Lightweight contender Tyson Griffin has paid his dues since entering MMA professionally over four years ago. Hours of training and dedication leads him to his next bout against Marcus Aurelio at UFC 86 this weekend. He has done what it takes to be a true champion in the sport, even the dirty work, literally.
“I’m a young guy, but I’ve put in my fair share of hours in the gym and I work really hard,” Griffin told UFC.com. “In my first years, I ate, slept, and mopped mats at the gym. It’s very gratifying to know that I am climbing the ladder now. It’s a testament to all the hard work.”
Everyone has to start somewhere, and Griffin is more proud of where he has been than where he is headed. And where he is headed will hopefully be an eventual title shot, even if he knows that there is a long waiting list of potential contenders in one the UFC’s most talented divisions.
“I see myself up there in the top five or top 10 in the division,” stated Griffin. “It means a lot to be considered among the best. Not only is the (lightweight) division deep, but it is very diverse. We’ve got so many different styles of grappling and stand-up. It shows the depth of skill in our division. It makes it very tough and competitive to put yourself in the contender pile.”
He knows that his upcoming bout against Aurelio will not be an easy one. The Brazilian Jui Jitsu specialist has created havoc for the worlds best Light Heavyweights, including victories over Daisuke Nakamura and the best of the best in Takanori Gomi. A win against Aurelio would be a great notch to be able to put on his belt, helping him propel up the rankings.
“I am trying to climb the contender ladder,” expressed a motivated Griffin. “This fight (against Aurelio) is very important to me. I think with a win over Marcus, I’ll put my name above many of the top fighters out there. It will put me in the title picture. I think his record truly shows the type of fighter he is. He can compete with the best guys and he can beat the best guys in the world as he did against Gomi. A win over Aurelio would improve my stock.”
Griffin’s clear advantage over Aurelio would be his hands, so don’t think for a second that he is anxious to test out Aurelio’s metal on the ground.
“I’m going to keep it a fight instead of a Jiu Jitsu match,” Griffin stated about his game plan. “The one thing that I’m always thinking is pressure. I’m always moving forward and putting pressure on my opponents. I want to force them to make mistakes. By providing pressure, I hope to break him cardio-wise or get something to capitalize on.”
That is not the only thing that we can look forward to from Griffin. Early on in his career, he was a great finisher, ending all eight of his bouts before the final bell. However, his last four bouts have come via the judges’ scorecards. Although three of those four went in his favor, this is a trend that he is excited about ending.
“I want to get back to my finishing ways,” Griffin stated. “My first eight fights never went the distance and I’d like to end fights like that again. That’s the one area I want to improve on. I’m hoping to break Marcus and put him away.”