Kendall Grove did his best Liam McGeary impression for Tito Ortiz. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The bond forged between Kendall Grove and Tito Ortiz on Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter” continues to this day, more than nine years after the Hawaiian emerged as the middleweight champion of the reality show.
The lanky middleweight told Sherdog.com that Ortiz, who served as a coach on “TUF 3,” asked him to help prepare for his light heavyweight title fight against Liam McGeary at Bellator "Dynamite" on Saturday. The 6-foot-6 Grove’s size and skill set -- he is known for his active guard and has 10 career triumphs via submission -- made him an ideal training partner for Ortiz. McGeary, while fighting a weight class above Grove, is about the same height as “Da Spyder” and has demonstrated a penchant for framing submissions from his back: In winning the 205-pound belt against Emanuel Newton, the British fighter put his foe in constant peril en route to winning a unanimous decision.
“I think it’s a good fight for [Ortiz]. Obviously he took this fight serious...I’m a fan of Liam. I like the way he fights, [we have] similar styles. He’s a scrappy guy. He’s a little bit more accomplished in this sport, got to those higher levels than I did. Trust me, I reminded Tito, this guy’s dangerous, he’s active off his back. This guy will throw submissions at every angle on you.”
Ortiz’s injury history is well-documented, and it made a significant impact early on in his Bellator MMA tenure, as a neck ailment ultimately canceled a clash with Quinton Jackson and forced the promotion to pump the brakes on its first-ever pay-per-view event in November 2013. The 40-year-old “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” has appeared rejuvenated since then, however, besting ex-middleweight champ Alexander Shlemenko and fellow UFC veteran Stephan Bonnar in his first two Bellator appearances.
According to Grove, Ortiz’s health has been evident in camp, as the former UFC champ hasn’t had any limitations as he readies himself for the showdown with McGeary.
“He’s prepared for it mentally, physically, and this is the best I’ve seen him train for a long time, where his body allowed him to train,” said Grove, who will face Joey Beltran at Bellator 143 the following weekend. “The guy was a train wreck for injuries; neck problems, back problems, knee problems. This is the one camp I’ve seen him run consistently, lift every day, train, standup, all of this.
“Win or lose, he’s in shape and I think it’s gonna be a tough fight for Liam.”