Fighting for his future: Roseville-trained Max Griffin puts his career on the lineBy: Ike Dodson■Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
What: West Coast Fight Championships 7
When: Nov. 16
Where: Jackson Sports Arena, Sacramento
Cost: $40 general admission
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The gloves of Drey Mitchell become a blur as he pounds the midsection of Marinoble’s MMA teammate Max Griffin on Oct. 23.
Each blow seems to land with greater force than the previous strike, but Griffin keeps his arms raised and emboldens the pain with an air of insanity.
“Harder!” Griffin yells, over and over.
Mitchell hesitates for only a second, then powers his mitts into unprotected flesh just beneath Griffin’s ribs.
The blows draw a battle cry from the Citrus Heights resident, who matches each thunderous shot to his gut with another roar.
It’s 24 days before the biggest fight of Griffin’s life, and he’s ready for war.
Griffin, a 23-year pupil of Roseville MMA instructor Dave Marinoble, will put his 6-1 record to the test against 20-9 Fernando Gonzalez at the Jackson Sports Arena in Sacramento on Nov. 16. They fight for the 185-pound interim West Coast Fighting Championship title.
For Griffin, the current WCFC 170-pound champ, this fight represents an opportunity to further his promising career and support his wife and 2-year-old son. It’s nothing different for Gonzalez, but Griffin says he won’t let success pass him by.
“Julian (Griffin’s son) — that’s my motivation,” Griffin said. “You have to win when you know losing is not really an option.
“You train, you train and you have to execute because a lot more is depending on you.”
Griffin has won two straight fights and is on a quest to reach the Ultimate Fighting Championships, the pinnacle league of MMA and the proving ground for the best fighters worldwide.
The Roseville-trained talent landed a premier UFC appearance on the popular The Ultimate Fighter reality series (TUF 16), but failed to make a top-16 entrance to appear throughout the season when he lost via triangle choke in a sudden-death third round of the preliminary fights.
Heartbreak hasn’t changed Griffin’s aspirations.
“I want to go back to the UFC,” Griffin said. “My goal is to be one of the best ever. I don’t want to be some guy who fights.
“I want to be the guy who takes the best fights.”
Gonzalez represents perhaps the best fighter on Griffin’s docket, but the local pro has always been up for elite challenges. Gtiffin knocked out 34-14 Jaime Jara in January of 2012, then dropped a split decision five months later after five rounds with 14-4 Justin Baesman.
In Griffin’s latest fight (May 3), he captured a five-round unanimous decision victory to halt an eight-fight win streak by highly regarded Kito Andrews (10-3) for the 170-pound WCFC belt.
Gonzalez is on a three-fight win streak after dropping three straight contests in 2011. He’s a four-fight veteran of World Extreme Cagefighting, an elite organization now merged with the UFC.
Gonzalez’ last five victories were against opponents with a combined 19-20 record. The last five fighters to beat him are a collective 63-20.The California fighter competes with Team Quest in Murrieta, the fabled home of UFC legend and wrestling Olympian, Dan Henderson.
Griffin has his own title mentor in Marinoble, a World Championship kickboxer born in Roseville who dedicated his life to a sport that blossomed before his eyes. He was the longtime trainer of popular UFC icon, Urijah Faber, who now runs his own gym in Sacramento (Team Alpha Male).
Under Marinoble’s tireless training, Griffin has soared to the top of the local fight game, but he has potential for so much more.
“Max is a dynamic, explosive and aggressive fighter,” Marinoble said. “He’s talented, he’s seasoned and he has all the elements a fighter needs to make it to the top.
“His background in MMA has made him disciplined enough to withstand the rigorous training that I have put him through.”
“It’s been an honor to train with Dave,” Griffin added. “He’s been like a father to me and I have looked up to him since I was 4 years old.”
Griffin is in the midst of a pre-fight keep that builds endurance and grit for a potential slugfest with a proven Team Quest professional. It’s the reason for the brutal punishment to his midsection and the extreme pace he’s maintained in the Roseville gym.
“You are going to be sport fighting in a few weeks and you have got to get your brain ready to put yourself through hell,” Marinoble said. “When you meet the Devil you smile.”
Griffin will slow the process in the final week before his fight to recover for the main-event battle at the Jackson Sports Arena.
The card will also feature the professional debut of Marinoble’s MMA prospect Brandon Costa.
Ike Dodson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him on twitter, @Ike_Dodson