Photo of Chad Griggs via Strikeforce
Chad Griggs is hoping the Cinderella story doesn't end quite yet.
"The Gravedigger" went on a mystical run in Strikeforce, upsetting a pair of promotional prospects and after he defeated Alistair Overeem's brother Valentijn last June, he asked for a higher profile opponent.
Well now he's got one.
With the Strikeforce heavyweight division getting consolidated into the UFC, Griggs will be battling undefeated powerhouse Travis Browne this Saturday night (April 21, 2012) in his promotional debut at UFC 145.
The Arizona native is very confident heading into the fight and he spoke with MMAmania.com about the importance of family, dealing with Browne's unpredictability and even telling a classic Don Frye story during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission.
Check it out
Gerry Rodriguez: You mentioned Don Frye and he's a legend not only for being a tough guy but he's entertaining as hell. Do you have a funny Don Frye story that maybe not everyone has heard yet?
Chad Griggs: Umm, well yeah, there's story after story after story. One day, talking about training, we're in there sparring and I'm sparring with a guy who's 185 pounds and I'm a heavyweight. I'm moving around and I'm trying not to kill him and Don starts yelling at me and telling me I need to learn how to hit. He tells my partner to get out and [Don's] still in his street clothes in his boots and jeans and he walks into the ring. He yells out, "Hit me in the face!" and we all look at each other like, "What?!" and he yells, "Hit me in the face!!!"
I give him a little peck and he goes, "Hit me in the face you puss!" and I end up hitting him like 7-8 times in the face, his face is bright red and I just end up pulling my gloves off and saying, "That's enough." (laughs) We're not gonna get anywhere here. Yeah, he's a wildman.
Ben Thapa: When you fought at the Fedor vs. Silva show against Gian Villante, it was a very back-and-forth battle where you got the knockout victory. What the experience of going through that fight with so many momentum swings?
Chad Griggs: For one thing, I don't know what fight you're watching but it wasn't going back and forth. I was giving him a good beating. I don't know which fight you saw. He did kick me in the head and I didn't appreciate that so that's about it. Give me a little credit. Come on now. I will give it to him, Gian is a good guy. I dropped him a couple times but he just kept getting back up. He's a tough guy. I was just trying to hit him in the head hard.
Ben Thapa: How far do you think you can get in the UFC heavyweight division?
Chad Griggs: Well, I think the heavyweight division is a funny division. We're such big guys with heavy hands that anybody can win at any time and one mistake can be it. I see a huge amount of potential for me to excel in the UFC division. I know there's a ton of tough guys in there and I consider myself one of 'em. I'm gonna go into every single fight planning on winning and I'm gonna be planning on winning by knockout or submission. I've never been to a decision and I don't want to ever go to a decision. I guess with that attitude comes a little bit of risk and not playing it safe but at the same time, it sometimes brings a little more respect and excitement to the fans. The fans are who's paying the bills and paying my paychecks and putting me on the cards.
I'm gonna take some risks and I think I have a lot of potential and a good chance of going a long ways. I know I've got a reputation of being a crazy brawler but believe it or not, I practice hours and hours on my back, hours and hours wrestling and I just haven't had the chance to display it yet. I got a chance to have one good lateral throw with Overeem in my last fight but like I said, when you put pressure on people and they cuddle up and you just start hitting them, you don't have time to do anything else. You just start aiming for their head and hit 'em hard and wait for the ref to pull you off. So until that doesn't work and I have to do something else, I'm gonna keep trying that.
Ben Thapa: Is this where you saw yourself three years ago when you took that year and a half off from 2007-2009? Is this where you saw yourself back then?
Chad Griggs: No, absolutely not. I was considering being done. I was to the point where I was done fighting and not getting paid. If I was gonna do it, I needed to get paid to do it and when the Lashley fight came up and I had that opportunity, it kind of opened the doors back up and I had a lot of ring rust and made a lot of mistakes in that fight but I think I've improved over the last three fights quite a bit and going into this next one. There's no question that a year and a half ago, I wouldn't have seen myself here. The money wasn't there but now the money's here so I'm gonna go as long as I can.
Ben Thapa: Was there a moment where you refound that belief in yourself?
Chad Griggs: I've always had good training partners and I've always been fairly confident in what I think I can do. I've never been fantastic at one specific thing whether it be boxing or wrestling or jiu-jitsu but pretty much my whole life, I've never been great at anything but I've always done fairly well at everything. I think that definitely is a bonus for me. Everyone has weaknesses and I try to capitalize no their weaknesses. I can't say there was a specific defining moment where I felt like I went from a nobody to a UFC fighter. I think it's been more of a gradual progression of success and good training partners to get there.
Ben Thapa: The MMA life has brought you a lot of attention. How does your family adjust to this? Are they fully supportive or do you have to set aside time for them?
Chad Griggs: You definitely have to balance your time out. Working two full-time jobs and having a family is tough, like juggling bowling balls, but you can do it. It's all about time management. You have to keep a close eye on what you're doing. My family is very supportive. At first my wife was questioning it at first but then she got that first big paycheck and now she's asking how many times a year I can fight. She's all for it now, "Get out there!" (laughs). I've got a lot of support and you have to have it to be successful. It's tough. It's hard on the body, it's tough mentally and you have to have someone to be there to baby you a bit when you come home aching and beat up.
Ben Thapa: Did you have a couple family members with you as cornermen in New Jersey?
Chad Griggs: Yeah, my dad. My dad is everywhere with me. He is in the corner all the time with me. He won't miss anything. He's everywhere and I love having him. It's gonna be great to look back on. He's kind of a funny story. I've always been into the UFC and back in the day, I talked him into buying one at his house and he'd never seen it before and we watched a couple fights and he takes me into another room where my friends can't here and he says, "We'll watch it this time but we can't watch it again. This is brutal!" Now, he can't get enough of it. he's everywhere. It's funny how things change. My other cornermen, I've been with them for a long time and training with them for a lot of years so they're as good as family.
Ben Thapa: Do you actually get useful advice from your dad?
Chad Griggs: Yeah, he's very helpful. He does his best to stay out of the way and just be there for support when I need it. He doesn't try to act like he knows things that he doesn't. He's been successful enough in life and done enough things where he can just sit back and enjoy. He's not trying to be a know-it-all on things he doesn't belong. I'm happy to have him there though because he's there for support. He's wiping the blood off my face and patting me on the back and giving me a drink of water. He's just happy to be there.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You asked for a really big fight after your last victory over Valentijn Overeem and you got Travis Browne, who's a top 15 heavyweight in the world. Does that excite you that you got what you wanted?
Chad Griggs: Absolutely no question about it. I'm very excited about this fight. I think this is a good fight for me and a really good opponent for me. If I could have picked one out myself, this is probably who I would have picked. He's a top in the world right now, he's undefeated. He's big, great record and has some good highlight fights. He likes to dance around and be snazzy and if I can go in there and get a good win, obviously it's gonna look fantastic for me and that's ultimately the goal to get in there and make a name for myself, fight tough guys, beat them and make more money!
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You referenced Browne dancing around. You're a very straightforward guy and he's much more methodical. It's kind of tough to get a bead on him. Sometimes he tries to be aggressive and go for the knockout and other times he's really conservative like the Cheick Kongo fight or the Rob Broughton fight. Is it tough to get a bead on what to expect against this guy?
Chad Griggs: Yeah. You always play that game of what you're opponent's thinking and what his gameplan going to be and I'm sure he's thinking the same thing. We talked about it earlier and my goal is going to be to fight my game. If he wants to be cautious and dance around and not fight, my goal is to put the pressure on and make him fight. If he wants to be aggressive and fight, then I'm gonna fight (laughs). As for coming straight on, obviously this guy is 6'7 and he's got superior reach to mine so I'm gonna have to work on getting in the pocket and staying in the pocket and not getting picked apart and working angles. But yeah, I think it's a good fight for me and I think we're gonna try and make it our fight and fight it the way we want. Whether or not he wants to be cautious, we're gonna try to change his gameplan and make him fight either way.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Will the mutton chops be in full swing for this fight?
Chad Griggs: That's a silly question. Come on. They're gonna be there. The mutton chops are gonna be there. That's what I tell everybody. That's where the power comes from. I've gotta have the chops if I want to have the power. They'll be there.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'd be worried if you shaved them off it would be like Samson and you'd lose all your strength.
Chad Griggs: I'd be worried too. I'm gonna have security watch the door when I'm sleeping before the fights and someone doesn't shave me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you picture victory, what do you see? I assume you're gonna say "fist hitting his face" but I just want to make sure.
Chad Griggs: (laughs) You got it. I just want it to be an exciting fight. That's always my goal to get in there and make it exciting. I'm happy if it ends in the first round and I'm victorious. If it goes three rounds, I'm gonna be working all three rounds and trying to make it exciting so obviously, I want to see a win, another notch on my belt and I feel confident that we're gonna be able to do that. I'm shooting for Fight of the Night. I would love to get Knockout of the Night, that's just my style. My style is to come forward and fight and let's throw down, see what happens! Somebody's gonna bleed in my fight.
Chad would like to thank his family and all his training partners that let him beat on them for months. He'd also like to thank the fans. He'd like you to check out his banner and his fight shorts on fight night for the specifics. You can follow him on twitter @ChadGriggsUFC.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Griggs continue his magical run now that he's in the UFC? Or in asking for a very tough opponent, has he bit off more than he can chew with Travis Browne?