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With free agency forthcoming, Kendall Grove heading into biggest fight of career

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Bellator MMA

Kendall Grove has been on the open market before. Except that time, he didn't expect it.

In 2011, Grove dropped a unanimous decision to Tim Boetsch at UFC 130 and he was released by the promotion. Yes, the Ultimate Fighter 3 winner had lost two in a row, but the first defeat came against Demian Maia and Boetsch is a perennial top-15 fighter at middleweight.

"The UFC didn't want me and I only lost two decisions to two tough guys and they let me go for some reason," Grove said. "But that's the business. I'm not mad over it. I'm a little disappointed, but it's their company."

Grove, 33, learned a lot from that experience. And he'll bring a level head into the open market this time around.

After Grove's fight with Francisco France at Bellator 150 on Friday in Kansas, "Da Spyder" will become a free agent. That makes this bout arguably the biggest of his veteran career.

"I'm gonna try to go out there, f*cking put it on him, look spectacular and we'll see what happens," Grove said.

Grove (22-15) would like to stay with Bellator. He likes the direction the program is going in, signing free agents like Benson Henderson, Phil Davis and Josh Thomson from the UFC. But if Bellator isn't interested in re-signing him, well, Grove won't be upset.

"I'm happy with where I'm at in general," Grove said. "I don't care as much anymore. At the end of the day, it's their company. If they want me, they want me. If not, I'm not gonna cry over it. I might be a little bummed out, but life goes on. Spilled milk -- wipe that sh*t up and pour yourself another glass. There's no use crying over it."

The 6-foot-6 Hawaii native is coming off a third-round TKO win over Joey Beltran in September. Before that, he fell by fourth-round TKO in a middleweight title fight with Brandon Halsey in May 2015. Grove is still hanging around near the top of Bellaltor's 185-pound division and Halsey lost the belt to Rafael Carvalho last year, putting Grove right back in that mix.

"I just love to fight," Grove said. "If I get the opportunity to fight for a title again, God bless me. I appreciate it. At the end of the day, I just want to fight. I just want to prove myself and provide for my family."

He knows he has a better chance of doing the latter with a spectacular victory over France, a top-flight Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter. But Grove has fought in seven different countries with umpteen organizations, including at the top of the heap. If it doesn't happen for him Friday night, he won't worry, either.

"A win will make my life a little easier," Grove said. "An impressive win. My manager guys will have a little more leverage with negotiations. Like I said, if they want me, they want me. If not, there's no use crying over it."