Max Griffin: Fighting Is Like…A Rollercoaster

There are few things that capture my eye more than an MMA fight. I’m a self-proclaimed MMAScreen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.22.40 PM rubbernecker; I see a cage, a ref, and fighters in the heat of battle, and the world passes me by until the round ends or the referee has halted action. With my years of fanaticism, hours of screen time, and thousands and thousands of Internet clicks and searches, I’d agree with Sam Sheridan in his autobiography: A Fighter’s Heart (2010) when he postulated why fight fans have such a tight connection to their sport,

You can learn so much about a person by watching him fight that you feel you know him. (p. 130)

MMA surrounds my being: there are events calendared on my phone; gridlocks in traffic blare my favorite podcasts; I read books about the history and people of the sport. As I’m watching these athletes lock horns, I wonder what it’s like to engage in war wrapped in wire fencing. For fans of MMA who find an event equivalent to an amusement park, Max “Pain” Griffin (12-2), the welterweight champ at West Coast Fighting Championship (WFC) and freshly minted King of Sacramento, would suggest everyone watching one of his fights to stop by the kiosk, firmly affix a wristband, hop in line, and enjoy the ride because fighting, in Griffin’s opinion, is like a rollercoaster.

The setting is fight day, any fight day, and a rush of emotions swirl throughout Griffin’s mind and body. Just as any other time Griffin was slated to enter the cage, he prepared for the same spin on a different track in his most recent contest versus David Mitchell, WFC’s middleweight title holder, at WFC 16: King of Sacramento on January 23, 2016. Aware of Griffin’s place atop the thrown, crawl inside the ups, downs, and heart-racing adrenaline associated with competing in the world’s ultimate sporting attraction. Pushing past the cranking arms at the entrance of an acclaimed theme park of your choice, an unsettling bubble of energy percolates, which compares to Griffin’s arrival to a fight’s site:

“Even on fight day: You’re cool, and then you get there to the venue.”

Everything appears fun from far away; then, the tangible future forces the brevity of the situation to kick in. Looking up toward the heavens at a concoction of catastrophic entertainment likely mirrored the corkscrew jolt to Griffin’s internal organs when pulling up to the McClellan Conference Center for the day of his coronation. He succinctly exclaimed this instance of zero gravity as,

“You’re nervous!”

Griffin, a dominant champion in the regional circuit, broadcasted his strategies for derailing the anxiety from taking control,

“I try to be calm and listen to reggae; I try to just be cool; I try to zone out and not think that I’m about to fight in like five hours.”

Unable to escape the impending danger at hand, Griffin finds his place at the end of a long line because, as has become customary, he’s one-half of the equation making up the main event:

“I always fight last, which sucks. You have to wait for everybody to fight.”

While standing around, it’s impossible to ignore the deafening sounds reverberating in waves throughout the venue: crashing metal, enthusiastic screams, calls for individuals to step forward, and horns to alert an end to the outing and safe exit. Griffin described what he experiences to know his turn to be catapulted into adventure is inching closer,

“You hear, ‘Three fights up!’ And the room has been getting smaller and smaller because everyone is going out to fight.”

In a last ditch effort to self-soothe, Griffin repeats in a clickety-clack rapid succession,

“You’re last, you’re last.”

Too far to turn back, Griffin receives his final instructions from the event’s coordinators, and any rickety uncertainties are inverted into supreme confidence,

“You and your team; you and your guys are the last ones. Then, you’re on deck. You’re like shit. By then, you’ve got your hands wrapped and you’re ready to go.”

Relying on a lesson learned from Daniel Brito, MMA instructor at MMA Gold, Griffin transforms raw emotion into a viable tool for his destructive craft. He explained,

“My coach Brito told me: You feel butterflies, and you might feel this 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 showcased this protective casing by raising his fists and tucking his chin before continuing, “It’s arming you for either fight or flight, so don’t be scared—embrace it.”

Supported with his kingdom by his side, Griffin departs the backstage area like a train leaving the station:

“I flip the switch, and it’s time to beat someone’s fucking ass. It’s really what fighting is like. There is all this build up and talking shit for months, years. All this shit. You’re getting all these feelings, and then they close the door. Mother fucker; it’s fucking time to fight. Everything goes out the window, and it’s time to go.”

Photo courtesy of Max Griffin

Grabbing the lap bar or biting down on his mouthpiece at full strength, Griffin claimed the title of Northern California’s patriarch before any of the coasters constructed in the Golden State could complete their first lap: forty-three seconds of round one. The souvenir capturing that initial free fall is reflected in the rendering of WFC 16’s conclusion.

Find out about Griffin’s next trip around the track by following him at:

Facebook: https: maxPAINmma

Instagram: https: maxpainmma

Twitter: @maxPAINmma

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