In the leadup to UFC Vegas 13, welterweight Max Griffin spent time working on his muay Thai technique. Specifically, he refined his elbows, and how to use the right part of them to slice open opponents.
When Griffin stepped back in the third round of his fight with Ramiz Brahimaj, he realized he’d done good, and also, he felt bad.
“It looked like a brain dangling from his head,” Griffin told reporters after Saturday’s event at UFC APEX, where he was ruled the winner of his fight by third-round TKO when referee Mark Smith took one look at Brahimaj’s appendage and called it off. “It reminded me of Leslie Smith, or that big white dude that his ear exploded, like, 15 years ago.”
The dude he’s referring to is James Thompson, who suffered a fate like Brahimaj’s during an infamous fight against Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson in the now-defunct EliteXC. Unlike Thompson, a swollen and bloodied Brahimaj didn’t protest Smith’s call.
“I don’t know if he had thin skin, but I started really putting it on him, and once I caught that elbow … . I didn’t really see where it landed – it just felt nasty,” Griffin said.
Video of the stoppage was so gruesome that ESPN quickly steered away after one initial check of Brahimaj, and the usual stoppage clips posted by the UFC were snipped to exclude the gruesome finish. Griffin heard UFC President Dana White’s picture of the ear was flagged for being appropriate.
“The doctors assured me that it was fine,” he said with a slight shake of his head. “I don’t think so. … I wish him my best, though.”
Such is the deal fighters sign up for when they compete in the octagon, and whatever sympathy Griffin felt was counterbalanced by satisfaction he felt for a job well done (and a winner’s purse to follow). Finishing your opponent, and doing so in a particularly memorable manner, is always a good thing when you’re trying to work your way up in the UFC.
“Everybody liked it,” Griffin said. “Blood, baby.”
He joked he should change his nickname from “Pain” to something with less of a built-in fate attached. On the other hand, it’s always good when he’s the one handing it out.
If Griffin can parlay the attention from this fight into a meeting with ex-interim champ Carlos Condit or Vicente Luque, it will be more than worth it. He calls them “bashers” and respects both for the violence they bring to the octagon. He’s in the business of making idols into rivals.
Working on the sharp edges of his arms, Griffin can only get closer to his wish. He’s back in the win column after a pair of losses, looking more like the guy who deflated the hype bubble of Mike Perry than the guy on a 1-4 run.
But there’s more to that than elbows.
“I go in there like, “It’s war, it’s war,’ and then you get stiff and tight, and then you got to relax and throw,” Griffin said. “So I’m really focusing on being loose and smooth like James Brown. You’re going to see some carnage coming up here.”