“How you feeling?”
The last time I asked Max Griffin that question was a few days ahead of his March bout against Song Kenan. He was a few weeks removed from the birth of his son, Tyrus Jax Griffin, and coming off a November victory over Ramiz Brahimaj.
He told me he was ready to take on a mountain lion; that he was sharper, more focused, more locked in than he had been at another other point in his five-year, 10-fight UFC career, and that he was going to rip through his Chinese opponent.
A few days later, Griffin did just that, felling Song with a swift, sharp combination along the fence a little more than two minutes into the contest, giving him the first winning streak of his UFC tenure and creating a situation where he returns on Saturday night in the final preliminary card pairing at UFC 264 against former interim champion Carlos Condit.
“I feel almost like an alien, bro,” Griffin answered, chasing his words with a laugh. “I feel different. It’s a weird feeling. I feel… it’s hard to put into words, especially how I was feeling for the last fight when we spoke and then to go out and do that…”
His words trail off as he searches for the best way to explain it all.
“I’m just getting better,” he resumed, “and then to get this kind of big fight now… it’s my time.”
For the first nine fights of his UFC career, Griffin constantly teased making a run towards the Top 15.
He followed up his debut loss to Colby Covington with a 54-second knockout win over Erick Montano in Mexico City. He went 1-3 over his next four fights, dropping close, competitive decisions to Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, Curtis Millender, and Thiago Alves with a convincing, lopsided decision win over Mike Perry mixed in between. He survived a grimy grudge match with Zelim Imadaev, then lost consecutive contests to a pair of welterweight stalwarts named Alex, first Morono and then Oliveira, both on the cards, the latter by split decision.
Griffin was someone you could count on for an entertaining fight every time out, but he also seemed on track to be an inconsistent fixture in the middle of the 170-pound weight class; a guy that was a tough assignment and tough out for anyone in the division, but who just couldn’t seem to put all the pieces together and get things moving in the right direction.
That all changed when he started working with his mental coach, Danny Patterson.
“Danny Patterson is the catalyst of all this because it’s all mental,” said Griffin, who bounces between Marinoble’s Martial Arts, Team Alpha Male, and working with the MMA Gold crew in preparation for his fights. “I know how good I am and it’s frustrating to go out there and have an entertaining performance, but you don’t get the dub and you don’t get your second check; it’s like having dirt in your mouth, but now the proof is in the pudding.
“For me, it’s like, ‘Hold on — I had fun the first time, I had more fun the second time, and now I’m fighting with the fans and a crowd against Carlos Condit?’ It’s bananas and I’m so thankful to be here.
“It’s a real dream come true.”
He’s not just talking about translating his potential into performance inside the Octagon either.
“I’ve wanted to fight Carlos Condit since I was a teenager,” said Griffin, expressing a sentiment shared by many like-minded individuals that made their way into mixed martial arts in and around the time “The Natural Born Killer” was dominating the WEC welterweight division.
“When he was in the WEC, pacing and mean-mugging, I was like, ‘I want to fight this guy!’ I remember saying that — ‘I want to fight this guy! I can’t wait to fight this guy!’ — and then years later, here we are.
“No hard feelings, no bad blood or beef,” he continued, offering his thoughts on Condit. “He’s a beast! He’s a fighter’s fighter, a man’s man — he bleeds in there, gives it all he’s got; a former champion, been in there with the best.
“To me, he’s a Hall of Famer, no doubt for me,” Griffin concluded, before adding, “but now he’s just a body that’s in front of me.”
The biggest change for the35-year-old during his tidy two-fight winning streak has been accepting that he is not good at multitasking and committing his entire focus to his fight prep, leaving everything else to the capable team he’s built around himself.
Rather than being in the gym worrying about the dozens of unreturned emails and DMs sitting in his various inboxes, stressing about how to address those elements between training, recovery, and family time, Griffin has divorced himself from those worries, and it has made a world of difference.
“I’m not a good multitasker,” he began with a cackle. “Some people are, but I’m not, and so would you rather do a bunch of things 60 percent or one thing 100 percent?
“I was trying to do ten things, but when you’re focused on one, that’s when you have your most success, and that’s what I want to do. I have a great marketing team and I sat down with them and really put it on their plates because that s*** was stressing me out, and that really took a lot of weight off my shoulders.
“They’re taking care of all that and it lets me focus exclusively on fighting, which takes all that additional stress off me; I’m no longer thinking about all those extra things.”
Instead, he’s only thinking about Condit, adding to his current winning streak, and continuing to work his way up the welterweight rankings.
“It’s a different thing to feel like this; I feel crazy,” he said, struggling to find a way to explain how locked in he’s felt over these last three training camps. “I don’t feel human, bro. I know it sounds weird, but I feel like I’m on a higher frequency, even when I’m sparring and doing different things. I’m so comfortable — I’m seeing s*** coming and it’s weird, man.
“I don’t care who I get, though, because from here on out, everybody is getting beaten,” Griffin added without a hint of boastfulness. “I’m not saying it in any arrogant kind of way, I just feel that it’s my time and it’s going to be my time for a long time.
“It’s all coming together and I’m supremely confident; anyone can get it.”