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Kendall Grove explains why he’s coming back for one ‘last hurrah’ and revisiting the bloodiest fight in KSW history

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When UFC and Bellator veteran Kendall Grove turned 40 last November, he thought his fighting career was already over.

Before he died, he made a promise to his father that he would not fight after age 40, and with a growing business through his gym located in Maui, Hawaii, the Ultimate Fighter Season 3 winner seemed content to consider himself retired.

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But then a strange thing happened.

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Thanks to a long hiatus from fighting, with his last mixed martial arts fight in 2019, Grove began to feel a lot better as his body finally had time to recover. He has been fighting non-stop since 2003 and the hectic schedule has taken a toll on him.

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“I dropped out by choice to give my brain a break,” Grove told MMA Fighting. “I have worked hard my entire career, especially when I was fired from the UFC. I really tried to come back.

“When I first fought in KSW, I fought twice in less than six months. I’ve had losses in a row, but I’ve been trying to get these wins, trying to get these big names, and I’ve kind of exhausted my body. Not very smart, the way I did it.”

The vacation benefited Grove’s body, but also gave him a chance to fall in love with the sport again. He began competing in grappling competitions while also training future athletes in his gym, which suddenly revived his desire to fight again.

The difference this time around was that Grove admitted the clock was ticking at the end of his career, but came back with the full knowledge that he fought because he wanted to, not because he had to.

“I turned 40 in November, and before I died, I promised my father that I would not fight after 40,” Grove explained. “Then [KSW president] Martin [Lewandowski] called me and I said, “Oh my gosh, I just turned 40!”

“But this is a great opportunity and I am not yet 40, so I gave myself until November 12, 2023. This is my last cheer.”

Upon his return at KSW 78, which he will headline on Saturday, Grove will take on a familiar opponent when he faces Michal Materla in a rematch from their first fight back in 2013.

It was a memorable fight for many reasons – including Grove kicking Materla, which momentarily rendered the Pole unconscious until he hit the canvas and woke up again – but it’s also hailed as “the bloodiest fight in KSW history.”

Due to the damage Grove inflicted during the fight, Materla was left with a broken nose and cuts that had just bled down his face. The blood certainly got on Grove as well, because he was still cleaning it off his body days after the fight was over.

“I showered at the event and then went back to the hotel and showered,” Grove said. “I came home to Hawaii, took a shower. I showered again the next day, so that’s about three days after the fight. I cleaned my ears with a Q-tip and all of his blood remained in my ears. It’s disgusting now, but 100 years ago it wouldn’t have been disgusting. Hell, it’s just part of the job.”

The fight itself was a back and forth battle that actually required the middleweights to advance to a special fourth round decider, which Grove did not expect.

In Grove’s opinion, he had already done enough in 15 minutes to secure the win, and in truth, he didn’t even know a fourth round was possible until he was told the fight would go on.

“The fact that he was so hurt, bleeding, I broke his nose, I think he had an orbital fracture, I think I ripped his eardrum with hammer fists from the back,” Grove said. “That’s why after the third round I was on the edge [celebrating].

“It was my fault. I was stupid, but I didn’t know we were going to a decisive fourth round. Maybe I should have read the fine print, but I spilled milk. I can’t complain. I’ve been bitter for a long time, but I’m done with it.”

Sure, the rematch is touted as Grove’s opportunity for revenge ten years later, but the fight actually means a lot more to him than just erasing defeat from his record.

As Grove admits he doesn’t have much time left in the sport, he wants to get rid of that battle itch and keep it all in the ring for his final fights.

“As for me, I fight for myself,” Grove said. “I’m struggling so when I’m 50 I’ll talk to my grandchildren and tell them my career stories and have no regrets. I’m leaving on my own terms.”


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