Grove comes full circle with WFC event on Maui

MMA fighter ‘content’ with career as he prepares to headline Aug. 10 card

Kendall Grove is the headliner for World Fighting Championships 110, set for Aug. 10 at War Memorial Gym. The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo

WAILUKU — As Kendall Grove stood in the same gym he plans to fight in next month, he admitted Saturday that he can see the end of his stellar fighting career.

Grove is the headliner on an Aug. 10 fight card set for War Memorial Gym for the World Fighting Championships 110 event that will also include fellow Maui fighter Zach Zane.

“August 10th, WFC 110, bringing a great promotion down here to Maui and also headline the card — very excited,” said Grove, a Baldwin High School graduate who owns a 24-19 overall record in mixed martial arts and boxing professional bouts. “You know I’m at the tail end of my career. I’m pretty sure I’m hanging them up soon, but I got a few fights left in me.”

Grove was at the Pacific Youth Sports and Fitness Expo on Saturday as he pondered his future in the octagon and ring.

The 36-year-old has one more fight on his current contract with the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships circuit — he is 1-1 there after suffering a third-round knockout to Marcel Stamps in his last contest on Oct. 21, 2018.

“I’ve got one more fight with Bare Knuckle — that’s up in the air — but as of now I’m focusing on my last couple, maybe my last MMA fight coming up here real soon.”

Grove sees his retirement life including his fledgling gym — I and I MMA Academy in Wailuku — playing a large role.

“Right now I’m just super excited about getting my gym off the ground and getting a lot of good feedback from the island of Maui,” Grove said. “I’m just excited with all of my students.”

Grove has not fought on Maui since 2012. He vaulted on to the fight stage with his win in “The Ultimate Fighter 3” series in 2006. He has had stints with the UFC and Bellator promotions.

“Always reminiscing, but I’m content, you know?” Grove said. “I did what I did the best that I could. I think I held my island proud doing what I did, winning ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ having a decent career with the UFC, on top of that traveling all over the world for different promotions. Then going to Bellator and Bare Knuckle Fighting and coming full circle now here back on Maui.”

His Aug. 10 fight — while it is not completely set, Grove mentioned his opponent could be Noland Norwood (12-6) out of Little Rock, Ark. — may not be his last one on the Valley Isle.

“I definitely want my last fight here, I don’t know if I will promote it myself, or like I said this (Aug. 10 bout) could be my last one,” Grove said. “It’s something I’ve got to talk about with my family, but as of now the only thing I care about is my gym, my fighters and my family.”

He said going back and forth between MMA and bare knuckle boxing is “hard, obviously, but like anything it’s a fight. You win and you lose. I was successful and I was unsuccessful, but that’s why I fight.”

Grove has a theory as to why he became the most successful professional fighter ever from Maui.

“Just because you beat me doesn’t mean I think you’re better than me — you’re better than me at that point in time,” Grove said. “I wake up the next morning sore, hurt, butt-hurt, but I’m still better than you. That’s just the mentality I have — I have always had that and I think that’s what made me go so far.”

The Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships sought out Grove to be one of their first notable names. He fought on the second and third fight cards in that circuit’s history.

“That’s one of the reasons why I did it, to engrave my name in the foundation of Bare Knuckle because it’s going to blow up,” Grove said. “I’m proud to say I was on the second and third shows, hopefully the sixth, seventh or eighth maybe against Chris Leben or maybe against some other big name.

“As of now I’m just worried about WFC 110. Whatever happens after that, we’ll go from there.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.