Hawaiian middleweight Kendall Grove has gone down a long and winding road since winning The Ultimate Fighter nearly a decade ago.
Grove failed to realize his full potential under the UFC banner, but now he’s a Bellator fighter and has been for nearly three years. Unfortunately, the scrappy fighter still has yet to realize his full potential and force his way into the championship picture.
With that in mind, Grove heads into Friday night’s Bellator 150, perhaps fighting a somewhat unknown, but tough, fighter, all the while knowing that it could be the biggest fight of his career.
Grove (22-15, 1 NC) faces a red-hot Francisco “Kiko” France (13-3-1), who hasn’t lost in his last seven trips to the cage. Grove, on the other hand, enters the last fight of his current Bellator contract having alternated between wins and losses for the duration of his time with the promotion.
He’s prepared to go full bore with France, in the hope that he can impress Bellator brass and earn a sweeter deal than he had under the Bjorn Rebney years of the promotion.
“I feel great, I’m in shape and ready to devastate,” Grove told MMAWeekly.com.
“I’m so inconsistent, but I’m not fighting any (expletives). This is my last fight on my contract, that’s why I’m more motivated to go out and smash this dude. But that don’t mean (expletive) if I lose.”
Grove has a penchant for throwing down, frequently knocking opponents out. So many see this is a classic striker vs. grappler match-up, as France is a jiu-jitsu black belt with 12 of his 13 victories coming via submission.
That would be a short-sighted way to view the fight, however, as Grove has 10 submission victories to his credit as well.
“I’m not gonna sit back and fear what he has because, let’s not forget, I’m pretty good at this thing called jiu-jitsu, too. I’ve submitted guys before and I think I can submit this guy. He hasn’t shown me anything special,” said Grove.
“He’s on a six-fight win streak. He’s tough. He’s durable. He fights at 205 and 185, so he’s a big boy. But I spent the last two weeks having these 230-pound big white boys from Alaska punching my face, kicking my head, giving me that pressure.”
At the end of the day, Grove wouldn’t have it any other way. His passion is fighting, his career is fighting, and he doesn’t hesitate when he is called to the cage.
“In my mind, I’m the best. I’ve still got to prove it. I’m going to try and prove it until the day I retire. Am I? Maybe not, but I believe I am,” he said.
“(But) that’s why we fight, to figure out who is better.”