MAX PAIN: Marinoble’s prodigy earns UFC redemption

By: Steven Wilson,
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Main Card — Pay-per-view, 7 p.m. PT

Featherweight champ Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz – non-title welterweight bout

Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira

Donald Cerrone vs. Rick Story

Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Mike Perry

Tim Means vs. Sabah Homasi

Preliminary Card — FS1, 5 p.m. PT

Cody Garbrandt vs. Takeya Mizugaki

Raquel Pennington vs. Elizabeth Phillips

Chris Avila vs. Artem Lobov

Cortney Casey vs. Randa Markos

Preliminary Card — UFC Fight Pass, 3:30 p.m. PT

Lorenz Larkin vs. Neil Magny

Alberto Uda vs. Marvin Vettori

Colby Covington vs. Max Griffin


Four years and 21 days.

That’s how long Roseville fighter Max “Pain” Griffin had to wait until he finally earned the second UFC opportunity of his career. The soon-to-be 31-year-old MMA fighter was called up to Saturday’s UFC 202 card on pay-per-view on short notice, but he’s hardly unprepared.

As a newcomer, Griffin (12-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) will test the waters once again as he takes on Colby Covington (9-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) in a 170-pound welterweight bout in the preliminaries. The match comes 14 fights after Griffin’s UFC debut on the hit TV show, “The Ultimate Fighter 16.”

Griffin made it past the auditions to the season’s elimination round, where 32 fighters were whittled to 16, but he dropped a three-round match on a triangle choke submission to Matt Secor.

“When I was locked in the hotel room on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, the Olympics were on,” Griffin pointed out. “And now, flash forward four years, they’re on again as I’m flying to Vegas. It’s crazy timing.”

Griffin will appear during the prelims, which will be broadcasted on UFC Fight Pass early in the day before UFC 202 revs up with the Conor McGregor/Nate Diaz rematch at theT-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“I couldn’t ask to be on a bigger card,” Griffin acknowledged. “It’s not like a (UFC Fight Night) on a Wednesday. This is the Conor McGregor rematch. It’s like fighting in the Super Bowl.”

Griffin is taking full advantage of his new opportunity, because it’s not often life gives you a redo. 

It’s essentially the biggest match of his career, but Griffin says he is ready.

“I’ve come a long way since (the Ultimate Fighter),” he confessed. “I’ve had a child, I’ve matured, I feel ready. This is the best shape I’ve ever been in, and my skill set is just ridiculous. My wrestling is nasty, I’m knocking people out at will. It’s bad.

“It’s going to be bad for this guy.”

Griffin’s opponent was a two-time Pac-10 champion at Oregon State University and NCAA Division I All-American wrestler. Covington was born in Clovis and spent time at Iowa Central Community College with his roommate, future UFC champion Jon Jones. He will undoubtedly rely upon his grappling pedigree during this weekend’s match.

“He just wants to hold me and win by points,” Griffin explained. “He has no interest in finishing me or knocking me out.”

Covington won his first three UFC fights, including one over veteran fighter Mike Pyle, before a submission defeat to Warlley Alves. However, the 28-year-old rebounded in his most recent bout and earned a submission victory over late replacement Jonathan Meunier in June to currently sit at 4-1.

He now meets Griffin, a Tachi Palace Fights and World Fighting Championships title holder, who’s earned eight stoppages in 12 career wins.

“(Covington) thinks he’s all that and a bag of chips,” Griffin added. “But I have more experience than him. He’s a better college wrestler than me, but he’s not a fighter. I’m more well-rounded and I’m going to rip him a new one.”

At age 14, Griffin earned a black belt in Bok Fu, a blend of several disciplines, most notably Kenpo and Kung Fu. He’s trained with prestigious Roseville instructor Dave Marinoble in South Placer for more than a decade and he’s mastered Marinoble’s system — various styles of Jiu Jitsu, kickboxing, Muy Thai, and Sanshou.

On top of three training sessions per week in Roseville with Marinoble, Griffin adds three workouts at MMA Gold in El Dorado Hills and trains with Doug Casebier, his strength and conditioning coach, ten times a week with two-a-days Monday through Friday. He also studies Jiu Jitsu with coach Jaime Jara and maintains a full-time job at Blue Shield of California.

“I’m busy, man,” he acknowledged with a laugh.

He hopes all of that training is going to pay dividends this weekend.

“He has a good heart, a champion’s heart, a never-give-up attitude and a fairly solid chin,” Marinoble told the Auburn Journal before one of Griffin’s previous bouts.

“When you’re training a group of people, one person prevails. One person succeeds. One person wins the race. One person is always trying to beat everybody else. He’s had that winning attitude since he was a kid, and that seems to carry through to when he’s a man.”

Griffin, who’s known as the “King of Sacramento” to his 5-year-old son Julian, essentially punched his ticket to UFC 202 with a January knockout against former UFC pro fighter David “Bulletproof” Mitchell. Griffin needed just 43 seconds in the first round to claim that welterweight victory.

“Since that fight, he’s been telling people, ‘My dad is the king of Sacramento,’” Griffin said. “He’s my biggest supporter, and I want to fight for him.

“A lot of my success is attributed to him and making a better life for him. It’s motivation for me and he backs me one million percent.”

With a number of charitable sponsors, support from multiple communities in South Placer and beyond, and the backing of friends and family, Griffin is ready for the biggest fight of his career.

“I’ve got all of Sacramento behind me — everyone,” Griffin stated before boarding his flight to Las Vegas. “I’m the people’s champ and nothing’s going to stop me.”