Dana White's Contender Series

Charalampos Grigoriou is Cyprus’ UFC Trailblazer

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In a recent episode of the Couch Warrior Podcast, host Mike welcomed Charalampos Grigoriou, who recently won a contract during season 7 of Dana White’s Contender Series after knocking out Cameron Smotherman one minute into the fight. The conversation delved into Grigoriou’s martial arts journey, his feelings on representing Cyprus and Greece, and future plans. 

Charalampos Grigoriou: From Karate Champion to Mixed Martial Artist

Grigoriou began his martial arts journey at the age of six with karate, where he quickly rose to become a black belt and a two-time champion in Cyprus and Greece. However, after eight years of karate he sought more action and contact, leading him to transition to Muay Thai and kickboxing, where he once again became a champion in Cyprus. Eventually, Grigoriou ventured into MMA, becoming a champion in Cyprus before deciding to pursue his dream in the UFC.

The Evolution of a Fighter

When asked about his transition from striking arts to MMA, Grigoriou explained his constant search for more action and blood. “I don’t know, I’m weird. It’s what you gotta be to be a fighter right?”. Despite facing initial challenges with wrestling, he adapted and developed his grappling skills over time. He emphasized the importance of overcoming obstacles, and this theme would later resurface in his career.

Challenges in Cyprus MMA Scene

When asked, Grigoriou shed light on the MMA scene in Cyprus, acknowledging its growing popularity but emphasizing the need for improved facilities and higher skill levels. He expressed his desire to contribute to the development of MMA in Cyprus, perhaps by setting up a gym with top-notch coaches to nurture local talent. For now, he is the only notable MMA fighter coming out of Cyprus, and feels a lot of pressure and pride in representing his home country. 

The Move to the US and Training Struggles

In 2017, Grigoriou made a pivotal decision to move to the United States to elevate his training. He initially faced challenges with wrestling but dedicated himself to mastering the discipline. Training at various gyms, including Serra-Longo and Astoria Jiu-Jitsu, Grigoriou’s grappling skills evolved, which would be expected when sparring with high-caliber athletes like Aljo and Marab. Following his move to the United States, Grigoriou competed in local promotions such as CFFC and Ring of Combat, eventually going on a win streak that punched his ticket for Dana White’s Contender Series. 

Dana White’s Contender Series Call-Up

The interview took an exciting turn as Grigoriou recalled receiving the call for Dana White’s Contender Series. Confident in his abilities, he expected the call after his title win at Combat FC 3 where he finished Chris Disonell in the 5th round via leg kicks. Grigoriou highlighted his commitment to finishing the fight in the first round, showcasing his striking prowess despite suggestions to use his grappling skills. His decisive victory in the first minute of the first round left little room for Dana White to deny him a UFC contract.

Learning from Defeat: Mental Toughness

Grigoriou opened up about his toughest fight against Christian Rodriguez, another current UFC fighter who has been on quite a run. He attributed that loss to mental unpreparedness and pressure. Taking a break, clearing his mind, and returning with a renewed focus helped him overcome mental obstacles. He emphasized the importance of managing pressure, especially as the sole representative of Cyprus in the UFC.

The Pride of Cyprus: Community Recognition

Aside from his fighting career, Grigoriou received the Cyprus US Chamber of Commerce Award, recognizing his achievements as a young professional and his contribution to the Cyprus community in the US. The fighter expressed immense pride in receiving this accolade and spoke often about representing both Cyprus and Greece in and outside of the cage. 

Looking Ahead: Teammates’ Fights and Personal Goals

The interview wrapped up with Grigoriou sharing his thoughts on upcoming fights involving his teammates Aljamain Sterling and Merab Dvalishvili. He expressed confidence in Sterling’s move to the featherweight division and wholeheartedly supported Merab in his fight against Cejudo, declaring him the next champion. Grigoriou also hinted at an upcoming fight on March 16th at the Apex, eager to continue his UFC journey. Since the interview, his fight has been announced against Chad Anheliger, a fight that should be violent from beginning to end. 

Dream Fights and Future Aspirations

As the conversation came to an end, Grigoriou revealed his dream fight against Cody Garbrandt, expressing admiration for the former champion. He acknowledged the need to prove himself further in the UFC before pursuing such matchups and highlighted his respect for veterans in the division.

Charalampos Grigoriou’s journey from a karate prodigy in Cyprus to a rising star in the UFC is one marked by determination, adaptability, and a commitment to personal growth. As he continues his pursuit of excellence in the Octagon, fans eagerly anticipate his future bouts and potential matchups with seasoned veterans.

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Michael Kachan is a life long MMA fan and has been analyzing and breaking down fights for over four years. He is the host of the Couch Warrior Podcast where he provides weekly MMA breakdowns as well as fighter interviews and more.

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