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Matt Grice’s New Life at Featherweight

It‘s a lot more than just 10 pounds. Fight fans may remember Oklahoma City area native Matt Grice‘s first UFC stint from 2007 to 2009, where “The Real One” went 1-3 as a lightweight with its highlight being the Fight of the Night win against Jason Black at UFC 77. After going 4-0 in regional shows, Grice returned to the Octagon in June 2011 a few pounds lighter as a featherweight in a loss to top contender Ricardo Lamas. But a year later at UFC on FX 3, he got back on the winning track and ran the tables on Leonard Garcia in an impressive unanimous decision win.The difference between the former lightweight Grice and the current featherweight Grice is as much physical as it is mental, and it‘s as much about the changes inside the cage as the ones outside of it. Obviously, the drop in weight class means he has turned from a smaller lightweight to a bigger featherweight, but more importantly it has changed Grice‘s diet for the better and put added emphasis on his physical development. “I feel incredible,” states Grice. “It‘s the best I’ve ever felt. ’55 wasn’t hard for me to make. I was a small ’55 pounder. But at ’45, I have a nutritionist. It’s kind of changed my outlook on everything. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been. It’s definitely been the best thing for my career for sure. It‘s all advantages for me. I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything, no strength. I don’t cut all my weight at the end. I diet down, and the diet I’m on gradually allows my weight to go down, but it also allows me to pack weight back on for the fight the next day. For the last fight, I felt incredible, and I’m already in better shape than I was for the last fight. I’m ready to go. I can’t wait.”Besides adding a nutritionist to the payroll, the 31-year-old with a Bachelor‘s degree in sociology and NCAA Division I wrestling experience from the University of Oklahoma became a small business owner in January 2012 by opening his own gym, R-1 MMA Training Center, in OKC. It‘s given Grice a home base to train with an influx of local talent, which means a never ending stream of sparring partners. Between moving to his proper division and having a state-of-the-art gym to call his own, he is taking the correct steps to making himself a more professional fighter before he steps into the Octagon, and a more dangerous opponent when he enters it. “Pretty much all the top fighters from around Oklahoma City train here,” tells Grice. “It’s pretty a much a little Mecca for all the small guys from 170 to 135. We’ve got 20 or so guys that are tough as nails. It makes a world of difference having them. There are a lot of different aspects and different looks. Before in Oklahoma City, some fighters would train over here and some fighters would train over there and it was spread out. Now that we’ve opened our gym, it’s like all the toughest guys have all migrated together. If you want to be somebody then you’ve got to learn from everybody and I think we do a good job of that.”Another big difference between the 15-4, married father of two‘s first time in the UFC and now is Grice‘s ability to balance work and “play”. For him, work is as an Oklahoma City police officer and “play” is trading fists and feet inside the Octagon. In 2007, Grice took a leave of absence for two years to go through the police academy, and he fully admits he wasn‘t training properly during that time to immediately jump back into the UFC‘s deep waters like he did. But now he has the financial security that his family needs as well as the competitive outlet a four-time Oklahoma State wrestling champion needs. “I think it definitely makes me more focused,” explains Grice. “Before when I was just fighting, I had too much time on my hands. Even on my 10 hour days, I’ll get in two workouts. I like to stay busy. I think it helps me stay grounded and stay focused. It also helps take pressure off of me. No matter what, I’m always in shape, but fighting isn’t the end all for me. I have two little girls, I have a wife, and, no matter what, I have a job where I can provide for my family. The fighting is a bonus. I do it because I love to do it; I don’t do it because I have to do it. I could quit fighting tomorrow and I would be financially okay. But I do it because I enjoy it and I love it. I love to compete, I love to test myself, and that’s why I fight. To me, I think that’s an advantage because I don’t have to be there, I want to be there.”As far as the results, Grice earned 30-27 scorecards across the board against Garcia in June. It was a display of wrestling dominance from “The Real One,” with four of seven successful takedown attempts and eight guard passes. For the most part, Grice took away Garcia‘s ability to generate any offense for 15 minutes as the “Bad Boy” landed only two significant strikes in three rounds. Also, the win showed off Grice‘s solid gas tank with his unrelenti…

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