With only one loss as a professional mixed martial artist, Chad Griggs will be looking to add to his nearly unblemished record this weekend, as the Tucson, Arizona native is slated to take on Valentijn Overeem at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum in Dallas, Texas on Saturday evening.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Chad Griggs about, among other topics, the prospect of being a full-time fighter, his upcoming match, and the power of sideburns.
Outside of fighting, I read that you’re a firefighter and a paramedic.
That is true. I have been doing it for 10 years.
Do you enjoy it?
I do—it’s a great job. It’s something that I do enjoy and that’s part of the reason why I haven’t given it up and just gone right into fighting—it’s something that I enjoy doing.
You’ve thought about shifting gears and fighting fulltime?
Yeah—absolutely. I don’t know if there are very many people at this level that aren’t doing it full-time. Not yet, though; I need to make a little bit more money. I don’t want to have to ever find anything else [laughs]. With a couple more wins, I’ll be making some good money, and then we’ll re-evaluate.
Is your schedule ever too much?
It’s busy—I’ll say that much. It’s definitely a balancing act—making sure that you get everything done—but it’s doable.
Is it ever difficult to balance everything?
Sure; life is a problem, right? But it’s all attitude. There’s no question that it gets very hectic—you work and you’re up all night and you only get two hours of sleep, but you’ve got to train twice the next day—there’s no question about that. I think everybody has good days and bad days, but, like I said; I think it’s all about attitude and the way you look at it. I’m happy, though; life is good for me—I’ve been very blessed.
What inspired you to try your hand at mixed martial arts?
I’ve always been interested in it—I grew up watching it. What inspired me was going into a gym where Don Frye was training, getting ready to fight Mark Coleman and he needed a big-body. He beat on me for a while and I just really enjoyed it; I thought it was neat to be training with someone at that level. I ended up going and cornering him in Japan and travelling around a bit with him and training with him a lot—it got to the point where I thought I could do this. I had a couple good fights and the rest is history—here we are.
Have you been passionate about the sport from the beginning?
Absolutely. Like I said; I grew up watching it and I’ve always loved it. It’s the one sport that I can sit down and watch and not get bored with. I’m definitely passionate about it. You never learn everything; you’re always growing and learning and the sport is always evolving. It can be addicting. It’s something that keeps you in great shape and it’s a very enjoyable one-one-one competition.
What were your goals when you started in the sport?
That’s a good question [laughs]. I think, in the beginning, it was just getting in there and proving that I could compete—just proving it to myself. I did well for my first few fights and I just started getting in there against tougher competition and getting in with some bigger shows and here we are. I’ve started to make a little money and, hey; who doesn’t want to be here and make some good money, right?
When you first started, did you think that you would have the opportunity to make the kind of money that you’re bringing home now?
No. This is definitely the biggest opportunity that I’ve had to make good money fighting. For most people, that’s how it goes; you’ve got to work your way up—there are always exceptions—but I think for most people, you’ve got to work your way up. You’ve got to have your fights at the bottom and get paid peanuts to do it. Later, as people start to realize that you’re legit, you’ll have the opportunity to compete in some bigger shows and the pay certainly elevates. It takes time.
How did you come into contact with Strikeforce?
We had been talking to them a little bit and we had had a couple fights that we thought we might be taking with them, but Bobby Lashley came around. They looked at me, like, I more-or-less had a good record, but I hadn’t been that active in the past couple years; they were looking for someone with some pretty good numbers that they could use to help build Lashley’s career up. I think they used me for that and, you know, I obviously ended up being able to take him out and win that fight. That was the beginning—when I was able to get my foot in the door and get a good win on national television—and here we are; my third one on Showtime and we’re going to try to get another hi-light reel.
So you feel that you were, in essence, brought in to lose?
Yup—absolutely. It isn’t really a secret; they had a lot of money invested in Lashley and were working on bringing him up and he was supposed to be the ‘Brock Lesnar of Strikeforce’—it’s not a big secret that I was brought in to get pounded on by him.
How did it feel to throw a wrench in their plans?
[Laughs] It felt pretty good. I had never went in there thinking that I was going to lose—I wouldn’t have gone in to lose. I think anybody has a chance to win at any particular time and I went in there to bang and fight my way through. I know that he is a big, huge guy that’s super-strong, but I knew that he was going to get tired—and he did.
How do you feel about what you’ve been able to accomplish in Strikeforce?
I’m extremely happy with the way that things are going; I can honestly look back and be happy with the experience that I’ve had. I’m happy and I think things are going really well. I think that there are a lot of fights left in me, but if I stopped right now or if my last fight was on Saturday, I’d be happy. I don’t think that it will be [laughs]; I think I’ve got a long way to go, but if it’s one year or five years, it’s been a great run and a great experience. It’s been a good time.
Do you have any regrets?
I guess I could say that I regret making some of the mistakes in my one loss, but I’ve learned a lot from that loss—I learned a whole lot that I wouldn’t have learned had I not gotten it. Everybody makes mistakes, you know? There are stupid things that we do that we wish we wouldn’t have; we create injuries or hurt other people or we just make bad choices. Absolutely I have regrets, but I try to learn from them and continue to grow.
How are you feeling going into your upcoming match?
I feel really good. I’ve had a couple of injuries that pushed us back a little bit, but this last week has been really good. I think we’ve got a good game-plan; I think we know his weaknesses. This guy is extremely tough and has a lot of talent and trains with a really good team and I’m excited to get the chance to fight him and I think I have a really good chance of taking him out. I feel great—I’m excited about it.
Do you feel that Valentijn is your biggest challenge to date?
He’s got a ton of experience and he’s pretty well-rounded. I think that I’ve fought some tougher guys, but I think that he’s very well-rounded. I think he is going to be the biggest challenge—in that sense—but I don’t see it going past the second round. I think, whatever the outcome, we’re both brawlers. He only has two fights that have ever gone past the first round, so I think there’s going to be a good brawl.
Do you think Valentijn offers you anything that you haven’t seen before?
I really don’t. In fighting, every once in a while you’ll see a crazy submission, but I really don’t see that happening. I think that it’s going to be a fast-paced brawl. He has lots of submissions, but I’ve watched a lot of his videos and trained with really good guys that have seen quite a few different aspects of the game. I’m not expecting him to pull a big, huge trick out of his hat.
What are you expecting?
I’m expecting him to come in and we’ll do a little bit of stand-up—I think he’s going to try to stand up for a while—but we’ll see how it plays out. Momentum has been the big thing for his entire career; if he can get some momentum, then he can put things together, but if the momentum starts to go the other way, he gets frustrated and crumbles. Our goal is to keep the momentum going our way and not let him push me around and set things up. I’m going to stay in his face and keep him guessing.
Assuming you win, what do you feel is the next step in your career?
I have no idea—that’s for Zuffa to decide. It’s one fight at a time, for me. The fights are getting bigger against tougher opponents, but as for a name, I have no idea.
How did you react when you learnt that Zuffa had purchased Strikeforce?
I don’t know that we knew what was going to happen. Zuffa has tonnes of money and obviously knows what they’re doing, so I think it’s going to be great.
Is it safe to say that the UFC is where you want to be?
Sure—yeah. But, to be honest, I’m happy with both of them; I’m happy to be fighting in either show. I’m just happy to be with Zuffa—no matter where I end up.
Have you thought about how much longer you’d like to compete?
I’m just going to go until my body can’t do it anymore. Obviously I’m on a roll right now and things are going really well, so we’re just going to keep on rolling with it and see what happens, you know? I don’t want to do it to the point that I’m broke and crippled for the rest of my life. There are people that are doing that and I don’t want to be one of them. Hopefully I’ll be smart enough to know when enough is enough, but we’re not there, yet.
Do you think it will be difficult to walk away from the sport?
Yeah—absolutely. I think you get that rush of adrenaline and you start to miss that and miss the competition, but I don’t think that I’ll ever be entirely away from it. Eventually, I’ll stop competing, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll continue to go in and practise and help other guys. It’s a sport that becomes a way of life; going in and rolling with guys and growing in your technique and your game, so I’m not sure if I’ll ever completely let it go.
Is there anything that you’d like to say to your fans while you have this opportunity?
Well, obviously we wouldn’t be here without them, so the fans are what keeps the ball rolling—you’ve got to appreciate that. My fan-base is growing as I evolve and move up the rankings, and I just want to say that they’ve got to grow sideburns if they want to find success in life [laughs].
Is that what did it for you?
That’s it; I started having a lot of success after I started to grow the sideburns.
What inspired the sideburns?
I don’t know. I just woke up one day and decided to let them grow and they kept on growing and growing and here we are—they’ve evolved [laughs].
[Laughs] Just like you.
[Laughs] Just like me.