The angle on David Griffin, who will face off against mixed martial arts professional and UFC veteran Houston Alexander this Friday, isn’t hard to find.

Griffin is a Charleston County firefighter, a title that has taken on added meaning since the night of June 18, 2007, when nine Charleston firefighters perished in the Sofa Super Store fire; he readily admits that their deaths inspired him to pursue a dream of becoming an MMA fighter, an aspiration he’d previously left on the backburner. That dream will come full circle when Griffin makes his pro debut against Alexander here in Charleston as the main event in UFA 1: Clash at the Coliseum. If that doesn’t make Griffin interesting enough, there’s also his quick rise in the MMA ranks and the fact that a relative amateur is facing off against a fighter that was a member of the country’s top MMA division six months ago.

The UFA website has labeled Griffin a “true life ‘Rocky’ story” It’s fortunate that this tale about Griffin writes itself, because he certainly isn’t willing to write it for you. Although Griffin respectfully acknowledges the impact of the tragedy and pays tribute through his fights, he doesn’t go out of his way to discuss it. As for the Rocky thing, Griffin may be an amateur, but he can deliver sports clichés with the best of them. “I just think about my game plan that I’m going to do in the fight. I know what I need to do, and now I just have to get into the fight and execute it,” he says.

Does this guy have a PR rep or something? No; as it turns out, Griffin’s just a nice guy who takes a businesslike approach into the ring. “I try to come up with a strategy that’s going to be the best for me to get hit the least and hit and take down the other guy the most and win. I’m not going in there to see how hard I can get hit and see if I can keep standing. That’s not the point of the fight. The point of the fight is to win.”

Upon further review, Griffin’s strategy, and his brain in general, might be the most interesting aspect to his sotry. The fire tragedy also inspired Griffin to go back to school and get his master’s degree, something he accomplished this spring. Now, he’s planning on beginning his pursuit of a doctorate, starting in August. Griffin will work towards an education degree, and he hopes to be eventually become a college professor. 

Educator by day, MMA fighter by night? Forget true life “Rocky” story — this is turning into a true life Fight Club. Of course, when I tried to sell Griffin on the marketing potential of selling a doctorate persona in the ring and billing himself as the intellectual fighter, he just laughs, deflecting the attention and taking the opportunity to talk about how smart all the guys are that he trains with. Plus, Griffin treats hype in general like it’s a disease. “My thing is, I’m nice to people, I don’t have any hatred towards the people I fight, and that’s just how I am. I don’t really see any point in getting mad at the other guy or running my mouth and saying things just to hype the fight.”

Yeah, David, the nice guy angle works great. Tell that to Kimbo Slice (the YouTube sensation who became famous mostly by winning street fights and looking really menacing). Of course, Griffin also claims that Kimbo, who defeated Alexander in a December bout, is actually a really nice guy. I get the feeling he probably says that about a lot of people. Needless to say, when I asked Griffin for a prediction, half-heartedly hoping to bait him into a guarantee, he wasn’t biting. “That’s not my personality,” he says.

Yeah, we know.