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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 25, 2006

Knockout workout

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kendall Grove trains wherever he is including at this North Shore gym during a recent O'ahu visit.

Photos by GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Age: 23

Occupation: Professional fighter

Residence: Las Vegas

Height: 6-feet-6

Weight: 205 pounds (185 fighting)

Stays in shape by: Running, bag work, wrestling, sparring, lifting weights

Fitness goal: "Get to the top of my weight division."

Interesting fact: Grove starred as wide receiver for Baldwin High School. His brother Chad was an All-WAC wide receiver at the University of Utah, and cousin Kaluka Maiava, is a freshman linebacker at USC.

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The Maui-raised Grove is getting national attention on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show. To pursue his martial-arts passion, he now lives in Las Vegas.

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Workout habits: Kendall Grove works out six days a week with a mix of 3-mile runs, 30- to 60-yard sprints and sparring. Lifts weights three times a week, with an emphasis on back, shoulders, core muscles and legs.

"When I fight, it's five-minute rounds, so when I work out I always try to do it as four-, five- or six-minute rounds punching the bag, wrestling, sparring. I sprint 30 to 60 yards every other day and when I run distance, I run fast. You've got to push yourself to get in better shape."

Good and bad foods: "I eat chicken and fish. I try to stay away from carbs at night, and I don't eat after 10 p.m. I'll have a protein shake and my vitamins when I get up, a tuna sandwich on whole wheat and some carrots for lunch, then another protein shake. I'll eat a chicken breast before I work out, then for dinner I have steamed veggies with fish. I might have a steak once a week, but I try to stay away from red meat because it's hard to digest. Sundays are when I rest I cheat by eating pizza, McDonald's, whatever."

Biggest motivator: "I think about the people who said I could never do this. I'm not the most physical-looking guy, and when I first started, people thought 'He's just a joke.' Now when I get up every morning, I look in the mirror and tell myself that I'm going to prove them wrong. The other thing that motivates me is my nephews and all these other kids who believe in me. That gets me going."

Advice: "Just being in good health does wonders for your life. When I was skinny and out of shape, I was always depressed. Now that I'm physically fit, I'm a lot happier. It's a positive attitude you set upon yourself. It give you confidence and you believe in yourself."

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Kendall Grove practices his triangle choke arm bar move in a workout with Aden Stay. Grove says there are some talented fighters in Hawai'i, but that the professional opportunities are on the Mainland.

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Some people pursue physical fitness in hopes of living a long and healthy life. So does Maui-born professional fighter Kendall Grove, even if he measures his life in and out of the ring in five-minute intervals.

Grove, a contestant in the Spike TV reality series "The Ultimate Fighter" this season, is one of a number of skilled Island fighters making a name for themselves on the national scene.

The Wailuku native excelled in football and wrestling as a student at Baldwin High School. After graduation, a friend, John Kim, turned him on to jiu jitsu, sparking what has become a wildfire of ambition in Grove.

In 2002, Grove moved to Las Vegas and promptly immersed himself in the world of mixed martial arts. He practiced jiu jitsu and muay thai kickboxing, and worked out with ultimate fighting greats John Lewis and Phil Barone.

To free his days for training, Grove took a night job shampooing carpets at a low-end hotel.

"I used to jam to get it done so I could crash the rest of the night," he says, laughing. "I used to get four hours a night of sleep over there."

Grove trained two, sometimes three times a day, honing an intensity in the sparring ring that quickly impressed Barone, who told him that he had "the edge, that killer instinct" to succeed in the ring.

The encouragement buoyed Grove, even when his car was stolen the next day, and later, when he got a pay cut at his already low-paying job.

"I knew what my ultimate goal was, so all I did was train," he said. "I fell in love with the training. For me, not training was like cheating on my girlfriend."

Grove returned to Maui to continue his regimen, and to get some in-the-ring experience.

"But the Mainland was where the elite fighters were," Grove says. "My mom saw me moping around when I was home, so she finally told me to go back and pursue my dream. She didn't like the idea of me fighting, but she supported my goal."

Grove was rooming with Joe "Daddy" Stevenson last year when Stevenson won "The Ultimate Fighter." Producers of the show took a liking to the outgoing, free-speaking Grove and invited him to apply for this season.

Grove sent in a personal interview segment and a couple of videos of his fights and waited. And waited.

"I thought no way are they going to pick me," he says.

But that's why Grove is a fighter and not a prognosticator. He got the call to join the show on Jan. 2. A few weeks later, he was living and training with a family of equally ambitious fighters and accelerating his growth with instruction from the likes of Dean "The Boogeyman" Lister, Tito Ortiz and Saul Soliz.

"It was like training with the dream team," Grove says. "I just took every day as a learning experience. I was a sponge."

While Grove is contractually restricted from talking about the show, he said the intense six-week experience will be evident every time he takes to the ring.

Being around the sport's top fighters only reinforced Grove's commitment to training hard and training consistently.

He works out six days a week, mixing cardio work with a strength-training regimen specifically geared toward the demands of the ring.

Every other day, Grove does 30- to 60-yard sprints 25 times. He also does sustained three-mile runs, pushing his pace to build the endurance he needs in a high-energy fight.

In the weight room, Grove concentrates on workouts that emphasize explosive movement. He does squats, power cleans, dead lifts and other exercises to build power in his legs, shoulders, back and abs areas he relies on for maximum punching power.

Grove works extensively on his legs, as well.

"Legs are really important when you're fighting," he says. "When you get rocked, it's your legs that buckle. If you have strong legs, they don't buckle as much."

Grove absorbs his share of punishment during his fights but is reluctant to take days off to recover. If his legs are battered, he'll work on his upper body. If his upper-body muscles are bruised or torn, he'll concentrate on cardio work.

"If I take four days off to recover, I already feel like shooting myself in the head," he says.

During "The Ultimate Fighter" competition, Grove chipped a bone in his shin. Unwilling to drop out, he continued to train and used every spare minute to ice and massage the injury.

Even on his days off, Grove finds himself sneaking in mini-workouts. If he goes to the beach, for example, it isn't long before he's running laps on the sand.

Of course, such intensity can only be sustained with proper overall care of the body. Grove likes 12 hours of sleep, but he'll make do with eight if he has to. He also eats modestly and often to keep his energy up, and drinks at least 1 1/2 gallons of water a day to ensure he's properly hydrated.

For all of his hard work, and now, budding fame, Grove says he's just trying to set a modest example for other local fighters to take a chance and pursue the heights of the profession.

"There are way more guys here that could whip my (expletive), but they don't want to take that step and leave Hawai'i," he says. "We have some of the best fighters in the world, but a lot of them are afraid to leave the island. Sometimes you have to leave to get better."

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.