A last-minute cancellation led to an emotional pre-fight moment for Max Griffin on Saturday.
When a scheduled lightweight clash between Gregor Gillespie and Brad Riddell fell through due to COVID-19 protocols, Griffin’s matchup against Kenan Song was elevated to the UFC on ESPN 21 co-main event. It was something Griffin had envisioned with his team heading into 2021.
“When I got the call that I was going to be the co-main event, I started crying,” Griffin said. “This New Year’s, I had a conversation with my team and we said I’m going to get a co-main event and then take it over. God made it happen. To be on ESPN, then be bumped to co-main and knock him out bad like that? It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Griffin laid waste to Song, sending his foe face down to the canvas with a flurry of power punches 2:20 into the opening stanza of their welterweight bout. The 35-year-old former Tachi Palace Fights and West Coast Fighting Championship title holder has won two straight bouts within the Las Vegas-based promotion. Griffin had a specific game plan in mind to exploit Song’s weaknesses.
“I watched his fights and he doesn’t like pressure. Alex Morono was able to back him up with pressure,” Griffin said. “He only does well when he’s moving people back. So I put the pressure on him. He has a big right hand, but I have a better right hand. I have a longer right hand. If he wants to engage, I have five inches of reach on him. I was going to make him pay. I hit him with that right and saw him [wobble], then zapped him.
“He’s a a good guy, but he hasn’t fought anybody. All the guys he’s beat aren’t good.”
Griffin has just a 5-6 record in UFC competition, but he points out that he has faced a difficult level of opposition in the Octagon.
“I’ve fought everyone,” he said. “I’ve fought Colby Covington, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, Mike Perry, Alex Oliveira and Zelim Imadaev—I’ve fought some killers. He wasn’t one. I proved it.”
With a co-headlining fight already under his belt, Griffin has bigger plans for the rest of his year.
“I want a main event this year. I want to be ranked this year,” he said. “When I’m happy and smiling, I waste guys. I’m nasty. The authentic me is having fun and joking around, but focused. I have to flow. That’s what came out tonight.”