Every fighter loses fights. It’s inevitable. In fact, most combat sports veterans will tell you losses are necessary to develop because you learn more from your defeats than from your wins. At this weekend’s Pro Elite event, which will be streamed live on Sherdog.com, two longtime veterans looking to rebound and rebuild their careers will cross paths, as Hawaii’s own Kendall “Da Spyda” Grove and Joe “Diesel” Riggs will battle. There are many storylines attached to this bout. First off, it’s a rematch, as Riggs handed Grove his first professional loss at an event in Hawaii way back in 2004. Secondly, “Da Spyda” will be looking to defend his home turf against “Diesel.” However, the two combatants agree that the most important storyline to them is much simpler: they’re both in need of a solid victory.
Kendall Grove (12-9-0-1) grew up in Hawaii, and is the prototypical Island boy: a scrapper who is afraid of no man. The 6’6” middleweight made his pro debut in 2003, and soared to heights few reach in the fight game when he won the 3rd season of the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter competition. Over the next few years, Grove became a mainstay in the UFC, gathering victories over Ed Herman, Alan Belcher, the late Evan Tanner, Jason Day, Jake Rosholt, and Goran Reljic during his time with the promotion. However, he also suffered several setbacks, and was released earlier this year after two straight losses. Now, he has the chance to show the world he can come back and prove his doubters wrong once again. But to do that, he’ll have to get by Joe Riggs in an extremely crucial bout.
“For me, it’s a very important fight. But every fight is important. It doesn’t matter if I’m fighting Joe Schmoe or Joe Riggs,” says Grove. “I’m a fighter. I don’t just do this to say I’m a fighter. I do it because I’m good at it, and I want to make an impact in this sport. So I’ve trained extremely hard for this fight. But how much bigger of a fight can I get than fighting the guy who gave me my first loss?”
For a fighter, his first loss always stings a little bit extra in comparison to a lot of other defeats. With “Da Spyda,” it’s no different.
“I’d be lying if I said there was no emotion behind the fight,” he explains. “But we’re both professionals. We saw each other earlier this week, and we shook hands. Don’t get me wrong…when we get in the cage, we’re going to rip each other’s faces off. But what doesn’t make us animals is that little bit of respect we have for each other. It sucks because there’s only one winner out of that, but I’ve been waiting for this fight since that loss. I’ve been telling my guys this camp that when he fought me before, I was a boy…now I’m a man.”
In the end, Kendall Grove wants to make sure he leaves the cage this weekend having made a statement.
“It’s hard to say that fans are going to see a new Kendall Grove, but I have to make sure they do. I have to get out of this rut I’m in. People have figured me out. So I have to change…it’s mandatory. But I have not only changed, I’ve gotten better and evolved. That’s what the fans are going to see Saturday night. When the fans see me fight Saturday, they’re going to see someone lay it all on the line. I’m just excited to be back home for a great organization. I get to help build this organization, and what better way to do that than in front of my home crowd?”
Joe Riggs (34-13-0-1) has been around the world in the fight game, and then some. Originally, he competed as a super heavyweight, but worked his weight down until he found a home at welterweight. A ten year-veteran of the sport, Riggs has competed against a virtual “who’s who” in the sport, including Joe Doerksen, Chris Lytle, Matt Hughes, Nick Diaz, Mike Swick, Diego Sanchez, Kazuo Misaki, Phil Baroni, and Jay Hieron, as well as “Da Spyda.” However, despite his previous win over Grove, the “Diesel” sees this bout as just another scrap.
“I’m a professional. I just go in there to fight. I don’t care what people say, or any of the other stuff. I’m in the prime of my career right now. I left the UFC and Strikeforce on my own terms, and I just need to get the right wins and get back on track.”
Because of his finish win of Grove, many see this as a grudge match, but if it is, it’s not the case in Riggs’ mind.
“I actually like Kendall. He’s a real nice guy, a good guy. His trainer, Justin McCully, is someone I really respect. To me, it’s a good victory I’ve had in the past, and it will be a good one to get again.”
However, don’t let his understated demeanor fool you. The “Diesel” plans to deliver this weekend.
“The fans should expect fireworks…I’m coming out swinging.”
One of these fighters is going to leave the arena Saturday night with a new lease on his career. However, the real winners will be the fans.