To hardcore MMA fans, Kendall Grove is one of the obvious bright spots of the cast of fighters that participated on The Ultimate Fighter, Season 3To hardcore MMA fans, Kendall Grove is one of the obvious bright spots of the cast of fighters that participated on The Ultimate Fighter, Season 3 (TUF 3). However, to the new massive audience that MMA is now reaching through its hit reality series (TUF) on SpikeTV, Kendall Grove is not only one of the most recognizable names in the UFC, he’s also one of the names now synonymous with the sport for its new found fan base. Kendall used his opportunity on the show to launch is budding MMA career, while being one of the most memorable fighters in the show’s history in and out of the cage. He punctuated his time on the show with a memorable three round victory over Ed Herman last June in perhaps one of the most memorable fights to date and followed up his TUF 3 crown with a dominating first round TKO last October over Chris Price in Miami, Florida. Now with only a few days left before Kendall steps back into the cage Saturday night in his toughest fight to date, I was able to catch up with Kendall to see what he’s been up to as well as his thoughts on the fight, training, and cougar hunting.
Bevois: Saturday night, you fight Mississippi native Alan “The Talent” Belcher at UFC 69 – The Showdown in Houston, Texas. Belcher is currently 1-1 in the UFC (9-2 overall) having fought two very tough grapplers. What do you know about him judging by his fights with Okami and Santiago?
Kendall: Belcher will be the toughest fight in my career, thus far. He’s got very heavy hands, he kicks hard as shown in his last fight, and he’s a good grappler that is very hard to submit. It’s going to be a really tough fight that I’d like to finish, but I’ll probably have to grind out a decision victory, as I see this fight going the distance.
Bevois: After winning TUF 3 in dramatic fashion over Ed Herman in the season finale last June, you won your first post-TUF fight in October over Chris Price. How has your training been going since then?
Kendall: Training has been good. I hurt my hand in my last fight, so I went back to Hawaii for a little bit to let it heal. Then it was back to training at Cobra Kai in Las Vegas and with Team Punishment at Big Bear, so I feel 100% right now and I’m ready to go Saturday night.
Bevois: Tito Ortiz is well known and respected for his incredible work ethic and rigorous training regimens up at Big Bear. What is it like training with Tito on a personal level?
Kendall: It’s great. He’s very intense, tough as nails, and always busts his ass off. He’s an awesome training partner, because he makes you earn everything you get, which in turn makes you better in the end.
Bevois: On TUF 3, you and Solomon Hutcherson (together known as “Team Dagger”) were known as the resident pranksters in the household. Did you guys joke around as a way to lighten up the tense atmosphere or as a way to play mind games with your opposition living in the house?
Kendall: Well we did for both reasons. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that the UFC was offering us and I’m glad if it got me fans or haters, because we were just being ourselves and having fun. Solomon just moved away from his home in Wisconsin and now lives and trains with me at Cobra Kai in Las Vegas, so Team Dagger is still going strong!
Bevois: Tell me the first thing that comes to mind, after each name you hear…
– Tito Ortiz… Hard-working. – Marc Laimon… Genius. – Anderson Silva… The Best. – Rich Franklin… Second Best. – Mike Swick… Bad motherfucker. – Joe Stevenson… Amazing. – Brittney Skye… No comment. – Ulysses Gomez… Useless.
Bevois: Before you became known as “Da Spyder,” Marc Laimon and Uly Gomez had nicknamed you “The Rainbow Warrior.” Give us a history on the name change.
Kendall: When my dad heard my original nickname, he thought I was gay. At the time, he was paying my rent and training dues and told me to change my name to “Da Spyder” or he’d cut me off. The name made sense, since I’m all arms and all legs, but I had to change the spelling when I found out that the champ Anderson Silva uses the same nickname.
Bevois: You have been training with Marc Laimon for years. What has been the most beneficial element of training with the American Ronin?
Kendall: His drills make you better at being in bad positions. As I said before, Marc is a genius. He picks the best elements of different people’s jiu-jitsu and shows you how to incorporate it into your game, which allows you to create your own jiu-jitsu. He teaches the best jiu-jitsu on Earth.
Bevois: Your MMA skills have taken a complete 360-degree turn for the better in the past 12 months, which was noticeably better each time we saw you fight on TUF 3. What do you credit to your ability to get notably better with every one of your fights?
Kendall: Always having good people around me. My training partners at Cobra Kai, such as Troy “Rude Boy” Mandaloniz and Joe Stevenson who won TUF 2, kept me going and helped me stay positive.
Bevois: Now on a more personal note, I was recently at Sapphire’s for the Stardust Implosion Party and overheard your name being giggled and talked about amongst a group of strippers. How did you become so popular amongst the cougars of Sin City?
Kendall: I really don’t know. Maybe they like tall, skinny, Hawaiian guys with small penises. (laughs)
Bevois: What would you rather be… a Haole boy or crippled?
Kendall: (laughs) Crippled.
Bevois: Who’s a better wingman when you’re out picking up cougars… Jenna Jameson or Uly Gomez?
Kendall: Uly Gomez. He’s my old roommate and let me just say, he’s a savage inside the gym and out!
Bevois: B.J. Penn, Kimo Leopoldo, Niko Vitale, and Cabbage Correira are just a few of the Hawaiian fighters that have fought in the UFC. Have they motivated you to carry on the Hawaiian fighting tradition?
Kendall: They have all motivated me to the utmost. They were the firsts and when I was a young kid growing up in Maui, seeing them all do it, they really inspired me. They made me realize that with hard work and proper training, I could do it too.
Bevois: What about the master of Hawaiian bone-crushing Telei Tuli from UFC 1?
Kendall: (laughs) He taught me how to eat well and how to pack on the pounds to fight in the bigger weight classes!
Bevois: Do you have any last comments or anyone you’d like to thank before you step back into the cage Saturday night?
Kendall: I want to thank OntheMat.com and the OTM Fight Shop for being the realest mofo’s out there. You guys have been keeping it real for years and stay true to your roots.
Of course, I have to thank my coaches and training partners Marc Laimon, Tito Ortiz, Joe Stevenson, Troy Mandaloniz, Forrest Griffin, Mike Pyle, Ulysses Gomez, Dave Bollea, Jay Hieron, Dave Terrel, and all of the other guys that have helped me along the way. I also want to thank the Cobra Kai Academy, Extreme Couture, PA99.tv, Lahaina Grill, and Avallar Airlines.