Max Griffin, tell us how you really feel about Zelim Imadaev
After a brief run-in with Imadaev (8-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) while training in Las Vegas, Griffin (14-6 MMA, 2-4 UFC) was left with a bad taste in his mouth.
“I got to spar with (Imadaev) at Xtreme Couture,” Griffin said in advance of their ESPN-televised meeting at UFC 236, which takes place Saturday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Ga. “When I got the name, I was like, ‘That’s that dude. I know that dude.’
“He’s an ass, man. He’s not a good guy.”
Griffin claims Imadaev had a reputation for trying to hurt sparring partners. Yet he agreed to go a few rounds with the undefeated Russian.
“We wear little gloves, shin pads – we’re not banging,” he said. “It’s just more touch, grappling, MMA. The guys warned me – hey, don’t spar with that guy over there. And I don’t care. Like, perfect.
“He’s throwing spinning elbows. We don’t have head gear on. Like, full contact. Flying knees. I dodge it. Hit him, kick him and then I look at him. This is two weeks before (my fight with) Thiago (Alves). I looked at him, and he gave me a little head shake, and then he toned it down. He was more…reserved.”
Eventually, the sparring session ended, and the two went their separate ways. Griffin claims Imadaev’s aggression eventually wore thin on the higher-ups at the gym, and he was asked to leave. Griffin also claims Imadaev ruffled feathers at a 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu gym when he threw a flying knee in practice. He also claims Imadaev tried to fight retired light heavyweight Forrest Griffin at the UFC Performance Institute.
Griffin went on to face Alves and lose a split decision in a performance that still bothers him. The chance to fight Imadaev was actually a boost to his spirits after a tough rebound.
“I don’t like the guy,” he said. “I’m looking forward to showing him what it’s like.”
When Griffin assesses their respective experience, he sees a fighter with a lot of padding on his resume. He points out opponents with losing records in six of eight fights.
“He’s impressive, sure,” he said. “He’s Russian. He’s tough. But this is the big leagues. It’s not the backyard leagues where you’re fighting some schlub that’s just waiting for you to knock him out. And he’s going to find out.
“Don’t get me wrong. He has good coaches. He’s got that Russian mystique. These Russians are coming out. He’s good. But I’m going to show him what it’s like. And I’m better at him than everything he does.”
Griffin only needs to think back at their sparring session to assess his chances when they lock horns.
“Everyone’s good, but he was trying to knock me out, and then I hit him with a couple shots, and it was understanding – OK, we’re not going to hit that hard,” he said.