Max Griffin has no interest in returning to Brazil for anything other than a holiday.
The UFC welterweight was on the losing side of a controversial split decision in his fight with Thiago Alves at UFC Fight Night 144. The fight, which took place in Fortaleza, Brazil, is Griffin’s most recent appearance in the octagon and his second-straight loss on the scorecards.
Griffin was anxious to get back into the cage following the Alves loss. He signed on to fight undefeated UFC newcomer Zelim Imadaev at UFC 236 on April 13 just two months later.
In an interview with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock, Griffin discussed his split-decision loss, his upcoming fight, and his endeavors outside of the sport of mixed martial arts.
Max Griffin vs. Thiago Alves
Following his three-round battle with Alves, Griffin stood breathing heavily with closed eyes and waited to hear ring announcer Joe Martinez call, ‘Max “Pain” Griffin!’ the victor. Instead, it was Thiago Alves who had his hand raised.
The decision was called into question immediately after it was read. Griffin raised his hands in disbelief. According to MMADecisions.com, only two of 18 media outlets scoring the fight judged it in favor of Alves.
Griffin was visibly upset in the cage. He took some of his frustration out on a recycling bin and a chair backstage before eventually speaking to Alves, his coach, and other members of UFC brass.
“[Alves] backstage said he didn’t do enough,” Griffin told The Body Lock.
“His coach Mike Brown, everyone backstage, all the staff for the UFC [said,] ‘Oh my God, I feel so bad [about the decision],'” Griffin recalled. “I talked to everyone. All the executives—Mick Maynard, Sean Shelby—everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, you won that.'”
Despite the outcome, Griffin does not hold any lingering animosity towards Alves.
“He’s so humble, so gracious. He’s such a warrior, man. He’s such a good person,” Griffin said. “I see why he’s a legend in the sport; why he has so many fans. It was an honor to fight him.”
Despite his respect for Alves, Griffin does not intend to fight in Alves’ home country again in his UFC career after falling to 0-2 in Brazilian territory.
“I will not fight in Brazil again. I might go on a vacation [there], but not to fight, you know? After the fight- I mean, I won decisively. We won. It wasn’t even a question in my mind,” Griffin said.
“It was a good win. Even when they said, whatever, ’29-28 Alves’, like, I still didn’t even care. I still knew I won, you know what I mean? Like, during that process of ’29-28 Griffin’, I didn’t even think they were gonna give it to him. There’s not one percent of me that was like, ‘Oh, he might get it.’ No, none of that.”
Facing Zelim Imadaev back in the United States
Griffin usually fights only about twice a year, but he jumped at the opportunity to erase the bad taste of the Alves loss from his mouth so soon. Griffin will compete in the United States this time when he faces Imadaev at UFC 236 in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I asked to be in Atlanta, and they put me on there. So, to be on it, you know, that’s local to me,” Griffin said. “Anything United States, that’s local. I’ve fought in Brazil twice, Mexico City, you know? I’ve traveled. So, to get on a four-hour flight and fight in a safe city, you know what I mean? Where you can walk around, you don’t have to worry about getting robbed and kidnapped and shit. You know, I got my son coming for the first time. I’m excited, man.”
As for his Atlanta opponent, Griffin is familiar with the undefeated Russian welterweight. This will be Imadaev’s promotional debut in the UFC, but he and Griffin have previously bumped into one another in training.
Griffin didn’t come away from the interaction a fan.
“He is an ass. I have no respect for him. None, not a drip,” Griffin said bluntly.
“He’s one of those guys that tries to hurt his training partners. I was at Xtreme Couture; everyone was like ‘Don’t spar with that guy over there.’ I’m like, ‘Fuck that guy. I don’t care.'”
Griffin soon understood why other fighters warned against training with Imadaev. He said that the Russian was going all out, even throwing spinning elbows and flying knees while sparring.
His past bad experience with his opponent makes Griffin all the more ready to fight, but he’s not taking Imadaev lightly. The UFC veteran of six fights has been training with professional boxers in order to hone his stand up talents ahead of his bout in April.
“I fight these badass Golden Gloves guys and guys that won this and that; undefeated guys, and it’s been helping me out a lot because I need a run for my money, man.
“I need that. I want that,” Griffin said. “It just makes me sharper, better.”
More than just a fighter
Despite the ramped up training and a tough fight on the horizon, Griffin has taken time out of his busy schedule to develop a new hobby outside of the cage.
For the past year or so, he has been going to schools around Sacramento, California, his hometown, speaking to students about chasing their dreams as he did. The idea started after Griffin went to his son’s class for a career day.
News of a real-life superhero, a UFC fighter, being in attendance on career day spread like wildfire in the school, and Griffin soon found himself going from classroom to classroom, talking to dozens of awed students.
Griffin hopes to use his platform as an athlete to positively influence the lives of these children.
“These kids are just… they’re just copying all these rappers and these singers, and what they’re doing these days is ridiculous. These aren’t role models,” Griffin said. “They’re clowns, and it is what they see and who they tried to emulate. So, for me, I’m old school, you know? They need us like that. They need us because the stuff that they’re absorbing and watching and stuff is bullshit.”
This project hits home for Max Griffin, who even struggled to find the right crowd while he was in school himself. But, now he tells his story to inspire the next generation to find their own path.
“I didn’t have the easiest childhood,” Griffin said. “But just growing up, staying dedicated, having a dream and actually following it and being honest about it and true about it, people could relate, teachers can relate and I love it. Just to see the kids, they’re pumped. Like adults don’t give a shit, you know, they don’t, I mean they do, but not like kids. Kids look at you like you’re a real-life superhero.”
Griffin’s thoughts on the division
The UFC’s 170-pound division has undergone quite a face-lift so far in 2019.
Kamaru Usman dethroned the champion, Tyron Woodley; Ben Askren made his long-awaited promotional debut, and the main events of UFC Fight Night 147 and 148 saw two top contenders (Darren Till and Stephen Thompson) get knocked unconscious by a returning Jorge Masvidal and division-leaping Anthony Pettis, respectively.
Though he’s currently on the outside looking for the welterweight rankings, Griffin paid close attention to the recent developments. Like many others, he was surprised by Woodley’s lackluster performance in his unsuccessful title defense at UFC 235.
“Woodley wasn’t in the fight,” Griffin said. “I mean, you could see it in his face. He looked like he didn’t want to be there the whole time, and once you’re like that—he, like, gave up in his head or something. He was scared. He fought scared, man.”
He also added that he was “beyond impressed” by the efforts of Usman to claim the belt.
Griffin also talked about Masvidal’s post-fight brawl with Britain’s Leon Edwards after Masvidal defeated Till in London. Regarding the infamous “three-piece and a soda”, Griffin had no issues with Masvidal’s answer to Edwards’ trash talk.
“I was just shocked that he didn’t get in trouble,” Griffin said. “You do that in California, United States, you’re getting suspended the commission’s going to fine you. Out there, it was like nothing happened.”
While he’s adamant about no longer fighting in Brazil, Max Griffin seems to have taken a liking to the lax rules across the pond.
“Shit, let me fight in London.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.