Neil 'Goliath' Grove eager to make his mark in UCUK title defence

Neil 'Goliath' Grove has warned cage-fighting fans to expect a leaner, meaner fighter when he defends his Ultimate Challenge UK heavyweight

Neil 'Goliath' Grove has warned cage-fighting fans to expect a leaner, meaner fighter when he defends his Ultimate Challenge UK heavyweight title at the Troxy on Saturday night.

Grove, who suffered only a second career defeat in his previous outing at UFC 95 at the O2 Arena in February, is eager to avenge that loss in one of four top title clashes at the Stepney venue on UCUK's Payback show.

Bethnal Green star Brad Pickett and new light-heavyweight sensation Jimi Manuwa will also be defending their crowns, while Azran Quasid and Jason Young will battle for the lightweight title.

But 6ft 6in Grove is determined to be the star of the show after adopting a new training regime in a bid to become one of the world's top heavyweights.

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Grove said: "I've changed training camps since my last fight and I'm now training with Excel Performance Gym in Southend, who have helped me with my fitness.

"I've also been working on my wrestling and both my ground game and my fitness have gone through the roof.

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"I'm proud of my knockout power and that will always be my strength, but I've improved my weaknesses and with my increased fitness levels, I'm going to be at my best."

Grove is adamant that cage-fighting fans did not see him at his best in his UFC debut this year, which saw him slip to a surprise first-round defeat by late replacement Mike Ciesnolevicz.

The loss marked Grove's first non-points defeat and represented a major disappointment after the heavyweight was tipped to impress at the Docklands event.

He said: "It was a fluke accident really. I landed awkwardly on his knee right at the beginning of the fight and I broke three ribs. It meant I couldn't twist my body and limited my movement."

Now Grove hopes that an impressive defence of his title will prove that even at the age of 38, he is capable of becoming one of the sport's leading stars.

But he insists he will not underestimate title rival Markus Hip, despite the German's relative inexperience.

"MMA is evolving and guys are getting better and quicker and younger. But if I train hard I don't see why I can't compete with the best.

"[Former UFC title-holder] Dan Henderson is the same age as me and [five-time UFC champion] Randy Couture is 46 and he's still fighting at a very high level.

"I'm not getting any weaker - I'm getting stronger, I'm very comfortable at heavyweight and hopefully I'll show everyone on Saturday that they haven't seen the best of me yet."

Tickets for Ultimate Challenge UK's Payback show at The Troxy, Stepney on Saturday (6.15pm) will be available on the door or from

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