Before the glory, Josh Grispi was paying the price for eschewing college.
Admittedly more street smart than book smart, Grispi’s routine was once rising at 4:30 a.m. three times a week to drive with his father, Richard, from Plympton, Mass., to downtown Boston for roofing jobs. Immediately Grispi decided it wasn’t his calling, but he didn’t realize until later how it created a foundation for a blossoming MMA career that has him in the co-main event of WEC 49 on Sunday against LC Davis. Richard work ethic was tireless and was all he knew. He worked the long hours to make payments on the house and Grispi has taken that attitude into the gym.
“Roofing is a hard, hard job, people don’t realize how tough it is,” Grispi told Heavy.com. “You have to try roofing for one day. It’s horrible. I’d rather get punched in the face. My dad has helped me a lot more than he probably thinks.”
The days were long and the job taxing on the mind, body and soul. So are the days when Grispi’s trainers at South Shore Sportfighting are beating the tar out of him, testing his mettle day in and day out to see if he can finish the job.
“Looking at the clock is the worst thing you can do when you’re roofing,” Grispi said. “Just like in training you have to get it over with. You sit around and when you look at the clock, try to go slow and relax you’re going to get really physically and mentally drained. It’s the same thing with training. You just have to have fun with it, which is what I learned from roofing and my dad. You stay focused and keep going until the time is over and they say you can leave.”
Grispi turns 22 in October. Each of his three WEC wins have come in the first round, his last two in under a minute, and most recently a 33-second dismantling of MMA legend Jens Pulver, who also happens to be his idol. Unexpected is how the winner of Grispi vs. Davis could be named Jose Aldo’s next challenger. It was assumed Manny Gamburyan’s knockout of Mike Brown at WEC 48 locked up the No. 1 contender’s spot, but WEC general manager Reed Harris said in an interview that this featherweight showdown Saturday in Edmonton could determine who gets a shot at Aldo’s title.
The thought of fighting for a title so early in his career intrigues “The Fluke,” but it doesn’t consume him. The mid-summer days on a roof were long enough. In MMA success is fleeting and Grispi is warned daily on the dangers of looking too far ahead. Grispi (13-1 MMA, 3-0 WEC) knows all too well, but for those who don’t, Davis (16-2 MMA, 3-0 WEC) is also riding a three-fight winning streak, capturing all three of his WEC bouts with decisions over Javier Vazquez, Diego Nunes and Deividas Taurosevicius, the type of grind-it approach Grispi has yet to encounter.
“I don’t look past today,” Grispi said. “Anytime I’m doing something I just look to that day and not ahead of time. I’m not anxious for any fights. If they want me to fight I’ll fight, and when that time comes I’ll do it. Right now my main focus is making weight, then LC and then taking the next step from there.”
This is also Grispi’s first fight in what will amount to one year and 13 days, which has him in uncharted territory. His first 10 fights took place over a span of 15 months, and just when his career was set to take off he was forced to have ankle surgery and faces a situation where ring rust could affect his timing and cardio like it has so many others. Yet Grispi says his cardio is excellent and is prepared to overcome a disadvantage he believes is psychological more than anything else.
“It might affect me, I have no idea, but I’m super excited to get back in there,” Grispi said. “I think most people with ring rust they get nervous to get back in there and aren’t sure they’re going to perform the same. I can’t think about the bad things. They have to be all positive.
“At first I was little nervous because I’m trying to train hard and was nervous about injuring myself. Once I got over it I started really pushing myself, not worrying about my ankle but mentally focusing on the fight. It was a matter of getting over that mental block and I’ve felt great these last couple of weeks. If you can’t get over that mental block you’re not going to perform to the best of your ability. Just leave it all out there.”
Since his days broiling on roof tops, watching the clock with anticipation before hopes crashed in disappointment, Grispi learned to cope. As quickly as The Fluke could knock Davis out he may find himself as Aldo’s next challenger – and perhaps his successor as the next big thing. It’s a great thing to read your clippings, says Grispi, but rather than let it get to his head, he’s letting it ride, and he can thank his father for applying those life lessons.
“I plan on using it until I can’t use it anymore,” Grispi said of his fighting career. “It makes me realize what I’ve done and how quick I’ve come to this point.”