For many people, the summer of 2011 was just like any other. The smell of burgers on the grill filled the air, the sounds of children splashing in the pool echoed throughout each day, and fans flooded in and out of Fenway Stadium, the same as they’ve done every summer for the past 100-plus years.

For Josh Grispi, however, the summer of 2011 was a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. He got married and his first son, Josh Jr., was born—both amazing things that would forever change his life for the better. But, as with anything that is good, the bad is lurking somewhere just around the corner. Just two weeks after his fight with George Roop at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale, Grispi’s appendix burst and he found himself in the hospital undergoing surgery. Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, Grispi’s dad was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Grispi (Scott Petersen/MMA Weekly)

“My dad is doing good. He’s still in chemo, but nothing is growing back or anything and it’s crazy how well he’s doing right now. Thank you for all the prayers and to everyone that helped us out,” Grispi told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “My son, he’s getting big, he’s almost 12 months now, he’s going to be a year. It’s crazy, but awesome. I love it.”

A year later and the Boston native is ready to get back in the cage. This time around, he’s got a little added focus.

“It’s definitely helped me grow as a fighter,” said Grispi of the trials he faced last summer. “It was one of those ‘when it rains it pours’ type of deals. It’s helped me mature and really appreciate what I have right now and the opportunities I have in my life, so it’s helped me in that way.”

At just 23 years old, it’s almost hard to believe that “The Fluke” has fought 17 times as a professional already, picking up submission victories over guys like Mark Hominick and Jens Pulver. Grispi is part of what is the first generation of athletes that chose to follow a dream of becoming a professional mixed martial artist, as opposed to going the more traditional route of baseball or football—or in his case, hockey. However, to hear him tell the story of how he got involved in MMA, he didn’t chose the sport, the sport chose him.

“My father brought me to this gym when I was 13. I just needed an outlet. I used to play hockey and everything, that was a lot of fun and I was really, really good at that too. I got into doing jiu-jitsu and stuff like that, I took to it really quick and it kind of chose me in that aspect of it. Before I knew it, I was 17 and had my first fight. Time has just flown by.”

As fast as time may have gone since he first stepped foot in the South Shore Superfighting gym, he’s going to be well prepared come Saturday night when he returns to the Octagon for the first time in exactly 14 months. On the other side of the cage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles will be Rani Yahya, a second-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with 16 victories—14 by way of submission.

“A guy that good, you’ve got to be concerned, no matter how good you are, you’ve got to be concerned with what he’s going to do,” admitted Grispi of his opponent’s ground game. “Obviously, he’s a really good grappler, everyone knows that. He’s a finishing machine. I definitely think my stand-up is going to be better and I’ll be stronger than him, I believe, and I’ll definitely have a reach advantage.”

It will be Grispi’s goal to end the fight by putting the Brazilian to sleep standing up.

Grispi (top) battles George Roop (Scott Petersen/MMA Weekly)

“I think it’s going to be a fast-paced fight,” Grispi predicted. “I think he’s going to come out aggressive, probably to try to get me down, and I’m going to try to knock him out.”

For many fighters, especially those as young as Grispi, a year-long layoff would be something in and of itself to fear, never mind the fact that the guy you’re getting in the cage with is one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners on the planet.

However, Grispi isn’t your normal 23-year-old either. He’s got a family and a career. He’s been through a lot in the last year which has changed his outlook not only on life, but on fighting. He’s also been doing this for ten years, so he welcomes the pressure.

“I’m used to being out for a little while,” he says of the layoff. “I almost like it a little because you get the jitters a little more and I think I need that. I need a little nervousness to make me react. If you get too comfortable in this sport, you get hurt.”

Josh would like to thank God for helping him through so much this last year. He’d like to thank his dad, who is his hero and taught him everything he knows. He’d like to thank his son for inspiring him. Josh would also like to thank his wife and family, coaches Scott Lockhart and Bill Mahoney, South Shore Superfighting and Lauzon MMA, his manager Oren from KO Reps, the UFC and all the fans. He would also like to thank his sponsors: RYU, Smart Stop Self Storage, Punch Drunk Gamer and KOreps.com.

Top Photo: Josh Grispi (L) battles George Roop (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.