MMA is back in Vernon, BC when XFC 11: Unbanned takes over the city this Saturday night.
Cabrejos will enter the cage in front of his hometown crowd for the first time ever, a dream of his that very recently became a reality after the city of Vernon rescinded a ban on all professional and amateur MMA fights.
“I’m super stoked; I have a bunch of people coming out to support me. Going to be a lot of familiar faces, so there’s a little extra pressure with that, but I’m not sweating it,” Cabrejos said in an interview.
“It’s just going to be a fun time. I’m stoked that everyone gets to see me do what I love to do instead of just hearing about it.”
Being an amateur fighter makes for a much harder schedule than most people realize. It’s not always easy to make ends meet, and fighters often put in their work at the gym after finishing up at their day job. And it’s no different for Cabrejos who works as a carpenter.
Although getting a chance to capture his first championship is all that occupies Cabrejos’ mind at the moment, he knows the belt could be a launching pad to bigger and better things. And he’s ready.
“I definitely want to make it to the pro circuit, mainly because once I really discovered martial arts I just fell in love with it. Obviously, the discipline and it’s fun getting out there. There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush,” said Cabrejos.
“It’s like a puzzle you have to decipher; you have to figure out what’s going to work and you set up certain things and try to take advantage, so it’s really intriguing to me. And to be able to do that without having to go build retaining walls and build houses, that is the dream.”
Former UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar is Cabrejos’ favourite fighter, and is someone who he tries to model himself after, utilizing all aspects of MMA and plenty of movement.
The speedy Cabrejos feels his youth will be a factor in his upcoming matchup with Grieve as he’s always looking to improve and keeps getting better everyday.
“My athleticism and explosiveness are my biggest strengths. My grappling is really good and my striking is coming along at a crazy rate,” Cabrejos said.
“I like to mix it up; I’ve really just been trying to bring the definition of mixed martial arts to the table. I just love learning all the techniques. Anytime I’m doing something and someone can show me a little tweak that just slightly changes the outcome, that always just blows my mind.”
When it comes to Grieve, Cabrejos didn’t have too much to share. As is the case with many amateur MMA fighters, he said it’s hard to find tape on their fights.
“I’ve seen a couple of his fights. He seems like a strong grappler; not really as polished of a striker as some of the guys I’ve fought before, but I also can’t underestimate him at all,” Cabrejos said.
A Common Transition
Transitioning from wrestling to MMA continues to become a more common trend throughout the MMA world.
And it was this exact path the then 32-year-old Grieve decided to take.
“I was kind of at a point where I couldn’t compete in wrestling anymore. I took up jiu-jitsu and I was really enjoying it. Even when I was wrestling, I was competitive with professional MMA fighters, and as I got more into jiu-jitsu I started rounding out my skills,” Grieve said in an interview
“It was just learning that mindset of keep going, just keep grinding, and you can continue to be a very competitive athlete and even push those younger than you.”
Now 34, Grieve is looking to bounce back from a loss in the finals of the 2019 Canadian National Amateur Championships at Rumble in the Cage 61 and capture the XFC middleweight title.
But similar to his opponent, he hasn’t seen enough footage to talk too much about the matchup.
“He looks like a long, lanky guy, so I’m not sure if he likes to fight on the outside. I think I saw something that said he was a blue belt in jiu-jitsu, so he’s got grappling experience. But belts don’t always mean too much, especially when there’s no-gi involved,” Grieve said.
“My age could be a blessing and a curse; every fight I’ve had I’ve been the older fighter, except one. So, I’d like to say I have experience on my side. I’ve been doing lots of martial arts throughout my life.”
Grieve knows all about making sacrifices, including a 40-minute drive back-and-forth everyday just to train jiu-jitsu, working around his proud service in the Calgary Police Department.
But because he made the transition to MMA a little later than most fighters, Grieve isn’t 100 per cent sure what his future in the sport will be.
“I like the camaraderie in the gym, I like learning from those that are better than me, and I like helping those that are learning, whether it be wrestling or jiu-jitsu,” Grieve said.
“I could see myself in a coaching role at some point. But at this point, I’m only concerned about getting a bit better each day, and if I ever get to the point where I’m 100 per cent confident in all areas, I would consider going pro. But for right now I’m just focused on winning the XFC middleweight title on August 24.”
“I want to thank all my teammates at 101 Academy and WTM; they’ve been super helpful to get me prepared. Everyday people are giving up their time to help me and do extra rounds. I’d also like to thank all my coaches.” Follow Grieve on social media: INSTAGRAM