No fighter in the four-man middleweight tournament field in this season’s Bellator tournament has competed in the sport of MMA as long as Kendall Grove.
Grove, winner of the third season of The Ultimate Fighter, started competing professionally on the Hawaiian fight scene in mid-2003.
After a 13 fight run in the UFC and a return to Hawaii as well as few outings in Poland, Grove has made his way to Bellator, and he will look to win his second straight in the organization and advance to the finals of the middleweight tournament when he takes on Brett Cooper tonight at Bellator 114.
Having amassed a record of 19-13 with 1 no contest, Grove has experienced a lot of highs and lows in the sport, and he believes that having that experience will lead to success in the Bellator cage.
“I’ve been through it all, I’ve seen it all, and I’ve trained with the best guys in this game,” Grove said. “I have the opportunity to be the best guy in my division and I’m experienced enough to know those opportunities are rare.”
After being released by the UFC in 2011, Grove went on to win five of his next fights, a stretch that included victories over Joe Riggs, Ikuhisa Minowa and Derek Brunson, but he then would struggle, losing three straight to Mamed Khalidov, Jesse Taylor and Michal Materla.
Instead of allowing the losses to affect his future performances, the 31-year-old rebounded with a TKO victory over Danny Mitchell and a successful Bellator debut against Joe Vedepo. Despite his recent success, Grove still feels as though he is being counted out.
“I’m coming in with a chip on my shoulder. I have a lot to prove because everyone thought I was done and gone,” said Grove. “People don’t think I belong here.”
Looking back, Grove realizes that he’s not the same fighter that he once was.
“I’m different now. I’m an evolved animal. I’ve always had the toughness and the eagerness to finish fights, but I’ve been training with 20 killers and now I’m a killer.”
For a fighter that has headlined a UFC show, Grove knows what it’s like to be on the top of the MMA game. He’s looking to return there in Bellator, and that starts tonight against Cooper. But Grove’s goals in Bellator don’t stop at Cooper.
“After I get past Cooper, I get past whoever is next to earn my stripes. Shlemenko is at the top of the division and I’m at the bottom,” he said. “Everything has aligned for me and now I just have to make it happen.”