Max Griffin: It Takes A Village to Raise A Champion

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.

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.”

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.”

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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