“Everything you do should be an expression of your purpose.”
How many professional athletes do you know working full-time jobs beyond their regiment of training and competition? In the arena of mixed martial arts, the answer is staggering. Exploration of the fighter’s market, most recently highlighted by Benson Henderson, former WEC, and UFC lightweight champion, has given pause to various prizefighters on the local, national, or worldwide stage. A discussion shadowing this phenomenon occurred on episode 35 of The Last Round Podcast (link here) when Max “Pain” Griffin (12-2), regional collector of belts and accolades throughout the Golden State, appeared as a guest and declared his redemption value using three bold letters: UFC. Though the conversation hovered around the proximity of dollars and cents, the only logical sense in the continuation of Griffin’s career, in his opinion, remains for him to assess his talents amongst the biggest names in the brightest lights of MMA.
“I want to be rich; I want to be in the UFC.”
After a flawless victory over David Mitchell at West Coast Fighting Championship (WFC) 16: King of Sacramento on January 23, 2016, Griffin, following his forty-three seconds of work, perched on his throne and enlightened the masses of the Northern California area: He has nothing else to offer his kingdom,
“I’ve proven what I need to prove, and I’m not just going to keep taking another one, and another one, and taking another one. You get these guys fighting in their forties because they have to. I have a good career. I work in the corporate world, and I’d rather make loot and spend time with my son. I feel like fighting in the region [that] I’ve done everything I need to do. I’m there!”
“Life is a combination lock; your job is to find the right numbers, in the right order, so you can have anything you want.”
Since a plurality of people are pulled using piles of cash as carrots, The Last Round Podcast’s host, Jim Cooley, and co-host, “Big MF” Matt Freeman, began dropping lucrative possibility into the forethought of Griffin’s mental register, attempting to crack open a steel trap other than the UFC’s Octagon for Griffin to enter.
What if the executive office at WFC scribbled out a check equal to anything the UFC could offer? Would Griffin return to defend his reign between the walls of a palace he helped build? Griffin would answer no, and elaborated further,
“It’s about me, not them, you know? It’s about me. I love Branden [Ware] (WFC’s Promoter), and I fought in his first show against Jaime Jara, put West Coast on the map.”
Bellator MMA, a promotion categorized in a class just under the UFC’s, has eagerly swooped in to pluck mixed martial artists up who seek out contracts that stipulate their value, and Griffin isn’t completely blind to the idea of signing under their banner,
“We’ve been talking about that. The thing is, I’d have to go in as a money-maker, not just one of these guys who get sent in to get beat up. There are guys they have in there that they pay well. They have three different kinds of guys in Bellator: guys that are 0-0; then, you have guys that are in the mid-level; and then you’ve got the [Paul] Daley level or Benson Henderson tier. It would have to be worth it to me.”
“Decide upon your major definite purpose in life and then organize all your activities around it.”
When pressed for what portion of the three-layer cake Griffin believes he falls into, listeners could sense that Bellator MMA lacked the luster brandished by the UFC. Instead, Griffin, absent of any bashfulness, addressed what he puts into his artform, so he expects an equivalent return on his investment,
“Like I said, I’m not going to be one of these guys; it’s stressful man. I literally am up at five in the morning and go to sleep at midnight, every night, except Sundays. Each Thursday, I work security and get off at three in the morning. I have to be at the gym at six, so I get two hours of sleep on Thursday nights. My life is so busy. My kid is at the gym with me. I wish I could spend more time with him. He’s at the gym; he’s playing; he’s doing Karate, but I’d rather sit on the couch and watch movies with him. I don’t want my life to be just surrounded in all this shit if it doesn’t pay off. To me, the UFC is paying off, and I feel like I’ve done what I need to do.”
Outside of the cage, Griffin portrays an unassuming assassin, but when provoked, the grizzly hibernating within awakens and attacks with ravenous hunger. Leading into WFC 16, Griffin coped with heavy doses of trash-talking from Mitchell as a counter-puncher, which contrasts his aggressive pressure inside the cage. When Griffin was coaxed by the voices of The Last Round Podcast to mimic Mitchell’s style of hyping fights as a means of garnering attention, he sardonically responded,
“I haven’t thought about it, but I’ll put it on my phone to do it.”
“The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.”
For Griffin, there’s no griping in his tone; it all boils down to landing on the reading of his heart’s GPS coordinates,
“To me, it’s not about the money. I make money. Fighting locally: ‘Oh, you want to fight here for five thousand?’ Is that benefitting your show? Is that benefitting me?”
Whispers from the UFC’s front office about a win over Mitchell at WFC 16 filled Griffin with a promise that the destination he began carving out as a fighter in 2009 was distanced at only an arm’s length. Not only does Griffin want to be present in the UFC, he’s aiming for the top upon arrival,
“The thing about me is: I’m dangerous. I’ve never just been walked through. I’ve never been finished. My losses are split decisions. I’m dangerous! I have one-punch knockout power. My point of view: I don’t want to fight forever, unless my fruits are being picked. I feel like, they [the UFC] already told me, ‘This David Mitchell fight looks really good.’ And then I go in there and waste him.”
Moving forward, it will be imperative to rest your fingers on the pulse of demands from mixed martial artists like Griffin. Those with experience and ability comparable to Griffin may be less apt to continue donating their skillsets to merely the highest bidders, hence, the possibility of discovering who is, in fact, the greatest fighter in the world diminishes.