Hawaii native, Kendall, "Da Spyder" Grove, has proven his worth in the Octagon since winning a unanimous decision to becoming the 2006 Ultimate Fighter middleweight champion and securing the six-figure UFC contract that accompanies such an honor.
To make it through to this point, though, he first had to overcome the more experienced Ed "Short Fuse" Herman in the Ultimate Fighter finale. It took him the full three, five-minute rounds and a barrage of high knees, left hooks and near-submissions to finish the job against the talented Ed, who also dished out his share of the pain in a fight that would become the third best of 2006.
Such was its impressiveness and the unflinching intensity shown by both fighters that they were both duly awarded UFC contracts, only the second time in Ultimate Fighter history - since the Forrest Griffin/Stephan Bonnar bloodbath of series one - that such a decision by UFC president Dana White had been made.
Four months later Kendall, 24, got his second UFC win against Chris Price - a first round submission - on the under-card of the Shamrock/Ortiz Final Chapter Fight Night. And his roll has continued. In April 2007, he submitted Alan Belcher in the second round at UFC 69 to take his UFC record to three and 0.
Now he is on target for win number four against Patrick Cote at UFC 74, to be held on August 25. Taking a meticulous approach to obeying time-tested training conventions is not something the six foot six, 185-pound ex-construction worker appears to do too well. And it doesn't seem to matter.
For example, he does not tend to use a game plan tailored specifically to his opponent's strengths and weaknesses, but rather, relies on his instincts and huge heart to combat the opposition.
He lets fate decide the outcome, and it seems fate has been very good to Kendall. Or it could be his ultra-sharp reflexes and intuitive grasp of the game that allow him to get the job done without any kind of specific plan. Training is the same.
Although he does his homework like all who compete at the pro level, Kendall does what he wants to prevent boredom and add variety. And while many coaches demand their athletes eat several meals a day, Kendall does not eat breakfast and subsists on very little considering he pushes his body with weights, cardio, sparing and every other conceivable training regime, up to six hours a day.
He does, however, have Sunday's off. An MMA fighter is only as good as the training he does to reach a certain level of proficiency and this also applies to Kendall. He has trained, and continues to train with the best.
After his Ultimate Fighter Three win, he trained with Tito Ortiz at the Huntington Beach Bad Boy's Big Bear City facility. Now he works with legend Randy Couture along with MMA notables including Forrest Griffin, Mike Pyle, Jay Heron, Tyson Griffin and John Alessio at The Natural's Las Vegas gym.
From dabbling in jujitsu during his freshman year in college to becoming one of MMA's fastest rising stars, Kendall Grove's transition to the big time has been rapid. And he is just getting started. He recently discussed with me his career to date, his plans and what he does to get into his best fighting shape.
[ Q ] I understand you train six days a week, three times a day?
Yeah, considering my running, lifting and cardio, which I do across all my workouts. I f*cking slam myself with the cardio.
[ Q ] And you take Sunday off?
Yeah, Sunday is basically a day off for me.
[ Q ] So how much of your training would be cardio?
I do about two hours a day of cardio and I do three two-hour sessions of total training a day.
[ Q ] And all three sessions would include cardio and some kind of endurance work.
Right. I would do my main cardio in the morning - run, trials, bungy training, harness drills and then directly after that I will do wrestling or Jujitsu. Then I will go home, come back and do some sparring -at least five, fives - after that go back and do the hard Jujitsu at night.
[ Q ] How much of your program involves weight training?
With weights I do a full-body workout about twice a week. I will mix it up with kettle-bells and stuff like that just so my body doesn't get bored with my workouts. This prevents me from getting burnt out. A lot of the time I would get burnt out because before I would do the same stuff over and over.
[ Q ] So to prevent burnout you are doing a variety of things?
Yeah, just mix it up. Sometimes I will lift weights or some days when I don't feel like lifting I will do a kettle-bell workout or I will do a plyometrics. It just depends. I will switch it up so I can continue enjoying my training. I won't get bored.
[ Q ] Is this all based on what your trainer tells you to do or is this something your choose to do?
Oh, this is what I want to do.
[ Q ] I understand you are working with a great team of athletes in Las Vegas?
I work with a bunch of guys. My team consists of Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin, Mike Pyle, Jay Heron, Tyson Griffin, John Alessio, Grey Meaner, Alex Schoenauer, and Troy Mandaloniz, all of these pros.
We have a pro class at Randy Couture's gym. We have two boxing trainers and we pretty much just go there we do our own thing together as a team. After that it is all extra curricular.
I will work with my stand-up trainer, work on some combinations and determine how my fight is going to be, how I want my fight to be. So I do work with a couple of trainers but most of the time I work with my team.
[ Q ] That is a pretty impressive list of people to be training with.
I know and I'm blessed to have found a school where all these great fighters are training.
[ Q ] You also trained with Tito Ortiz at one point.
I haven't had a falling out with Tito it's just hard when he is living in California and I am living in Vegas and we are in two different States. But whenever I have the chance I will go and train with him and the same with him. When he has a chance he will come out here. A couple of times he has come out here to train with me for a couple of days.
[ Q ] What is he like as a trainer?
He is a very, very good trainer. He is a good coach and he knows what to look for. And as everybody saw on the show (The Ultimate Fighter three), that's how he is outside of the show when the cameras are off. He is all about making you better. And that is what I like about Tito.
[ Q ] On the Ultimate Fighter show everyone seemed to work well together for the most part. Was it the same kind of atmosphere off camera?
Just the stuff in the house, conflicts in the house they did not show. Other than that, everything as you saw on the TV was how it was. I was surprised. I thought they might have made some people manipulate the audience on how we acted but they pretty much showed it as it was.
[ Q ] So it was a fair presentation of what actually happened.
Oh yeah. It was pretty much how we acted among one another, how the coaches coached. I lived with Solomon Hutchinson and we watched the (ultimate Fighter) marathon and I asked him, "Was that how Ken really trained." And he was like, "Yeah that is exactly how he looked, how he sounded when he tried to coach us."
[ Q ] How big of a role does nutrition play in your training program?
My dad, who actually lives with me, cooks for me. He cooks a lot of steamed vegetables and brown rice, chicken and fish, sometimes raw-fish and no red meat and I pretty much stick to that. That's been my diet for about two years now. Just fish and chicken and once in a while I will have a steak.
[ Q ] How often do you eat throughout the day?
I am a firm believer that your body's a temple. Treat it like one. If you feed your car the wrong gas it's not going to run right. So you feed it good gas. I wake up in the morning and eat my vitamins and take my protein shake, a meal replacement shake.
I'm not a big breakfast guy, unless it is after a fight. When I'm training for a fight I never eat breakfast. So after I drink my protein shake I go and do my first training, come home, then eat my lunch, which is probably a chicken or turkey sandwich, then maybe a bar of some sort.
Then I will go and do another practice, come home, then eat a good-sized dinner and that's pretty much it. I eat two solid, good meals a day. Like for my lunch I will eat two sandwiches or I will change it up and eat brown rice and chicken. I only eat chicken or fish so it gets boring sometimes.
[ Q ] A lot of coaches would tell you to eat complex carbohydrates at least an hour or so before you train. Where do you get the energy to train hard during your first workout of the day?
Only God knows. For some reason I got energy. I really don't know. It is probably because of the night before where I will eat a lot. I will stuff myself at night and for some reason I just always have energy in the morning even though I don't eat at this time.
[ Q ] What do you like most about fighting in MMA competition?
The one thing I like about fighting is it basically gives me the feeling of getting away. I love it. When I feel like sh*t I think about my next fight and it just makes me feel good. This is the one thing I have been good at in my life and I have tried a lot of things. Fighting is just it for me. It gives me the ultimate high.
[ Q ] It must be a great feeling getting into the Octagon in front of thousands of people and giving it your all. Is this something you have always wanted to do, since you began fighting?
I was always a competitive person. I grew up in a large family. My oldest brother played B1 football and I had big shoes to fill. I also wanted to be an athlete.
I wanted to play football but I was too skinny and too light so that didn't really work out for me. So I started wrestling in high school and right away in my first wresting contest I got my @ss handed to me. But after that day I just thought, "Wow I love this. I want to do this." So I continued wrestling through high school.
I wasn't very good at school education-wise so I had to have something to fall back on. And I really liked wrestling so I did freestyle wrestling for a year and that is when I just started training with a bunch of my friends in Jujitsu and stuff like that and I moved to Vegas and hooked up with John Lewis and Mark Layman and after that I knew that I really wanted to be a fighter.
[ Q ] Were you good at a particular aspect of the game to begin with? What were your initial strengths?
Throughout my whole life I boxed against shorter people so my career was on the inside, but that didn't make sense because I was so tall. So I was better than most people in Hawaii at Jujitsu when I was fighting, so that was my strength.
In my first four fights I finished with submissions. So I tended to favour submissions early in my career and when I moved back to Vegas I learned how to use my range and after I learned how to use my range, that's when I became a complete fighter.
Since the TV show the Ultimate Fighter I pretty much matured into an A-list fighter. I was stuck at that B-level and Tito and all of my coaches on the show matured me. They taught me how to use my strengths and all that stuff so I can honestly say that without that show I wouldn't be here right now.
[ Q ] Was it tough being viewed as one of the underdogs going into the series and having the weight of this on your back as you to stepped up to fight more experienced guys?
Well I was fighting in smaller shows, then all of a sudden there were guys like Kalib Starnes and Ed Herman, all world class fighters at that A-level fighting skill level already. And I knew who Kalib was going onto that show so I told myself, "Okay man, this is it, are you going to be a bitch and complain all the time or are you going to shut your mouth and learn and shock the world."
Coming from Hawaii we have a lot of pride. When I lose, my friends and family lose too, so for me, I didn't want them to feel that. I took every day as a learning experience and did not complain one day on that show. I was a sponge and I learned every day and I trained hard every day. Obviously it paid off.
[ Q ] Were you apprehensive going into your fights against Kalib Starnes and Ed Herman, two guys who were picked as favourites?
I can honestly say that on the first day of the show when I saw them I didn't really know who Ed was, I hadn't seen him fight. But I knew who Kalib was and I had the privilege of training with him a couple of months before we went on the show.
He came in and I knew he was a stud. We spoke then and he told me who he had fought, and how many years he had done Jujitsu. I knew he was a tough opponent. So I told myself on the first day of the show, "Okay he is bad so I don't want to look like a d*ckhead when I go in there and fight him so I better be prepared."
So from day one I expected to fight either one of those guys in the semi-finals so I just trained my @ss off. I was really training for those two guys from day one.
Grove Vs. Herman.
[ Q ] You had a pretty good idea who would be in the top four at semi-finals time?
[ Q ] What are your favorite striking and grappling techniques and why?
My favorite striking technique would probably be the left hook. I don't know why. Clipping guys from the side to the jaw, I just love the left hook. My favorite submission is a triangle just because I have long legs and I love this technique.
[ Q ] Who would be the toughest guy you have ever fought?
I would say Ed Herman. He is the only guy that I have gone to a decision with. He whipped my @ss the first round and that was the first time I had to fight 15-minutes-straight. That would be the toughest and most favorite fight that I have had.
[ Q ] A real test of your abilities.
Yeah, it tested my heart and how bad I wanted it. Being overwhelmed in the first round and coming out in the second round I told myself, "F**k it, this is it. Everything's on the table; don't hold back. Give it everything you've got." So that's what I did and it paid off.
[ Q ] You strategy in this fight was to win or die trying?
For sure, that's me. I would rather give everything I've got to put on a good show for the fans and for me it is death before dishonor. I don't want to go in there and like, play it safe. It's a fight, you go out there and fight plain and simple. That's my style. That's what makes me happy.
I can honestly tell you that I don't care about winning or losing. It's nice to win, but for me to feel complete, for me to sleep better at night, I need to go in there and just fight and give it every single thing that I've got.
So I don't got back after the fight and say, "F**k, I should have done this." No, I leave everything in that cage no matter what. For me, at the end of the night, as long as my mama still loves me after I went in there and gave it everything I got. For me, that's all that matters.
[ Q ] That's interesting. It seems the fighters who take your approach, the ones who go in there and give it their all tend to dominate over those who may be superior on paper, but who lack the mental attitude required to fight at that level.
Oh yeah, fighting to me is mostly mental. You got to be positive and confident and you have to believe in yourself and if you don't do that you are f**ked, swear to God. You have seen great fighters not have it mentally and they lose.
It is all about having a positive attitude and going in there and having fun. And that's one thing I always say, that I always have fun doing my job.
Every day I wake up I don't see it as, "I got to go wrestle and it's going to suck." No, I see it as making me a better fighter each time I fight and get to go 15 minutes balls-out, non-stop straight and just fight. That's how I see it.
I don't see it as, "Man, I have a hard workout today." I feel I am improving my skills and becoming a better fighter because one day I want to be a champ.
[ Q ] I spoke to another MMA fighter recently who told me that going to the gym and training is just like a job. Something you get payed to do. Do you see it that way as well? Or do you enjoy the process as much as the actual competition?
Yeah, another reason why I love to train and learn is because one day I want to open my own school in Hawaii. That's my long-term goal. Get better at this sport so I can go back and teach my people. Teach the kids in Hawaii. I want them to feel how I feel.
It brings joy to my life and makes me a better person and has kept me out of trouble and disciplined - if I could do that for a lot of the kids in Hawaii that would be good. That's my long-term goal right there. That's why I'm so into this.
[ Q ] Having had a world title around your waist would certainly help you achieve this aim.
That would be awesome, but right now one fight at a time and one day at a time for me. I'm young in this sport and I feel I have a good amount of years left so I am taking my time and moving up the ladder slowly. I'm not in a rush to jump in there and fight the champ yet, but one of these days. I want to go in there when I am prepared and ready for it.
[ Q ] You look at guys like Randy Couture, who is still a great champion at past 40, and anything is possible.
Randy really proves that age really doesn't matter. If you live a healthy life and treat your body right, you can go as long as you want. You can be 50 I think and still fight.
[ Q ] Do you get away from the game from time to time? When you get a chance to relax?
Oh yeah, I go out and relax on Sunday's, my off day (laughs).
[ Q ] And you don't go overboard because you have training on Monday, right?
Right now I have stopped all drinking and partying. I do this about eight weeks out from a fight. I give my body that respect. Surely after the fight, then game on (laughs).
[ Q ] Do you have a specific game plan for your next opponent, Patrick Cote?
Not really. For every one of my fights I pretty much don't have a game plan. Like I said, I train hard and I train every aspect of my game.
He's a heavy handed, strong stand-up dude so I'm long and tall, so I'm going to go out there and fight. If he hits me hard enough I'm sure I will try and take him down. If I do good on the stand-up, I will keep it standing.
I mean when I fight I play it by ear. Whatever happens, whatever way it goes, I let fate decide. I really don't go in there with a strong game plan where I'm like, "I'm just going to do this or that." I'm going to play the hand God dealt me.
[ Q ] And if you have done your homework on all the aspects of your game you should stand a good chance.
Yeah, for sure. This is a professional sport so you have to be professional about it. I'm doing my homework and I'm sure he's doing his homework. It's just like football where you are watching game footage then you practice and then go and play the game. Fighting is like that.
We watch game footage, we go practice and we go fight. On August 25th I'm going to be well prepared for this fight and whatever happens, happens. All I know is I'm going to go out there and give it everything I got and leave everything in that cage, regardless of whether if I win or lose.
[ Q ] You have won your last four fights and it would be fair to say you are on a roll. Does the fact that you are racking up the wins place any additional pressure on you to perform?
I would say that being a fighter, who has come off the show, and this means all of us, the pressure is always going to be on us. It doesn't matter if I win ten in a row the pressure is still going to be there because we are "reality TV fighters".
A lot of people see us as that and a lot of people are waiting for us to lose to say, "I told you he was going to lose." Pretty much that is the only pressure we have. I just care about going out there and putting on a good show because to me that is all that matters.
[ Q ] Is there a perception that reality fighters are less worthy than those who come up though other channels?
No I think we are just labelled that because we cut in line and moved ahead. Not taking away anything from any other fighters but Sh*t, if I have a shot to go on this TV show I'm not going to pass it up.
For a lot of these fighters they feel like they have to go through more stuff to get into the UFC. As for us, we were on the TV show, we had a couple of special treatments, we didn't have to do everything that everybody else did so that's one thing we have on our shoulders coming off the reality TV show.
[ Q ] The reality is you all have to do the same thing when you get into the Octagon.
For sure. Even though we are reality TV fighters we are still getting in there and F**king throwing hands. And that's what makes me train harder: not giving these guys the satisfaction of saying, "I told you he was just a reality TV fighter."
[ Q ] In what ways has your life changed since you began fighting in the UFC?
It has changed a lot. Signing autographs. I never used to sign autographs. Now instantly everyone wants my autograph. That was crazy for me because I never experienced that before. And just going everywhere. When you are with the UFC you have to go here, have to go there.
Having a busy schedule. I'm really working - as well as fighting being my job I have a part-time job of doing PR work. I'm everywhere for the UFC with appearances and meeting fans. I'm from Hawaii, an island boy. It was just a big culture shock for me.
I'm not used to signing autographs so at first when people would ask for it, I would be like, "For what (laughs)." It's been great. It took a while for it to fully set in. Now it's just natural.
[ Q ] How long would you like to continue fighting in the UFC?
It depends on how long God will let me be in this sport. But as long as I have to I think. Like I say, I would like to open my own school when I am ready to.
It doesn't matter if I have not won my title yet. But that's my main goal right there, to open my own school. But if my body is up to it, I will fight as long as I have to. I love fighting so if I'm 60 years old and my body says go, I'm still going (laughs).
[ Q ] Kendall Grove: first fighter aged 60 to step into the Octagon. I'll have to keep a watch out for that one.
I'm crossing my fingers.
[ Q ] Are there any areas you would like to get into other than opening your own school?
Just going back to Hawaii. Another thing I would love to start is an after school program for kids. Not necessarily relating strictly to fighting. I would have tutors come in to help kids who are having a hard time at school.
There would be a bus to go pick up the kids after school to bring them to the facility where there will be computers and all the resources kids need to help them with their schoolwork. There will be couple of tutors to help them get better in the areas they are lacking in along with Jujitsu training. That is my main thing.
In Hawaii right now that drug Ice is a big problem. I just want to go back and be a positive role model for kids and get them off the streets and just provide a good atmosphere for them. That is one thing on top of opening my Jujitsu school that I really want to do.
[ Q ] And being in your position you should succeed in doing this.
For sure, and that's what makes me come back to Vegas. When I go back to Hawaii to visit my family that's one thing that makes me come back and train harder is all the kids that see me as this role model and as this hero. And I just see the looks on their faces.
They are like, "Oh yeah Kendall keep kicking A**." And it makes me feel good. Kids are the ones who really appreciate what you do. They see you as some kind of super hero so when I see that in their faces, I just come back here and train harder.
I can't let these kids down. They believe in me so I want to come back and believe in them. To give them the opportunity that nobody gave me. I had to fight for myself.
[ Q ] Are there any other MMA fighters at your level that have those kind of aspirations, that you know of?
Probably just Randy (Couture), but not the whole after school thing - that is just the way he is seen. As a positive role model. Watching him is making me better. He gives me ideas for the future. Guys like John Alessio and Greg Meaner are also good guys.
[ Q ] Other than Randy who else within MMA do you admire and why?
I look up to everybody. It might sound funny but I like watching everybody fight. All my friends that I train with I look up to because they have all been in the game way longer than me and I get this opportunity to train with them. I'm just privileged to be here.
[ Q ] It must be a great feeling for you to be training with these guys who all have the same fighting goals - to be at their best on the professional circuit.
I can honestly say that my last two years have been a dream come true.
Visit Kendall's Website: www.kendallgrovemma.com