Maui-native mixed martial arts fighter Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove is always eager to put on a good show. Nerves, anxiety, and adrenaline run rampant in the mind of an athlete entering the octagon or stepping on the mats before a fight, but this weekend Da Spyder faces a new challenge.
Months ago, the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship Organization contacted Grove about an upcoming opportunity to fight in the new organization. BKFC later announced that Grove, an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Bellator veteran, signed an exclusive contract to make his debut at the promotion’s event, “BKFC 2: A New Era,” which will take place at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi on Aug. 25.
After being released from Bellator MMA (the second-largest MMA promotion in the world featuring notable talent such as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida) earlier this year, many fans and critics believed Da Spyder’s fight career was coming to an end. After interviewing Kendall for this piece, there’s no doubt that his fierce competitive spirit is not leaving just yet.
The 6’6” Maui-native confidently spoke about his mindset entering the competition: “I always try to keep myself in shape, you never know when an opportunity may arise for me to fight again. Plus, I love to go out there and compete – wrestling, jiu-jitsu, MMA. Whatever it is, I want to go out to challenge myself, and represent my family and the Maui community.”
Kendall Grove’s work ethic is second to none, as he not only maintains himself in “fight-ready shape,” but also juggles work and family duties. Kendall has had more than 40 professional MMA career fights, many of which are legendary. The former Ultimate Fighting Championship: The Ultimate Fighter 3 Champion is still regarded as one of the most highly decorated fighters to ever come out of Hawai‘i. To most, it’s incredible that Da Spyder still finds the motivation to compete as a top-tier athlete after all these years, while still maintaining dad duties as a father of six.
David Feldman, President and Founder of the still-infant BKFC, recently reached out to Kendall along with other elite “free agent” fighters in the combat sports world to create an action-packed fight card. This will be the second major event for the young organization.
Feldman expressed excitement about bringing Da Spyder over to BKFC, believing the organization’s rules will allow Kendall to exemplify his edgy fight game and long stature in his first bare knuckle bout. “This is a great opportunity for MMA veterans, like Kendall, who can bring excitement to the sport as the rules are based for a fast-paced brawl, allowing fighters from different backgrounds and martial arts to display their stand up game,” said Feldman.
BKFC is a new organization with a rule set that got combat sport fans jumping out of their seats when announced. Outlawed since 1889 in the United States, the seemingly primitive London Prize Ring rule format from the days of Jack Broughton, father of English Boxing, and John L. Sullivan, the last bare knuckle heavyweight champion of the world, is now regaining acceptance and audience.
Feldman explained, “In this format, fighters start on the toe line in the center of the square ring within three feet apart from their opponent. This promotes the fight to be action-packed from the get go. Fighters don’t need to worry about getting taken down and no need for wrestling. There’s also no striking with knees, elbows, or kicks. We’ve accepted the clinch position, as long as it’s above the waist, and the fighters are only to be striking from their feet. This is to promote a fast pace fight that keeps the crowd entertained.”
To those who remember the early days of the first few Ultimate Fighting Championships in the mid-’90s, the no-holds-barred style rules of fighting was too barbaric, gruesome, and shocking to many. Bouts were fought with no gloves, and finishes resulted in knockouts, submissions, or forfeits with no time limit. The UFC took a lot of backlash at the time, in which conservative Senator John McCain viewed the UFC as “human cockfighting.” However, insiders looked beyond what the UFC was at the time and knew its potential. Today, the sport has attracted many, and is now hosted on major television broadcast networks such as FOX and ESPN. It’s gained acceptance in society and become a large part of sports culture.
With the UFC’s success opening the door for combat sports to become mainstream, the question now lies if BKFC can fill the shoes and gain popularity. Will the organization be as big as Feldman envisions, or will it be too brutal for general audiences (and local governments)? Can this be the golden opportunity for Kendall to remake his fight career and rise to the occasion? We’ll have to tune in and watch.
“BKFC 2: A New Era” will be televised live Aug. 25 exclusively on pay-per-view through MultiVision Media, Inc. on all major television and streaming distribution outlets.
Photo courtesy Instagram/KendallGroveMMA