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UFC’s Max Griffin: Bonus-winning loss led to ‘a dream come true’

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UFC welterweight Max Griffin became a full-time fighter after his October loss to Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos.

The year 2017 wasn’t all that nice to Max Griffin.

The UFC welterweight got injured in training early in the year and had to pull out of a fight against Sergio Moraes. After being sidelined for the majority of the year, Griffin returned to action against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in October, only to lose a decision.

However, “Pain” won an extra $50,000 for “Fight of the Night” honors in his lone 2017 bout. It “saved” Griffin’s year, he said, because he was able to make a career-changing decision afterwards. Literally.

Upon receiving the bonus, Griffin left his full-time job at Blue Shield of California, a health insurance company. Having worked there for nearly seven years, Griffin worked 40 to 50 hours per week. And he succeeded in MMA as a part-time fighter, despite having to train around his typical 8 a.m.-5 p.m. hours.

Now, as far as a source of income goes, Griffin’s focus is solely on MMA. And that’ll help him improve in many ways, he said.

“If I got this far part-time, the sky’s the limit if I could put everything into it. To me, I’m doing OK for, technically, part-time training,” Griffin told BloodyElbow.com. “I wake up in the morning, train, go to work, and get off and train. Now [I can] wake up and schedule my day, get my recovery, my extra sessions in, that consistency, those hours. I’m a happy camper.”

Griffin decided to quit his day job immediately after finding out he had won a post-fight bonus after the dos Santos loss. He is lucky he didn’t leave the position for another two months, he said, because the Sacramento-based fighter didn’t actually receive the bonus until December.

And on his last day of work in mid-December, Griffin was offered a bout against rising star Mike Perry at UFC on FOX 28 in Orlando on Feb. 24. He was ecstatic about the pairing and gladly accepted. It was an early Christmas gift for Griffin.

“It all fell into place,” said Griffin, who will open up the main card next week against “Platinum.”

Griffin said he has been training an average six times per week — an increase from when he trained only part-time. More than anything, the biggest difference is that he doesn’t have to rush from home to the gym in the morning, then to work, and then back to the gym in the evening.

“It’s just the consistency and having that time,” Griffin said. “It’s a blessing. It feels so natural. It’s really like a dream come true to fight full-time and support yourself.”

Griffin has already noticed some improvements in his overall game since making the move to full-time.

“I’m real conscious of my body,” Griffin said. “That’s something I’m learning as I get older and whatnot, as I go farther. You actually have to listen to your body. I’m real conscious of what happens. I’m seeing stuff in my jiu-jitsu.”

What if this all goes wrong? That’s not a question even going through Griffin’s head as he prepares for the biggest fight of his career.

“This is what I’m supposed to do, and I have 100 percent faith in my abilities,” Griffin said. “I’ll bet on myself over anyone in my life. You gotta strike when the iron’s hot. I’d be stupid not to quit. I have to.

“I want to know that I gave it my all.”

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