clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Fanfare or not, Max Griffin ‘dismantled’ Mike Perry on the big stage — and he’s here to tell you all about it

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Montano vs Griffin Etzel Espinosa-USA TODAY Sports

One of the unfortunate side effects of Jeremy Stephens’ contentious victory over Josh Emmett was that the other fights on that nationally televised card slipped quietly into historic record. Particularly the first fight on the Feb. 24 UFC on FOX main card in Orlando, Max Griffin’s victory over much-hyped Mike Perry.

Under ordinary circumstances, Griffin — a heavily slept-on underdog with nearly zero fanfare heading in — might have stolen some headlines for knocking off a prized UFC up-and-comer. Yet even though Griffin swept the scorecards (30-27, 29-27, 29-27) in a determined showing, his performance was somewhat overshadowed by a main event with a controversial end.

Somewhat, that is, because really it was the postscript slants that got to him.

“I mean, it kind of did [bother me], but honestly I think people didn’t know what to think about it,” Griffin told MMA Fighting. “They all believed that Mike was going to whoop me. I feel like they really believed it…so when it didn’t happen? I’m glad it went for a whole fight and I didn’t take him out in a minute. It’s more gratifying to me to show everyone what I can do.

“And, he didn’t have a bad night — he tried his best. He did his best. But all these articles came out about, ‘was I the wrong opponent, was I wrong, can we save Mike Perry?’ all this stuff. They don’t care about me. It’s fine, but they’re not acting like I dismantled him. They’re acting like he had a bad night. It’s like, no — I made him fight like that. I didn’t let him set his big feet, I didn’t let him plant. I didn’t let him get comfortable. I didn’t let him move forward. I did things to shut him down and beat him. That was the plan, shut him down, and beat him up when he thinks about doing anything.”

The 32-year-old Griffin is now 2-2 in the UFC. Heading into his fight with Perry he was coming off a Fight of the Night performance against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, which he found himself on the losing end of. His other loss came against Colby Covington in his debut back at UFC 202, with a victory over Erick Montaño sandwiched in between.

Yet, in his highest profile fight to date he was booked somewhat unceremoniously — at least to his way of thinking — as the ‘B’-side to a fighter on the verge of breakout success. That was a motivating set-up. And two weeks removed from his victory over Perry, he can laugh at how oddsmakers were so far off in handicapping his chances.

“It was a blessing,” he says. “I was so excited for the fight in general. I’ve had so much hate. I mean, I’ve had a few trolls here and there, but he has the worst fans, man. I had messages on Instagram and Facebook, ‘you suck, you bum, you’re going to get your ass kicked, goodnight…’ So it was great. Everyone that called me a bum, and everyone who jumped on his little bandwagon, they all felt it. It was cool to do it on prime time, where the most people see it.”

Griffin actually had some familiarity with Perry as a person heading into their fight, dating back to the days before he became a media fascination. The two had bonded at the UFC retreat last May. “We played cornhole together,” he says, “and I thought we were cool.”

Yet once they signed on the dotted line, Griffin saw a different side to Perry that was at times amusing, and at times bothersome. He didn’t like that Perry hitched himself to his own hype train in such a way that made a victory over him come off like a foregone conclusion. Nor did he appreciate the rootless way in which he perceived Perry to carry himself.

“I didn’t like how all his interviews were so mixed,” he says. “I feel like something’s really wrong with him. That may sound like I’m talking shit or something, but it’s like he doesn’t know who he wants to be. It was almost like he was trying to pump himself up that I wasn’t good. I mean, we were at the retreat together going power for power on the meter, so he knows for a fact that I have power.

“Even at the weigh-ins he was trying to talk shit to me in the back, you know, ‘why you warming up?’ And his little girlfriend — or, ex-girlfriend — was trying to get me fired up, saying, ‘Oh, he does have a goofy laugh.’ Just weird. I honestly feel like he knew I was going to f*ck him up. He knew it and wanted me to get on his good side. He wanted me to not be mad at him. It was psychological.”

Didn’t work, if that was the case. Perry showed a lot of heart in the fight after finding himself down after two rounds. He stood in there and took his licks against Griffin, getting caught with a couple of shots that might have finished other men. Yet he couldn’t land an equalizer, nor the shot that would turn the table. It was evident the fight wasn’t going his way from early on. Griffin punished his aggression time and again. And he was able to pick up little things as the fight progressed.

In the course of the bout, he heard Perry’s corner yelling out instructions that in hindsight he says seem comical.

“I heard his girlfriend saying things, ‘Kill him like you said you were going to do!’ and ‘You’re not doing what you said you’re going to do!’” he says. “I heard her say, ‘break his leg!’ and I’m thinking this fool better not try to break my leg. It kind of put me on alert. When I fight we have code words and stuff, we have different words for different combinations. We’re never like, ‘left, left, right, left!’”

In the end it was a very nice showcase for a man who didn’t receive a lot of love heading in. Griffin — who has a nickname of “Pain” like the video game Max Payne, combined with the idea that his occupation is to “hurt people” — came out of it relatively unscathed.

He had some scratches on his arms and nose from Perry’s fingernails, and he said his hands “ballooned up” from having struck Perry’s face so many times, but otherwise he felt good. If anything, he looks at his victory over Perry as a cautionary tale not to beware of booking him as a springboard for somebody else’s success.

“I could beat Perry 10 days out of 10 days in a row,” he says. “I know how to beat him. I was reading these odds where people are saying I was set up to lose, and it was an easy win for him — who set up who?”

As for when he’d like to return, Griffin says ideally sometime in May or shortly thereafter. Whenever he does show up again, his confidence is soaring at having not only found his rhythm in the Octagon, but in having — for the first time — fully enjoyed himself once in there.

“This was the first fight I’ve actually been calm and composed,” he says. “All my other fights I’m in such a rush to take them out. Usually when you’re in there it’s high-intensity, a high-stress environment, your heart’s beating fast…this fight? It was like slow motion to me. It was weird. It was like I had an epiphany in there. My coach is always like, ‘have fun, have fun’ — have fun? This guy is in there trying to knock your head off!

“But I honestly, this time I had fun. When I broke his nose — I broke his nose with a jab, I remember seeing it burst, bam, and I smiled at him, I winked at him, barking at him, talking shit to him…it was great.”