A small droplet of paint drips from a long paint roller as it’s making contact with the ceiling. Back and forth. Back and forth. A drop sheet lines the cement, and it’s clear that it has seen better days. Each droplet of paint on it represents a different job site, a different day, but the same old story. Smudges of paint cover a white pair of overalls. A pair of tan, scuffed work boots look like they could very well be on their last job site.

As the man stands over a basin, the clear water begins to turn white as the evidence of a hard day of work is washed away. As soap is massaged into his hands, the evidence of the work vanishes. Tomorrow, though, those hands will be covered in paint again as a brand new canvas presents itself to be worked on. There is always something to paint.

Days turn into weeks, and then into months, and then years. That’s the life of a tradesman working hard to support their family. That was Vik Grujic once. Then, it all changed.

“I’ve been in the construction industry for about 15-plus years,” Grujic explained to The MMA Corner. “I was working as a painter. Anybody that’s ever painted in the construction industry, commercial or whatever, can tell you how much of a hard job it is.”

Grujic maintained that job until the opportunity came along for Grujic to audition for the UFC’s popular reality series, The Ultimate Fighter.

“Getting past the first round of selections, that was a really big hurdle for me,” Grujic admitted. “I kinda felt really confident after that. It’s strange to explain. I kinda felt that I had it; I thought that I was in a really good position to get in and get on the show. I think there was a period of about six weeks we had to wait until we heard if we were on the show, and that was a really anxious period. I was at work one day and I got the phone call that I was on the show and something like that. You know instantly that your life has changed forever for the better. That day I got the call to tell me I was selected for The Ultimate Fighter, I pretty much put the tools down and I never looked back.”

As it was made known during his tenure on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations, Grujic is a passionate family man. Naturally, the time away from his family is something that Grujic found extremely hard throughout the filming of the television series. Now, as he prepares for his second outing in the UFC, he has put himself through it all over again, this time traveling to Alliance MMA in San Diego. And his family? They are almost a world away in Australia, but they are always on his mind.

“That’s the hardest thing about it,” Grujic revealed. “There’s a couple of guys here who travel interstate to train at Alliance, and they are family men, too. It hurts you no matter who you are. I don’t know what kind of person you’d have to be to not care about your family like that. Especially myself, I’m extremely close to my family, my wife, my three girls. They’re everything to me. I’m getting lots of photos. I get to Skype them every day, but it’s not the same thing. It’s not that closeness that you feel when you are at home. I’m getting very emotional about it now. I’ve been away from home for five weeks now and it really sucks. That’s the part about this whole thing that sucks.

“The rewards to train at this level with this type of team and to get the victory and come home and secure my position in the UFC and my career—at this point you have to make sacrifices. That’s what this is. People use the term ‘sacrifices’ very loosely these days, and I’ve noticed that a lot when people do speeches and that kind of thing. And I don’t think people understand the essence of that from my perspective. For me, this is the biggest sacrifice I think you can make—to sacrifice that time with your family—and I’ve done a lot of that since getting onto The Ultimate Fighter and my last fight in Quebec.”

With his official debut with the UFC behind him, Grujic now meets countryman and fellow TUF Nations competitor Chris Indich at UFC Fight Night 43 in Auckland New Zealand, on June 28. Both men came out with losses in their maiden bouts for the UFC. Naturally, Grujic knows that this could very well be his last chance to impress. Although the pair trained together for the filming of their stint in the reality series, Grujic isn’t discounting that Indich will be bringing a completely different game to their bout in Auckland.

“I take every opponent very seriously,” Grujic explained. “I don’t overlook anyone. From my perspective, I look at everyone like this is the guy that’s gonna take me down, he’s gonna knock me out, he’s gonna come with something big and strong, so I’m gonna be on my A game. Whatever he brings that day, I’m gonna be prepared for it, there’s no doubt about that. And I’ve been training my butt off for that, and I’m keen to get in there and see what he’s got.

“My last fight, I felt I got robbed of that fight. I got taken down a couple of times, I was out-muscled and I got held down and I didn’t really get the fight I deserved. I wanted to have a proper fight for my UFC debut and I wanted to show my heart and my spirit and why I got as far as I did, and this time I’m gonna do that. It’s definitely make or break for the both of us. It’s just like any other fight, and I’m gonna take it that way. I’ve gotta fight well.”

Every time that Grujic used to enter a room on a work day, he would be met with a canvas ready for his handiwork. Paint would be his weapon of choice. It was a means to an end. It was hard work for a man who wanted the absolute best opportunities for his family. With his second trip to the UFC’s Octagon, Grujic now has a whole new blank canvas in front of him. This time, in Auckland, he’s ready to paint his masterpiece.

Vik would like to thank Seebo, Gemison Developments, Lime Health and Fitness, Performance Gym Darwin and Tora Athletics. He would also like to thank his family for their support and everybody at Alliance MMA. Follow Grujic on Twitter: @VikGrujic

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.