Chad Griggs is a very interesting case.
The Arizona native was brought in as a sacrificial lamb at Strikeforce: Houston in 2010 against Bobby Lashley, a former collegiate standout and WWE champion wrestler, who Strikeforce was looking to build into an MMA superstar.
But someone forgot to tell Griggs he was supposed to lose. After eating punches from bottom for over nine minutes, Griggs turned the tides on Lashley and TKO'd the exhausted behemoth at the end of the second round, thus ending the hype.
Since then, Griggs has stopped both Strikeforce prospect Gian Villante and famous brother Valentijn Overeem with strikes in the first round, thus cementing his status in the division and finally earning a modicum of respect. When Strikeforce consolidated its heavyweight division, Griggs was brought on board to the UFC, the pinnacle promotion in the sport.
Now legitimized, "The Gravedigger" will be making his UFC debut this Saturday night when he takes on undefeated prospect Travis Browne on the FX portion of the UFC 145 preliminary card in Atlanta, Georgia. Griggs was a guest on The Verbal Submission where he talked about his current situation, how his brawling style translates to the UFC and how he turned his career around in part one of this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You have to be the most laid-back heavyweight fighter I've ever spoken with. You're so calm in the interview but then you just explode in violence once you step into the cage. It's such a different dynamic.
Chad Griggs: (laughs) That's right, man. You've got to build it all up. Hold the reigns back until they lock the cage dup and then you can let 'em loose. That's it, man. No point in getting worked up unless you can actually do something about it, right?
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The Strikeforce heavyweights that have come over to the UFC have had tremendous success already. Overeeem crushed Lesnar, Werdum crushed Big Country, Shawn Jordan crushed Oli Thompson and Lavar Johnson knocked out Joey Beltran. Four dominant victories. Do you look at that and want to keep that momentum rolling?
Chad Griggs: Yeah, absolutely. There's no question I want to keep my momentum rolling. If you look at it that way, it does look great for the Strikeforce guys coming over. If people had a question that we were legit fighters or not, I think we're definitely answering that question. I look at only my fight. I'm concentrating on my fight. I was actually at the Werdum fight which was awesome. He did look great, had some devastating knees and was really relaxed. I'm happy that the Strikeforce guys are doing good and I'm gonna do my best to keep that ball rolling, I promise. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): A year and a half ago you were basically brought in as a sacrificial lamb to Bobby Lashley. They didn't even have you on the event poster. I was in that conference call with you and no one knew who you were. But now, you had the huge upset and you're a legitimate in the UFC. Do you ever just think about that and laugh?
Chad Griggs: Umm, yeah, absolutely. I think Strikeforce definitely lost a lot of money because of me. They had a lot of money invested in Lashley and they didn't put any hype behind me and threw that train off its track. It took a couple more fights before they were like, "Okay, this guy's not going away," (laughs). Now we're in the UFC so I've got to make my name over here. We've got to shift gears a little bit and establish myself so it's exciting.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You definitely proved yourself in Strikeforce. Do you feel like you've got to prove yourself all over again now that you're in the UFC?
Chad Griggs: Yeah. Everybody is all, "This is his first fight int he UFC," so yeah, absolutely. I'm gonna be going in there and just be going for "Fight of the Night" just like I do every night. The plan is to go in there and have a good showing and take a couple risks here and there, make the fight more exciting and that's the gameplan. I'm trying to put myself on the UFC map.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You worked as a firefighter/paramedic on the side. Have you stepped back your hours at all to focus more on the UFC career since this is such a big deal or are you still splitting your time?
Chad Griggs: Both. I am still doing it but we have a really good schedule and I have a lot of guys who are on the department who are helping me out and we have this thing called "trades." They'll work my fights and sometime down the road, I'll have to pay them back so I am taking a lot of time off to get ready for this one. There's no question this is a big fight and a big opportunity so yeah. I'm gonna try to seize the moment and took the last month off so I can focus more on training and hopefully it'll pay off.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've mentioned you want to come in there and win "Fight of the Night" and you've got this brawling style which fans gravitate to where you just want to throw down with people almost throwing the technique out the window. Do you feel that will translate well in the UFC as you move up the ladder and face these tougher and tougher opponents?
Chad Griggs: There's a couple key points to that. We have a joke. My saying, the gameplan is "Hit 'em in the head hard," the dumb heavyweight but in one sense, I do mean it. That's my goal, to hit them in the head hard, but obviously we have a plan for each opponent. Sometimes the plan changes a little bit but we've got a plan for Travis but my style has always been to be the aggressor. There are guys that I've fought who I think are better fighters than me where I've won because I take them out of their game. I put the pressure on 'em and I don't let them fight their game. I get in their face constantly and I don't give them time to reset because I'm right there. I think that plays a big key into my technique, just pushing that pace and trying to make it my fight and not let them decide whether we're fighting, not let them move around and play. I wanna be the forward aggressor and decide when we're fighting, which is right now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I normally wouldn't ask this because fighters get questioned about it all the time, but I've never really seen it anywhere. Where did you get "The Gravedigger" nickname? Did you grow up working at a cemetery or something? Where did it come from?*
Chad Griggs: Oh yeah, it's just a hobby of mine, hanging out at the cemetery. (laughs) It's really just training with a lot of guys that I've worked with for a bunch of years and I guess basically my brawling tactics when we're sparring, the heavy hands and dropping people. It got to the point where people were getting gunshy and they brought new people in and you'd drop somebody and it started, "He's 'The Gravedigger.' He's gonna put you down," and it just kinda stuck. One guy threw it out there and that's all it took. We just took it and ran with it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After your lone career loss against Shane Ott, what did you do that you felt turned things around for you?*
Chad Griggs: The whole IFL thing, that was a tough couple of years. Don Frye, who is a good friend of mine and I trained with for years and years, was our head coach and that loss, I learned a lot from that loss. I lost that fight because I wasn't mentally there. I mentally broke down and they say you learn more from your losses than you from your wins and I learned a lot from it.
Don, like I said, is just the greatest guy in the world, but as a coach, he'll tell you himself that he's sub-par when it comes to coaching. We'd be training twice a day. You'd go in the morning and he'd want you to spar 110%. You'd take a couple hours off and in the afternoon, he'd want you to spar 110% You come by the next day and he'd want the same thing. He wants to see people fall. It was a tough time but I think after that loss, I kinda regrouped and learned to train a bit smarter and not harder. Actually, rather than trying to just hurt people all the time, I went through repetitions and tried to learn something and hey, what do you know, you actually get better when you do that!
Stay tuned for part two tomorrow where Griggs talks about Travis Browne, the importance of family and his legendary mutton chops!
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Griggs' incredible Cinderella story continue with a victory against Travis Browne this Saturday night? What are your expectations for "The Gravedigger" now that he's in the UFC?
*Question submitted by MMAmania commenter Alfxtream.
To listen to the complete audio of our interview with Chad Griggs, click here (begins at 1:04:30 mark)