If there were two things one had to know about Maurice Greene heading into his UFC debut last November, they were 1), he’d fought for Glory, one of the world’s top kickboxing organizations and 2) he was “the villain” of the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Coming out of his debut, a first-round submission win over Cuban Olympic wrestler Michel Batista, one more fact became clear: Greene knew his way around a triangle choke.
Just over two minutes into their contest at The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale, Greene recovered from a Batista slam and threw up his legs to threaten the submission. A tap-out soon followed and Greene became the owner of just the third successful triangle choke finish in UFC heavyweight history, per Michael Carroll. If anyone was surprised, they shouldn’t have been according to Greene, who owns three victories by triangle choke and one by arm-triangle.
The 32-year-old is a disciple of Brock Larson, a former UFC fighter who retired in 2016 with 27 submission wins under his belt. That training has Greene supremely confident in his own grappling skills and he recently told MMA Fighting that he doesn’t care if the secret is out after beating Batista, he’s going to land his signature move anyway.
“Listen, I’ll still finish ‘em with the triangle,” Greene said. “Even though they know it’s coming, they still can’t stop it. And if they do stop it, they’ll end up in some sort of triangle choke transition or omoplata or armbar. So either way I’ll get the submission.”
“It means more to me to have somebody take me to the ground and me submit ‘em than me knock ‘em out,” he added. “Everybody assumes since I fought in Glory that my kickboxing and everything is better than my grappling, but what they fail to realize is I fell into kickboxing and I started doing jiu-jitsu. I’ve been doing jiu-jitsu for years, so I honestly think my jiu-jitsu grappling is better than my striking. But my striking has progressed over the years. I just want to be well-rounded and I just want to show everybody that I can do a little bit of everything, I can do it well, versus just being one-dimensional.”
Greene described his first UFC win as a “job interview” and he’s looking at his fight against Jeff Hughes at UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. dos Santos as the first day of his new gig. Making the fight even more important is that Greene is getting a chance to avenge a unanimous decision loss to Hughes that happened in the main event of a Legacy Fighting Alliance show less than a year ago.
It was Hughes who sent Greene into the TUF house on a loss. Little did they know they’d remain in each other’s orbit with Greene being signed off of that reality show and Hughes later winning a contract on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Coincidentally, Greene was actually in Las Vegas training at the UFC Performance Institute when Hughes’s Contender Series bout was being filmed and he was in attendance to see Hughes win.
When Hughes’s original opponent for UFC Wichita, Daniel Spitz, was forced out with an injury, Greene jumped at the chance to take the short-notice bout.
“This win is going to mean a lot more to me than beating Batista,” Greene said. “I don’t think Michel was ready, I just don’t think he was ready or maybe he didn’t want to be in there or he was scared.
“Now I’m getting ready to fight a guy who’s not scared, who already beat me, but we’re doing it again on the biggest stage to do it. So, if anything, this is probably the biggest fight that’s going on in my life. I took it on short notice because these are the fights you’ve got to take on short notice. At least I have an idea of what I’m walking into. I feel like I lost that fight, I lost that fight. It was my fight to lose and I lost that fight because of some of the decisions I made, but we won’t make those on March 9.”
At 32, Greene is one of the younger fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division, but he refused to look ahead from a competitive standpoint when asked if the thought he was joining the promotion at just the right time as the old guard could potentially be moving on as his own career is peaking. However, when it came to opportunities outside of fighting, he has already put the wheels in motion.
Greene’s TUF experience was just the first step in building his “Crochet Boss” brand, which he hopes to parlay into an appearance on an upcoming season of the long-running CBS reality show Big Brother. He’s not even sure if the UFC will allow him to take part in that filming, but it’s just one idea Greene has in addition to wanting to get into color commentating or analysis in the future.
He already has both feet in the door. Now it’s just a matter of keeping them there.
“This time, we’re competing for our job,” Greene said of his rematch with Hughes. “We’re competing for my future in the UFC.”