Wigan's Mike Grundy soaking up UFC experience as he prepares for debut
He won a medal at the Commonwealth Games and this weekend Mike Grundy will achieve another career milestone – when he makes his UFC debut.
He is taking on fellow Englishman Nad Narimani in a featherweight contest at The O2 Arena in London on Saturday.
The UFC is the world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion and Grundy has dreamed of this chance since he switched sports from wrestling several years ago.
Now his opportunity has come along, the 32-year-old is determined not to let it slip in front of his army of Wigan fans.
He even snubbed alcohol at his own wedding in a bid to make sure he gives himself every possible chance of extending his MMA record to 12-1 – on a bill topped by his Team Kaobon training partner, Darren Till.
Grundy said: “I’ve had a lot to celebrate, I’ve had my wedding, my birthday, but I’ve not had a drink – we’re fighting at the highest level and you want to be the best you can be.
“From the start, I’ve done the right things, I’ve eaten the right things. I’ve cut no corners. And now it’s here, the closer I’ve got to the fight, the more excited I’ve got.”
Saturday will be his debut in the UFC – he will walk out to Oasis’ Wonderwall – but it won’t be an entirely new experience, having been in the corners for Terry Etim, Paul Sass and Till, a UFC superstar who has frequently endorsed Grundy.
“We’ll have the week in London and I’m going to soak it all up,” said Grundy, thought to be the first Wiganer since Tom Blackledge to compete in the UFC. “I’ve been at UFC events before, I know what it’s like, I know what the week’s build-up is all about.
“I remember walking out with Darren in Texas, and I envisaged what it would be like walking out before my fight. So I’m going to soak it all up and enjoy it.”
Grundy started wrestling when he was six and soon made an impression in the sport, earning representative honours and winning a bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.
He still coaches the sport from the Eckersley Mill gym he co-owns with Bob Beswick, and has worked with the Wigan Warriors players.
“Getting to the UFC was a goal but it’s only the beginning for me,” said Grundy. “Getting to the UFC is one thing, you have to be ready to fight anyone.
“If they said fight the champion tomorrow, I would. And I’d go out there to win.”
Grundy will have family friends at The O2, as well as the support of Till’s fans, while many more Wiganers will be keeping tabs on his progress.
“The people of Wigan have really got behind me, the support has been amazing and I fully appreciate it,” he added.
“Even people who don’t really follow MMA or UFC, they’ve wished me well and it’s good to know they’re getting behind me.”
Coverage of the preliminary fights starts at 6pm on BT Sport 1. But the early prelims, which is expected to include Grundy’s fight, will be shown on the UFC’s subscription streaming service Fight Pass from 5pm.