Five years ago, Tyson Griffin was one of the most exciting fighters on the entire UFC roster.
The former Xtreme Couture lightweight was in the midst of a solid 7-2 stretch inside the Octagon that saw him collect a ridiculous five "Fight of the Night" bonuses as well as one "Submission of the Night." He'd also managed to score significant victories over the likes of Clay Guida, Rafael dos Anjos and Gleison Tibau in the process.
But then the losing streak happened.
A three fight stretch saw Griffin's stock tumble with the promotion and he attempted a desperation cut down to featherweight to keep his job. It didn't work, especially when he missed weight and proceeded to get knocked out against Bart Palaszewski.
It would be his last bout with the promotion.
After taking a year off to sort himself out and find his love for the sport again, Griffin came back and scored a unanimous decision victory over former winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 8 Efrain Escudero last November.
He parlayed that victory into a free agent signing with World Series of Fighting (WSOF) earlier this year and he'll be making his debut with the upstart promotion against Gesias Cavalcante this Saturday night (Aug. 10, 2013) on the WSOF 4 main card in Ontario, California. With a victory, he'll be included in the upcoming lightweight title tournament.
Griffin spoke to MMAmania.com about finding his love for the sport again, moving to American Kickboxing Academy and some of his regrets in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's start with your last fight. You had a stellar showing against Efrain Escudero and got back on track. What did a fight like that do for your confidence?
Tyson Griffin: To be honest, I don't know if it really did much for my confidence. I really expected to beat Efrain and I went out and did it. I didn't think it was a step up in competition or anything like that. I think it was just a step back towards competing. I took a year off and didn't really do anything. I kind of just stayed away from gyms for a while and got back in there working out and decided I wanted to fight again. It was a good first step to getting back to competing and beating Efrain proved I can get in there with some tough guys. It helped build this platform to take another step up fighting here in World Series of Fighting against JZ.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've brought up that you weren't having a lot of fun anymore during that rough patch. Did you need that year off to recharge the batteries and get that motivation back?
Tyson Griffin: Yeah, for sure. I needed that year off to figure out why I was doing the sport and why I wanted to keep doing the sport. It was really about having fun. That's why I got into the sport and I think I started taking it all too serious, paying attention to all the stuff around the fight game, getting too involved with the details and things you don't really have control over so you shouldn't be worried about. I just took a step back and went to that mental approach of just having fun again. I let all the details worry about themselves and I've just got to worry about training and having fun and putting together wins.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Was there anything you did during that year that helped out specifically?
Tyson Griffin: Well I got away from everything for a good four or five months, but then I started training with Team Alliance when they were in Las Vegas. They were there for The Ultimate Fighter season 15 with Dominick Cruz so Team Alliance had everyone out so everybody could train when they weren't doing the show there. I got in there with those guys, had some fun with them and I realized the gym I was training at was really bothering me. It wasn't the training partners, I love all those guys when I was in Vegas, but just the gym atmosphere was getting to me so I thought maybe a change of atmosphere would be good and I ended up coming out to San Jose to help Gray Maynard prepare for the Clay Guida fight. I really loved the gym atmosphere and I instinctively decided to change my atmosphere. If I can't change what's wrong where I'm at, maybe I should change where I'm at.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about some of the people that have helped you along the way. What's it like to have a familiar face like Gray Maynard training there with you every day so it's not a completely new environment?
Tyson Griffin: Yeah, it helps a lot. There's a bunch of other familiar faces to be honest. I've seen Jon Fitch around at UFC events throughout the years. We've always been cool and said hi to each other. Josh Thomson came out to Vegas a few times to come and train, Phil Baroni went back and forth from AKA. Daniel Cormier's a good guy so there were a lot of familiar faces. What was really cool was Liandro Viera there as the jiu-jitsu coach because he's really cool and modern and he really helps adapt stuff towards MMA. That's how it got me in the sport a long time ago, being on the ground and grappling and having fun with that. I got back to just having fun and learning new stuff and keeping it fresh. New training, new faces, that's what brought it all together for me and I grew a lot. I also grew up in California so It feels like being back home.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now do the unorthodox looks from guys like Khabib Nurmagomedov keep things fresh for you too?
Tyson Griffin: Yeah, and the experience might be the best part of it. There's a lot of guys that have been around the block at AKA. Vegas was awesome because guys were always coming in and out of the city because there's always fights there and I had a different looks there, but that's not what it's always about. The experience of the guys you're training with is just as important. They're helping make everything fun.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your last fight against Escudero was at lightweight and this next fight against Cavalcante is at 155 pounds, do you regret at all the decision to drop down to featherweight or would you consider doing it again?
Tyson Griffin: I'm not one to ever have regrets. Life's about learning, living and learning. I've made my choices and I stand by my choices and I've learned from those choices. I probably would never ever drop down to featherweight again just because I don't feel it's a proper weight for my body these days. The weight cut wasn't really it for me. I did make the weight the first time I did it but I just didn't feel healthy and I probably shouldn't have tried it the second time but me being the stubborn competitor and wanting to push myself, I tried it again and I learned from that. No regrets. I learned from it, moved on from it and I'll stay in the lightweight weight class.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You brought up that you felt like you weren't learning anything anymore. Do you believe that with your new gym, new sparring partners, new coaches and everything that you're back to picking new things up every day again?
Tyson Griffin: Well I never felt like I knew everything before, but I did feel like I was going through the motions. I wasn't allowing myself the opportunities to learn. There's tons to experience, new guys, and Liandro Viera has really adapted jiu-jitsu to MMA and that's so fresh and those guys are competing every single day. That competition is what keeps me evolving.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): JZ Cavalcante has that great Lute Livre background and he's pretty well-rounded. How do you feel you match up with him?
Tyson Griffin: I see two well-rounded guys going head to head and I think conditioning could be the name of the game for this fight. I think that's my best attribute and I'll keep trying to push that and test his conditioning. I expect a 15 minute war.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you picture victory, how do you visualize success?
Tyson Griffin: I just picture hard work paying off and it'll come down to who wants it the most. Like I said earlier, I feel conditioning will be the name of the game for this fight. We're both really well-rounded and I'm going to have to go out there and get it if I want that victory.
Tyson would like to thank his sponsors Onnit.com, 510 Motor Club and his boxing coach who's helped him his whole career. Also feel free to check out the recent training video on his Facebook page. You can follow Tyson on Twitter @TysonGriffin.