Max Griffin, an MMA amateur champ under local instructor Dave Marinoble, gets first shot at pro title
By Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
Dave Marinoble has had his experienced hands involved with some of the best-known mixed martial artists over the years — Uriah Faber, Scott Smith and James Irvin among them. Marinoble has trained at and run camps for Randy Couture and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, to name two.
So Marinoble, Roseville’s three-time world kickboxing champion, knows a potential star when he sees one. His latest up-and-coming fighter is Max Griffin, whom Marinoble has known for 22 years.
And when did Marinoble see that Griffin had that extra something that has led him into a West Coast Fighting championship match Saturday night at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds?
“When he stepped on my mat 22 years ago,” Marinoble said last week. “There’s something about champions that you can take 10 guys and teach them the same thing and they’re not all going to do the same thing with it. A champion stands out in the room.”
Griffin studied Marinoble’s system — various styles of Jiu Jitsu, kickboxing, Muy Thai, Sanshou and more — and went on to an amateur career that saw him win his first 15 bouts via first-round knockout and capture an Ultimate Reno Combat championship. Griffin is 3-0 as a professional, including two KOs, fighting in Gladiator Challenger events at Red Hawk Casino.
The keys for Griffin, according to Marinoble, has been commitment and discipline in training that matches the best he has seen, topped only by Faber.
“He has a good heart, a champion’s heart, a no-give-up attitude and a fairly solid chin,” Marinoble said. “We haven’t gotten a real big chin check yet in the pro ranks, but that will come.
“When you’re training a group of people, one person prevails. One person succeeds. One person wins the race. One person is always trying to beat everybody else. He’s had that winning attitude since he was a kid, and that seems to carry through to when he’s a man.”
Upon moving to the Sacramento area, Griffin’s dad enrolled him in Marinoble’s former Fair Oaks school.
“My dad told them I was 5, but I was 4,” said Griffin, who was born in Santa Barbara and now lives in Citrus Heights. “My dad wanted me to do that, so I did it.”
Griffin said he went six days a week until he was 13 or 14 and earned a black belt in Bok Fu, a blend of several disciplines, most notably Kenpo and Kung Fu. Griffin attended “a bunch of tournaments,” and then, “I got tired of it, being a kid.”
On his way to graduating from Bella Vista High School in 2003, Griffin didn’t do much with other sports (he said he got hurt playing football), but he eventually started watching the UFC on TV. He returned to Marinoble four years ago with the same fire and desire that opened his instructor’s eyes when he was 4.
“When you’re young, that’s when you learn your way,” said Griffin, who bows when he greets another, is polite, clean cut and well-spoken. “I was disciplined and focused every day of my kid life. I think it just grew with me, just having that drive and knowing I can be the best and do anything.”
Griffin weighed 185 pounds last week and will enter the fight at about 175. Jara has “won some titles,” according to Marinoble, and has appeared on Showtime, Elite XC and Strikeforce.
“He’s been around a little bit, so beating a guy like that can put Max’s name on the map,” Marinoble said. “We hope that sets us in line to get a bigger fight.”
Griffin has balanced raising his eight-month-old son, Julian, with trying out for the Ultimate Fighter TV show recently and training for this fight. He understands this is his biggest opportunity yet on what he hopes is a road to making a living in the UFC.
“I know I have what it takes,” he said. “I’d feel like it’s a waste if I just didn’t do it. I know people that will try their whole life and never make it, but you gotta have that extra, and I have that extra.
“This is probably my biggest just because of the opportunity it has for me, just me fighting who I’m fighting and where I’m fighting. It’s a co-main event. That’s huge. All the top fighters in the area are on this card, guys who have done Gladiator, King of the Cage. It’s a stacked card.”
Contact Bill Poindexter at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.
WEST COAST FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP
What: Bruvado Bash. There are 14 fights on the card, including two title bouts: James “The Sand Man” Irvin vs. “Mad” Mike Gonzalez (light heavyweights), and Jaime Jara vs. Max Griffin (welterweights).
When/Where: Saturday at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds in Placerville. Doors open at 5 p.m. Program begins at 6.
Tickets: $75 for floor (rows 6-11), $150 for VIP (rows 2-5), $200 for VIP Platinum (row 1). General admission and preferred bleacher seating is sold out.