Bill Mahoney remembers the first time an opponent got under Josh Grispi’s skin.
It was the now WEC featherweight’s first professional fight four years ago and foe Nick Zimmerman called him a pretty boy. Grispi finished Zimmerman off in 18 seconds.
A year later all it took was a smug smile from Glenn Medeiros to agitate Grispi. Medeiros was stopped in 40 seconds.
Grispi is a nice kid, so nice in fact he likes to find reasons to get angry at his opposing opponents before going to war with them in a cage. So last week, when the 21-year-old’s WEC 52 opponent Eric Koch predicted that he would knock him out and “pick him apart with my speed,” Mahoney, Grispi’s coach, said be careful what you wish for.
“He is such a nice kid. We have tons of jokes about it. He likes to find reasons subconsciously to get really angry at his opponent right before he gets in the cage,” Mahoney said. “I remember there was a kid Glenn Medeiros and he got in the cage and was like `I’m going to go easy on this kid’ - he was like 0-4. He gets in the cage and this kid just has this cocky grin and Josh looks at us and was like, `What’s he smiling at?’
“He just gets so angry, it really motivates him. I remember his first fight, this guys Nick Zimmerman said, `Oh that’s the pretty boy I’m fighting,’ and he just completely lost it. No one that’s (angered him) has survived more than a minute. But I don’t know if it’ll work so well against world class guys.”
Grispi has been training under Mahoney and Scott Lockhart at South Shore Sport Fighting since he was 13. The pair wanted to train the then young teen in MMA. It’s a different route from those who concentrate on one or two different and separate martial art aspects like jiu-jitsu or boxing.
And it’s worked. The Plympton native is widely considered one of the best featherweight fighters in the world. Grispis is 4-0 in the WEC heading into November’s fight and continually impresses Mahoney in training.
“My partner Scottie says this all the time, this kids potential is a million times what he has,” Mahoney said. “He was our first ever child student. Him and his brother showed up at the same day and we had no kids at the time. I went alright I’m going to train this kid to be an MMA fighter. I’m not going to train him in just jiu-jitsu or boxing.
“Right from the beginning from he was so little, we wouldn’t do a lot of striking but just hit the mitts like crazy. He would spar grappling and striking while I’d spar just grappling. I think he was already fighting when he asked what jiu-jitsu was. His first art was MMA.”
Koch, 22, is a solid opponent. Though he said he feels he’ll have an advantage over Grispi, whose strengths are on the ground, while standing five of his 10 wins have come from submission. The Iowa native is 2-1 in the WEC and is coming off of a submission victory over Bendy Casimir.
And though three of Grispi’s four WEC wins have come from submission, Mahoney thinks Koch may be underestimating his stand-up abilities.
“Honestly, even if we told Josh to take him down, he would bang. I know Eric is a good kick boxer, I just don’t think he’s powerful enough to really hurt Josh that much, unless he lands the perfect shot,” Mahoney said. “Josh’s style is just so wreckless and so raw. It’s really different when you’re in there with him and his crazy reach and ridiculous power.”