After battling to a unanimous decision win over Ed Herman to take the middleweight contract on The Ultimate Fighter 3, Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove looked to be on the UFC’s fast track. The lanky Maui-native took his first UFC loss in August when he was knocked out by Patrick “The Predator” Côté, but he looks to get his momentum back on January 19 when he faces Jorge Rivera at UFC 80: Rapid Fire. We called Da Spyder to rap about banned substances, life as a reality show star, Dana White, and his place in the middleweight division.
CagePotato.com: Congrats on getting a fight at UFC 80. Will this be your first trip to England?
Kendall Grove: Yeah, first trip. I’m excited — there’s nothing like fighting in the soccer riot capital of the world. Who knows what’s gonna break out in the audience, man.
What’s your training routine been like?
I’m sparring a lot more — maybe two hard days and two light days of sparring — and every day I’m doing jiu-jitsu. I lift weights four times a week, and I run three miles every morning, first thing when I wake up.
Are you one of those crazy dudes who gives up booze and sex and all that when you’re getting ready for a fight?
Yeah. After my last fight against Patrick [Cote], I changed a lot of things in my personal life. I cut back on drinking. Because this reality show shit does get to your head, you know? Everybody wants to hang out with you. As for sex, yeah, my girl has been horny and she’s pregnant, so that’s pretty much out of the question. Other than that, I eat good, but I’m not afraid to go eat some milk and cookies or ice cream at night. I cheat a lot on my diet, but I’m 6’6″, 185. I’m Hawaiian-Ethiopian, you know what I mean?
How do you think you match up with Rivera?
I think I match up good. We’re both tough, tough fighters. We both fight ’til the bitter end. I think it’s going to come down to conditioning. I know that towards the end of the second or third rounds, he starts to slow down a little, and kinda’ paces himself. I think I’m just going to put it on him — I’ll dictate the pace of the fight. Rivera’s a seasoned vet, and I think he’s a good opponent, regardless of his losses. Everybody loses. That’s why I love this sport, MMA and the UFC, because nobody is invincible. Anybody can get taken out, just by one punch. I think he’s going to be a tough opponent and an exciting fight for me.
Who do you like in the BJ Penn/Joe Stevenson fight?
I’m friends with both of them, so right now I’d just say I’d like to see a good fight. May the best fighter win. I know BJ —he’s another local boy from Hawaii doing his thing. He’s one of my heroes that motivated me. And here comes Joe Stevenson. I lived with him for two years — he’s one of the reasons why I got on The Ultimate Fighter, so it’s hard for me to pick. I’m right in the middle. I got two real good friends fighting each other.
Do you think marijuana should still be a banned substance for mixed martial artists?
I don’t think so. It’s definitely not an enhancement drug. [laughs]
Nick Diaz got a six-month suspension for testing positive for marijuana, and Sean Sherk got six months for steroids — do you think that’s fair?
I don’t think so. See, marijuana is a touchy subject. I’m a rock star — I’ve been smoking weed since I was in the 6th grade, I can openly say that. But I’m also clean when I fight. I cut that shit out — I’m a professional. Don’t get me wrong, my first six fights, I fought high, I fought stoned. But when you get to this level, you have to take responsibility. It’s your job. I stop doing that stuff three months out. I just think they blew it way out of proportion. What did they say with Nick Diaz? “Oh, him smoking weed made his pain threshold higher—”
It’s stupid. Steroids actually make you run faster, make you stronger — it’s a performance enhancer. And weed just makes you gain weight and be lazy. [laughs]
Where do you see your place in the middleweight division?
I still see myself as a hungry fighter, trying to make his way up that ladder. I’m nowhere near a title shot. I just want to pay my dues. I’m young — give me a year and a half to mature and improve as a fighter and I think I’ll be there. If anybody works hard enough, they get what they deserve. I think in a year and a half, I’ll have put enough sweat and blood in the training room, in the Octagon. I just hope one day I get to fight for the title.
Since you were an Ultimate Fighter winner, what do you think about the coaches for the new season, Rampage and Forrest Griffin?
Forrest is improving and improving all the time. I trained with the guy in Las Vegas at Extreme Couture, and the guy is a workhorse. And out of every fighter that I’ve known, including myself, he deserves everything that he gets. He deserves a title shot, and I think he’s going to be a great coach. Him and Rampage are going to make the season.
How do you think the fight between them will go down?
Tough. It’s going to be a scrap. Both of them have good hands. I think Rampage has him on the wrestling a little, but Forrest has good jiu-jisu. We’re just going to have to find out. I just can’t wait to see it. I wouldn’t mind seeing Forrest come out on top, from one fan to another. He’s opened a lot of doors for us coming off the show. As an Ultimate Fighter winner showing that, shit, we can make it and fight for titles. People mostly just look at us as “they’re just reality TV fighters.” But we had a record before the show. We just happened to be on a reality TV show.
We hear a million different versions of how it is to deal with Dana White. What has your experience been like?
I love that guy. Dana’s always been nice to me. He’s always treated me fair and equal. I couldn’t be happier with him. I know a lot of people talk about him, even a lot of fighters that fight for the UFC, but I don’t shit where I eat, you know what I mean? We have a good relationship. I always tell him before every fight, “Don’t worry, I’m going to put on a good show for you guys.”
You have any predictions for the UFC in 2008?
I think we’re going to take over most sports. People are finally getting educated about MMA. I get wives, like 32-42 year old women, coming up to me saying “Oh my God, you’re the greatest, you’re the Ultimate Fighter!” Now everybody’s watching us. I just think our sport is going to take over and I feel privileged to be in it. My mom used to hate fighting and now she watches it every time.
We know you used to train with Tito Ortiz. What do you think of him on “The Celebrity Apprentice” so far?
I actually haven’t been able to watch it, but like they say, the sport’s growing and everything helps it. With him being on “The Apprentice”, more people are going to know about the UFC.
When do you take off for Newcastle?
On the 14th, and I’m staying until the 24th. Right after my fight, I’m going to Amsterdam.
Speaking of smoking weed…
[laughs] I’ll be killing two birds with one stone.
Well, good luck. Don’t smoke anything we wouldn’t smoke.