Just over one year since their first meeting, Justin Knoepfli and Justin Grey will run it back, but with much more on the line this time.
Grande Prairie’s Knoepfli (5-4) will look to avenge his loss to Calgary’s Grey (1-6) when they clash for the XFFC amateur bantamweight title in the main event of XFFC 22 on Saturday night in Grande Prairie, Alta.
Although Knoepfli, 25, is certainly happy to get a second shot at Grey, he said he’s more happy to just be able to fight after his original opponent, Peter Janssen, was forced out due to injury.
“I don’t really care who I fight. I’m really happy I even just get to fight; I’m glad Justin’s game for it,” said Knoepfli in an interview.
“Without him there would be no fight, so I’m just happy he took it.”
The first meeting between the pair was a gruelling, three-round battle on day one of the 2018 Canadian National Amateur Championships, in which Grey took a unanimous decision.
Although he’s expecting a different result this time around, Knoepfli said he can see the rematch going the distance as well.
“We both have heart, he’s a tough dude, he’s a grinder, and he has a big heart,” said Knoepfli.
“I see it going the distance, but anything can happen. It’s still a fight.”
With the fight taking place in his hometown, Knoepfli has the opportunity to become the first Grande Prairie fighter to win an XFFC title in Grande Prairie.
And while winning the title is the main goal, Knoepfli said he’s hoping having his name involved in a main event for a title will garner more interest from the local fans.
“When you tell people you’re an amateur fighter, they don’t really have as much respect for you as if you say you’re a pro, especially in Grande Prairie,” said Knoepfli.
“Now that there’s a title involved, I feel like maybe they’ll actually want to come out and see what’s on the line.”
Tough Track Record
With the record he holds, Grey, 25, finds himself in a unique situation, receiving a title shot with just one win in seven fights.
He said he was surprised to receive a title shot, but a deeper dive into his record, who he’s fought, and where he’s fought tells a different tale.
“It’s not a good record, and I assume most promoters would dismiss the thought of it,” said Grey in an interview.
“But the guys at XFFC have done their research, they know their fighters, and they know what they’re looking for.”
Two of Grey’s most recent losses have come at the IMMAF Pan American Championships and the IMMAF World Championships, while the other was to the number-one ranked bantamweight in Canada in Indroop Virk.
While he hasn’t been able to string the wins together just yet, Grey said competing against the calibre of opponents he has been has brought his confidence level up significantly.
“It’s really tested me; I’ve been able to hold my own against some of the best at Worlds and Pan Ams,” said Grey.
“It’s good for my confidence knowing I can fight the best and hold my own. And I don’t know if Justin has that kind of confidence.”
Outside of competing against his teammate, Albaraa Atmeh, in the gold medal match of the 2018 Canadian National Amateur Championships, this will be Grey’s first title shot of his amateur career.
He said winning the title would show his growth as a fighter and that all the experience he’s been gaining is starting to pay off.
“It would really cement the amount of progress I’ve made. Looking at my past two fights, I’ve definitely improved fight after fight,” said Grey.
“The losses make it hard to see that change, so a win here would be pretty big.”
“I want to thank all the guys down at Champion Gym for all the support they’ve given me and all the extra work they’ve been putting in, especially with Bill Mahood, Adam Link, Luis Martinez and John Hachey.” Follow Knoepfli on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM