In the bible, Goliath was an antagonistic and menacing warrior whose size and strength induced fear who single-handedly put a war of nations at a standstill.
MMA’s “Goliath” is the towering Neil Grove who shares few other characteristics to with his biblical equivalent outside of similar size and nickname. The friendly South African now lives in Great Britain and, while appearing on some of the world’s largest stages, has never fought outside Europe.North America in his six-year career. This weekend, Grove meets Todd Duffee in the main event at the second installment of India’s Super Fight League. The sold out event takes place in the Northern Indian city of Chandigarh and not only serves as Grove’s promotional debut but is his first trip to the country. Fighters.com recently had a chance to sit down with Grove to discuss the bout where he spoke about his excitement to be playing such a large role in the new promotion in addition to a handful of other topics.
“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for any fighter to be a part of something as big as the SFL” Grove stated in the exclusive conversation. “They’ve spent a lot of money and as you saw from the first show it went pretty well. A couple of little mistakes were made, but for the first time out, I thought it was a very good show.”
“Their first event sold out in a couple of weeks, and in this show they’ve got myself, Duffee, Paul Kelly and Alexander Shlemenko. With a couple of really high profile fighters, it will be even more exciting to watch. I’m looking forward to meeting everybody, and hopefully playing a big part of MMA in India,” Grove continued.
The bout will also allow Grove to finally put on the hat of a fighter, one he has not worn in months since his stumble to Thiago Silva at Bellator 56. Since the loss, he has patiently awaited the next call while balancing work life, family, and a couple of opportunities to be a ringside interviewer. It will nearly have been six months since his last fight by the time Grove steps into SFL’s O-Zone (the nickname for their cage), though the time off certainly hasn’t been spent sitting idly by rather than staying active in the gym.
“To get ready for my next fight, my striking coach Steve Gladstone at Semtex gym has been helping me with my guard,” explained Grove. “In my last fight, I dropped my guard slightly and I got caught. In all of these fights as well, I’d been leaning backwards a lot and using my height and reach advantage to help me get out of harm’s way. He’s changed that a bit for me, and he also has been helping me with my takedown defense. It’s been helping make things hard for the wrestlers to take me down. It’s been good, and I trained all of last year to improve my wrestling ability, but I’ve been also been training on my strength, which is my striking.”
In addition to the improvements to his ground game, Grove spoke about his fast-paced, hard-hitting style that has brought home 100% of his career victories by way of knockout.
“To me, a fight is not a point scoring event. It’s winning,” stated Grove plainly. “I take every fight as though it’s my last and as if I’m fighting for my life, so to me it’s that idea of finishing the fight as quick as I can…looking for openings, and I’ve made mistakes in the past. This next fight’s a bit more clinical. I may take my time, but whether it takes ten seconds or the whole three rounds, I’ve got to make sure I win this fight. I do prefer to finish a fight, and once you know you’ve hurt your opponent, you’ve got to go in for the kill. I like to go in for that kill and give the referee no option but to stop the fight.”
“I go in with the mindset that I envision myself winning,” Grove elaborated. “There’s nobody out there that’s unbeatable. I think once you start doubting yourself, it’s time to hang your gloves up. Right now, I feel confident I can go places and beat fighters out there.
Duffee, Grove’s opponent at SFL 2 is no stranger to knockouts himself. Like Grove, all of Duffee’s victories have come that way as well. However, it isn’t of much concern to the seasoned veteran.
“The only thing he’s got over and above me is youth,” said Grove. “I’ve got the height, I’ve got the reach. He’s muscular and has a fair bit of strength, but all I see, really, is his age”
While Duffee’s deal with the SFL appears to be exclusive, Grove is on loan from Bellator for this fight and knows a win will shed a positive light on his year, bringing opportunities with both of the aforementioned promotions.
“I’m still under contractor to Bellator, though they’ve ‘released’ me for this fight,” revealed Grove. “Bellator’s also mentioned to me, and I’m not confirming it, but if I win this next fight I could see myself in the next tournament. I’ve also been told by the CEO of Super Fight League that win or lose this fight, there’s another one waiting for me here. Ken Pavia and I have known each other for a long time and he likes the way I fight, so I’ll always have a fight there too. Obviously, I’d like to win every fight I’m in this year, and hopefully at some point, the SFL’s going to want to pick a champion at every weight class and figure out which heavyweights are in line for that opportunity. I’d like to win another championship.”
Grove took a moment during the interview to reflect upon facets of the Super Fight League as a business. With only the Indian Premier League cricket season as its other main sports export, Grove spoke of how its purpose could contribute to a little bit more than just another night of fights to the Indian population.
“Like in South Africa where I was brought up, there’s a lot of things developing in India and lots of money being spent,” said Grove. “It’s still a fairly ‘new’ nation and getting to go in and be a part of this is fantastic. I hope MMA, like with cricket, will bring opportunity to people in the area. It’s just going to make things so much better.”
In closing, Grove admitted, however, that there was one thing he didn’t know well about the Super Fight League – the words to its cult-hit theme song.
“I haven’t memorized it,” Grove laughed. “I’ve heard it a couple times and it sounds pretty cool. I’ve just got a lot of other things on my mind right now.”
Super Fight League 2 takes place on Saturday, April 7 2012. In addition to Grove and Duffee, SFL 2 will also feature Kelly, Shlemenko, Ikuhisa Minowa, Ryan Healy, and Colleen Schneider. The event will be broadcast live on YouTube and will commence at approximately 8:30 AM EST.