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Max Griffin aiming to crack top 10 in 2019 starting with win over Thiago Alves at UFC Fight Night 144

Max Griffin aiming to crack top 10 in 2019 starting with win over Thiago Alves at UFC Fight Night 144

Max Griffin (L) throws a punch against Curtis Millender during their welterweight fight at T-Mobile Arena on July 7, 2018 in Las Vegas

UFC welterweight Max Griffin’s goal for 2019 is to enter the top 10 of the rankings, and the first step in reaching that goal is defeating former title challenger Thiago Alves.

Griffin (14-5) will be returning to the octagon against Alves (22-13) at UFC Fight Night 144 in Fortaleza this Saturday. It will be his first appearance since his unanimous decision defeat to Curtis Millender at UFC 226 back in July.

The loss to Millender took the 33-year-old’s UFC record to 2-3, and he is yet to establish a winning streak since making his debut back in 2016, where he lost to Colby Covington.

Close fights

Speaking with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock, Griffin says it is now time for him to take that extra step forward after many close fights which he believes could have gone either way.

“Man, it’s time. The fights that I lost were close. I could easily be 5-1, right now. I had a couple of close fights. It’s just the smallest thing. Like, even if you look at all the fights, even the Colby fight, I was like ‘whoa, you’re in the UFC now,’ that was like a mind thing, that was like a mental thing.”

“But if you look at the past fights, my second fight, knocked the guy [Erick Montano] out – Ultimate Fighter winner in under a minute. Next fight, went to Brazil, fought [Elizeu Zaleski] dos Santos, who’s never been knocked [out], never been dropped. Almost put him away two times. Came back, got Fight of the Night. Smashed on Mike Perry. Biggest underdog of the night, whooped him on FOX and then fought Millender in a close fight.”

“I’m just on the edge; it’s just little s–t. I’m this close to pulverizing everyone I get in contact with. I’m like a race car. Once everything is tuned man, it’s a wrap. It’s seconds, milliseconds that wins fights. So I’m ironing that stuff out, and I’m ready to make this run. All wins. Win all these fights this year, beat Thiago, beat the next guy, get a new contract and march my way to the top 10, top five.”

Alves still dangerous

One thing Alves has in common with Griffin is a recent loss to Millender, but the American Top Team veteran has also just won once in his last five outings.

While the Brazilian is unlikely to show major improvement at 35 years of age, given his long career, Griffin still sees the fighter he grew up watching as a threat.

“Yeah. I mean he’s not getting much better, but I know that he’s still dangerous. He’s still a killer. He’s still Thiago ‘Pitbull’ Alves. I grew up watching that guy; I grew up loving Thiago Alves. When he came out, I’d check him out. He was one of the true pioneers, I feel. And I was looking back at past fights, he fought GSP 10 years ago. So those fights aren’t even really relevant to study and all that. But he’s been doing it for so long. The thing about him, he’s so crafty. He’s a true veteran. He’s been there with GSP, Matt Hughes, he’s been here with these guys that are legends.”

“I’ve just been watching my stuff, and I got some stuff that’s going to work on him. So I want these fights, I want to fight these guys that are guys that you could put a feather in your cap for. I don’t want to beat some schlub that no one knows, I want to go out swinging.”

Featured spot

Fighting on the prelims this weekend, Griffin knows a definitive win against someone like Alves could put him in a featured spot in the future, possibly against a ranked opponent.

One just needs to look at Mike Perry, who Griffin defeated via unanimous decision earlier last year.

“My goal is top 10 this year. I mean, even if you just look at other guys who’s fought, I beat up Mike Perry. Right? So he had two losses back-to-back. He lost to [Santiago] Ponzinibbio, he lost to me. He barely beat Paul Felder, and then he fights [Donald] Cerrone on the main card, on the co-main event.”

“You know, so UFC man, you’re one win away from headlining. A big win away, even a half-ass win, I mean he barely beat Paul Felder, that was a close fight, and he’s the co-main event on the UFC 25th anniversary card. You know what I mean? So, yeah. In this game, man, you just got to f–k people up, man. And smile. They like it, and then they like you, they’ll do something with you.”

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