BY JESSICA MILITELLO
On Saturday, March 21, professional mixed martial arts fighter Charalampos Grigoriou will be fighting in the Cage Fury Fighting Championship on UFC Fight Pass at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
Grigoriou’s focus and hard work since he first moved to Astoria from Cyprus, Greece, three years ago has been gradually paying off as he pursues his dream of getting signed to the UFC, something the lifelong martial artist has been training for since he was 6 years old.
“My dream is the UFC, that’s why I came to the U.S,” said Grigoriou. “It was also very difficult to find opponents in Cyprus because no one wanted to fight me, so I was like, let’s go to the jungle.”
While growing up in Cyprus, Grigoriou first started playing soccer, but often times fights would break out on the playing field and Grigoriou was frequently involved in the scuffles. His father signed him up for karate, but he initially didn’t like it and he wanted to try out a different style like Muay Thai.
Grigoriou continued to get into fights on the playing field and at school, so his father gave him an ultimatum; stop fighting or he won’t let him practice any other martial arts.
“I told my father if I start Muay Thai, then I’ll stop getting into fights,” said Grigoriou. “And so I started Muay Thai and then kickboxing and I never fought in a street fight again.”
Grigoriou went on to become a black belt in karate and won the Panhellenic Karate Championship twice, as well as representing Cyprus in the black belt division at the European Karate Championship in Poland. In Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and MMA, his talent and hard work continued to speak for itself as he competed and continued to win distinctions such as the Cyprus MMA Champion’s title, and the World Kickboxing Network Organization belt.
As Grigoriou’s reputation for his high-level fighting skills continued to spread, he felt it was time to take a chance in expanding his career by moving to the U.S. The life-changing move was certainly met with some resistance by his family when he made the announcement.
“I went to the embassy, got my visa, and I booked my ticket to the U.S., but it was a war [at home] especially with my father,” said Grigoriou. “I booked the ticket beforehand because I knew they were going to try to pull me back. It was hard, but I came here because I always wanted to do my hobby as a job.”
When Grigoriou first arrived in the U.S., he settled in Astoria and started training in gyms in the neighborhood but felt like he wanted more challenging partners to train and spar with. His main gym that he trains out of is Law MMA in Garden City, owned by UFC fighter Chris Weidman and head coach Ray Longo, who knew of Grigoriou even before he began training with him.
“[Grigoriou] was training with a buddy of mine and fought on shows I was promoting,” said Longo. “We knew his stand-up was very good, we just had to get his ground game better, so we recognized that he was very talented.”
With a strong performance in Grigoriou’s March 21 fight, Longo explained the next step would be to get him on the UFC’s Contender series.
“We’ll see if he can get him on the Contender series and then from there, if he has a good fight, we’ll see if Dana [White, the President of the UFC] would take him and that’s probably the best way of getting in at this point,” said Longo.