Nobody has grown more tired of questions regarding his future than Kendall Grove himself.
Every time the Maui-born fighter steps into the cage, it seems he’s fighting with his Ultimate Fighting Championship career on the line.
On Saturday, Grove will step into the Octagon for the 10th time since beating Ed Herman in the Ultimate Fighter Season 3 Finale in 2006 to earn a UFC contract.
|11-7 overall, 6-4 in UFC|
His 6-4 record won’t turn any heads, but Grove has had enough staying power with the company to possibly get over the worry that this UFC fight could be his last.
"Fighting is a gamble," Grove said. "All you’ve got to do is stay positive and fight.
"On Saturday I get to live for 15 minutes doing something I love that I’m very passionate about and nobody can take that away from me win or lose."
Grove (11-7 overall) will face Croatian Goran Reljic (8-1) in one of two UFC 116 preliminary fights originally scheduled to air on SpikeTV prior to the pay-per-view telecast at 4 p.m. Hawaii time.
However, the fight was pulled from cable television last week and replaced with another. The UFC has not officially commented on the switch, but the move was made after Grove said some controversial things in a radio interview.
At one point, Grove told TapOut radio, "(SpikeTV) just care(s) about the six weeks that they’re shooting and get as much drama and stupidity out of us. That’s all we are to them is cattle and sheep.
SATURDAY, 4 P.M.
"The way they run things, they’re slowly controlling us to be like that."
Those who know Grove realize he’s not one to shy away from speaking his mind.
He’s also one to do things his way.
After spending roughly seven years training in Las Vegas and California with Team Punishment, Grove has made himself comfortable on his home island of Maui.
He opened the I & I Training Center where he trains for every fight. He’ll bring in some additional help, such as Molokai’s Sale Sproat, to prepare for a fight, but ultimately relies on the same core group from Maui, led by Troy Mandaloniz.
"Everything is a gamble and my gamble is that I stick with a bunch of my guys," Grove said. "I think I’m golden. I know I’m good and I am prepared for this fight."
Reljic, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is coming off his first professional loss.
He won his UFC debut over Wilson Gouveia on the same card Hilo’s B.J. Penn defeated Sean Sherk, but suffered a back injury training for his next fight and didn’t compete again until losing a unanimous decision to C.B. Dollaway 20 months later in February.
"He’s a real tough, unorthodox southpaw," Grove said. "He’s like a baby (Mirko) Cro Cop. Stylistically you look at it and it’s going to be a great fight."
Part of Grove’s appeal is his ability to put on exciting fights. His 6-foot-6 lanky frame allows him to work eye-popping submissions and he’s not afraid to stand and trade either.
Only three of his 18 pro fights have gone the distance. He’s coming off a second-round TKO loss to Mark Munoz that earned Fight of the Night honors, pocketing Grove an extra $75,000.
"We’re in the hurt business and somebody is going to get hurt," Grove said. "Sometimes it’s going to be me and sometimes it’s going to be the other guy.
"All you can do is pour your heart and soul into your training so you can go out there and put on a show."
Grove is one of two fighters with local ties competing at UFC 116. Chris Leben (20-6), who runs the Ultimate Fight School on University Avenue, replaced Wanderlei Silva on short notice. Leben will fight Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-1, 2 NC) in the co-main event.
UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar (4-1) returns to the cage for the first time in a year to defend his title against interim champion Shane Carwin (12-0) in the main event.