Fresh off his debut win at UFC Wichita — a fight over a year in the making — Grant Dawson wants to keep moving forward. And it’s big fights, not money, that he’s after.
Wichita, Kansas — It was a long time coming for UFC featherweight Grant Dawson. His debut, that is. Entangled in some Jones-like irregularities with USADA and a metabolite of the steroid Turinabol, Dawson was actually cut by the promotion before ever setting foot in the octagon. Yet he stayed the course, worked with USADA, found himself back in the fold, and made his debut Saturday at UFC Wichita.
One up, one down. Dawson earned his debut win against Julian Erosa via unanimous decision. It wasn’t a finish, but it got the ball rolling, in a one-sided affair.
“I feel great,” Dawson told reporters including Cageside Press after the fight. “We had one goal and that’s to get the win. Obviously, we wanted to hunt the finish but can’t win them all that way. Dominant performance. I got one 10-8 round I believe. I’m super happy about that. First fight in the UFC, the goal is just to get the win and we got it. Now we’ll go back to the drawing board and figure out what’s next.”
Dawson was absolutely beaming backstage following the victory. On his first ever walk to the octagon, he recalled that “I was so excited. I get in the cage and I’m walking back and I’m looking up and they’re saying my name and I look at my glove and it said ‘UFC’. And I was like, ‘Heck yes’. Then I was like, ‘Oh man, don’t blow it’. Went out there, kept going forward, got the win, super happy.”
“I took him down like 10 times I believe,” he said of the dominant performance. “I knew it was going to be tough getting him down. I did not think it was going to be that hard to keep him down. He’s just so long and lanky, pushing me away, pushing me away, he did a really good job. He had a great gameplan. I’m super happy.”
And having said that, Dawson is well aware that there is room for improvement. “Of course, I made some mistakes, he made some mistakes. But that’s why we grow. My coaches were telling me on the way in here, ‘You make mistakes, otherwise you’d be the world champion already.’ We’ve made some mistakes, we’ll figure it out, we’ll get back to the drawing board and we’ll fix them.”
Dawson’s mindset is interesting in a time where money fights seem to drive the sport. “Money doesn’t excite me. Big fights excite me,” he said. “World champions excite me. Money, if it comes, that’s great. That just means I can pour more money into my camp for next time.” Of course, he’s still young in the sport. The money isn’t there yet. But for now, he’s just ready to keep moving forward.
“Let’s get after it man. I’ve had 14 months off. I’m ready to go again. I’m ready to go again. My jaw hurts a little bit but I just got punched in the face so that’s normal.”
That step forward is a big one for Dawson, who almost ended his journey as a fighter during the lengthy layoff.
“It was difficult at first. I remember it like it was 14 months ago. My coach took me into the back room and I remember this completely vividly, he was like, ‘What are you feeling right now?’ I told him, ‘I feel like every bit of hard work I’ve put into this has been a waste of time.’ He said, ‘Cool, quit. Go back to the nursing home, do dishes.’ I told him, ‘I don’t want to.’ He said, ‘Ok! Now we’re sifting through that crap, stick to the course, stay the course, and it will all work out in the end.’ James [Krause] has yet to be wrong. It all worked out in the end. We’re here. We’re going.”
As much doubt was in Dawson’s mind, the motivation to keep going was in the back of his mind the entire time.
“I did [know it was going to work out]. I’m young. I’ve got great support around me. I love to train. I love training so much. The way I thought about it was, ‘My leg isn’t broken. I’m not coming off an injury. I can still train, I can still do things I love.’ So we’re just staying positive and I knew it would work itself out and it did. We got the win, undefeated in the UFC, 13-1 overall. I’m feeling pretty happy about myself.”
When a fighter is early in their UFC career, they typically don’t have a specific opponent in mind after a win. And while Grant Dawson almost took that typical road, he does have a specific opponent in mind.
“I’ve got a list of guys that I want to fight. I won’t say anything right now. We’ll wait for the UFC to call. I would like to fight Shane Young. I think that’s a heck of a good fight. He comes forward, I come forward. I think that’s a great fight for both of us. I’d love to get it going. As I said, I’m going to spend time with my girlfriend, spend time with my family, and eat some ice cream.”