biggest events in Brazil in kickboxing and MMA. I have fought in big events in Europe and now my challenge is the biggest event of kickboxing, GLORY. But I also love MMA and when a fight appears for me, I do not refuse.”


The grudge match at Fury FC 17 comes to us from the flyweights division’s Mark “The Sparrow” Plata and David “Gallito” Miramontes. These two men were scheduled to fight previously but Plata had to pull out due to his wife giving birth to twins. According to Plata, that is where the beef began.

“The day my twins were born he was messaging me talking about how this was not a good reason not fight and that I just did not want to fight him. My kids were in ICU at the time and he just keeps messaging me over and over…it upset me at the time because they were dying, they were trying to survive, but it just added more fuel to the fire. Then he kept asking promoters to fight me. He asked two or three different promoters to set it up. I got tired of him asking for me. So then I was like, alright cool if you want it that bad, let’s do it…His fighting style matches his personality. He tries to be a bully, and that’s cool, I don’t mind shutting bullies down.”

Titles, champions, prospects, legitimate bad blood…what more you could ask for in a local card?

This is an event not to miss and thanks to Fury FC having a deal with FloSports, you do not have to.

Tune in for all the action live at 6:00 PM CST on FloCombat.com this Saturday.

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*VIDEO* Francis Ngannou has his eyes on the UFC Heavyweight Title

Matthew Wells

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UFC Heavyweight Francis “The Predator” Ngannou has taken the heavyweight division by storm.

Currently 5-0 in the UFC and riding a 9 fight win streak, the native of Cameroon possesses vicious power and has shown improvements each time he steps inside the cage.

Hear Ngannou talk about his journey and plans for the future:

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The humble beginnings of the Korean Zombie

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Korean Zombie UFC

The featherweight division has become one of the most exciting in the UFC in the last few years. With the arrival of Conor McGregor, and an influx of exciting talent, new life has been breathed into a division that was suffering due to Jose Aldo’s dominance.

A notable absentee during this rise has been “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, who returns for the first time in three years against Dennis Bermudez on Saturday. The fight features as the main event of UFC Fight Night 104, and Jung is making his long awaited return after serving his mandatory military service duty for the South Korean Army.

With the fight with Bermudez fast approaching, the buzz for Jung’s return is noticeable throughout the MMA community. With a return of this magnitude, it is always fun to look back at the career of the fighter and relive the moments in his career that make the fan in all of us excited for his return.

The humble beginnings of the Korean Zombie

Chan Sung Jung was widely considered to be one of the best prospects to emerge from the far east when he was signed by WEC to face Cub Swanson in 2010. An injury forced Swanson out of the contest and Leonard Garcia stepped in as a replacement.

The fight between the two would take place on the preliminary card of Jose Aldo Jr. vs. Urijah Faber for the WEC featherweight championship. The event was the first and only WEC pay-per-view card and with Zuffa on board, the event was treated as such with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan on commentary.

That night, MMA fans were treated to one of the greatest fights in mixed martial arts history and widely regarded as the best fight ever in the lighter weight classes. Many fans call a fight “a war” in an exciting contest between two fighters, but the fight between the Zombie and Garcia was more like a demolition derby.

Both men threw their strikes with wreckless intent and dropped each other on numerous occasions. The fight went to a split decision with Garcia getting the nod from the judges. Many considered Jung the winner, but the fight received praise from every media outlet in the days following the card. Dana White would wear a shirt with the now famous “Korean Zombie” logo at the following UFC PPV weigh ins in support of the epic fight.

Jung returned to the cage to face George Roop in his next outing in the WEC and lost the fight by a vicious head kick. This would be his final fight in WEC as the UFC went on to absorb the WEC’s featherweight and bantamweight divisions and bring both into the UFC.

Jung was scheduled to make his promotional debut for the UFC against Rani Yahya at UFC Fight Night 23, but was forced out of the fight with an injury. Ironically Leonard Garcia’s opponent Nam Phan would suffer an injury before their scheduled fight. It seemed like fate that Jung and Garcia would do battle once more. The Korean Zombie came in as a late replacement for the injured Phan. The rematch between the two was highly anticipated and the UFC was promoting the fight as the rematch to the greatest fight ever.

The fight was set as the opener to the main card for UFC Fight Night 24. What came next was history in the making. Both fighters were tentative in the early exchanges in the fight and didn’t have the same enthusiasm to brawl as the previous encounter, but in the final few minutes of the opening round, Jung took the back of Garcia.

In an unorthodox position on the ground, Rogan said on the desk, “Looks like he is setting up for a twister”. The twister was not seen in the UFC at this point and with the clock ticking, Jung stretched Garcia in a position where his spine was turned into a pretzel and Garcia tapped. Jung stated in the post-fight interview with Rogan that he had learned how to do the submission watching videos of Eddie Bravo doing the move. The win won multiple awards for submission of the year.

After that win, Chan Sung Jung was set to face Mark Hominick at UFC 140 in Toronto. Hominick, who fought Aldo for the title at UFC 129 in his hometown, came into the fight as the underdog, but in seven seconds that all changed. Jung cracked Hominick, tying the record for the second fastest knockout in UFC history. A win over a former title challenger launched the South Korean into title contention.

Following another historic win, Chan Sung Jung was now set to take part in his first ever main event against rising star Dustin Poirier with the winner receiving a title shot against UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at a later date.

Jung went on to put on another fight of the year that night. The one-man zombie horde overwhelmed Poirier in the early rounds with his aggressive style. Numerous submission attempts and transitions by Jung frustrated Poirier. As Poirier became more aggressive and careless in the fight, Jung launched a flying knee in the third round and rocked his opponent. Poirier attempted to take Jung down, but the Zombie caught Poirier in a D’Arce choke in the third round to get the win.

Multiple injuries, and scheduled title fights between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar; and Aldo and Anthony Pettis, delayed Jung’s title shot. After Pettis was forced out of the title fight with Aldo because of an injury, Jung was called up as a late replacement and finally get the title shot he earned by defeating Poirier a year earlier.

The fight would take place in Brazil and was surprisingly lacklustre. Both fighters were sizing each other up for the majority of the contest. Jung suffered an injury during the fight when he dislocated his shoulder and in typical zombie fashion, Jung attempted to put his own shoulder back in place. Aldo used this time to attack, winning the title fight by TKO.

This would be the last time we saw the zombie in the cage as he would be drafted by the South Korean Army to do his two-year mandatory military service. Jung has not fought in three and a half years.

Now the burning question is how will the Korean zombie look after such a long absence. One thing is sure though, fans are extremely excited to see his return and on Saturday, The Zombie Apocalypse could be on the cards if the South Korean comes out of the cage with a win.

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