Tony Gravely on UFC Rumors, CES 55 Fight: “I Refuse to Be Denied”

CES MMA Tony Gravely UFC prospect
Tony Gravely Credit: Will Paul/CES MMA

Champion Tony Gravely is once again set to defend bantamweight gold at CES 55 against Darren Mima.

Only a few weeks ago Tony Gravely was set to fight in California for King of the Cage and was ready to represent the east coast. With an injury to his opponent, Gravely had to endure what all active fighters hate, sitting out while you are 100% ready to step into a cage, it didn’t take long to change his luck.

“We approached CES. If I can fight every month, I’m happy. My coach spoke with CES and asked them to find me someone, and luckily they found me a nice, tough opponent.”

It is of little surprise to hear Gravely speak of fighting every month if he could. This is the same man who had two fights scheduled for two different promotions within a month and a half between events. Gravely is known to do whatever it takes to advance his career, inside the cage and out of it.

“For me, the reason I’ve had this success is because I’m so active. I’m a veteran, but I’ve only been a pro for three years, cage time helps me grow and advance. I like to always be in shape, so I am always ready. The UFC looks for those active guys, not once or twice a year guys.”

In speaking with Gravely, he was very open about the rumors that UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby had contacted promotions that Gravely has and still fights for to speak on his behalf. According to Gravely, Shelby had reached out to speak with his promotions and he was told Shelby was going to give him a call. That call has yet to happen. As a 17-5-0 champion of two different promotions, many had tabbed Gravely as UFC ready, but the Virginia native can’t let frustrations get to him.

“People told me he was calling around asking about me, but I haven’t heard anything personally. I don’t know what to think about it, maybe he is waiting for a specific event but I’m not sure.”

Even Gravely, who has been very open about the idea that the UFC will eventually call, even sometimes wonder what more he has to do. Who really can blame the CES bantamweight champion, hearing rumors of Shelby speaking to promotions and members of his team, only to have it manifest to nothing as of now.

“I can’t lie, it is a little frustrating, makes you wonder, ‘what do I need to do?’ I just sit back and relax and remind myself it’ll come, whether it is now or next month, whenever. I just keep myself ready for the call. Whenever the time does come I’m going to be ready. When they do sign me, I am there to stay. I’m not getting spit out.”

It really says an immense amount about the personality and mindset that Gravely holds that really puts him ahead of the curb when it comes to other prospects. Many may take it to heart to be so close to a possible signing and let it get in the way of their training camp or emotions, not Gravely. Instead, it continues to ignite a fire inside him to prove himself to the UFC. To prove he not only belongs, but is ready to stay. What better place to continue his dominant run than on the biggest CES card to date?

“This card is big time. Before I was pro I’d watch CES. I watched [Matt] Bessette all the time, watched Eric Spicely, loved those guys so it is awesome to be on fight cards with them now. It is a big card and to be on Fight Pass, I hope this is the one.”

The opponent opposite Gravely is Darren Mima (10-7-0). For those not familiar with Mima, the record doesn’t jump off the page, but Mima is a dangerous foe. The 35-year-old New Yorker is willing to go all five rounds and do whatever damage it takes to wrap that belt around his waist, Gravely feels prepared as ever.

“I’m not going to be denied. I train for opponents knowing people pull out, knowing things change. My camps are more built around improving every skill set I have. This guy is super tough. Records are pointless numbers at the end of the day. It is two talented guys trying to best each other and I’m prepared for anyone.”

Gravely has made it known the UFC is his ultimate goal, there is no secret to that, but many fighters (including CES lightweight champion Nate Andrews) may get frustrated after a while of limited recognition and choose a different promotion. With ONE and Rizin making splashes in free agency, and Bellator always pulling up top talent, would Gravely ever look into other promotions if the UFC continues to snub the talented prospect?

“Honestly, it’s UFC or bust for me. I didn’t get into fighting for the money, if that was the case, I’d sign to one of these other promotions. I fight because I fell in love and set goals to be in the UFC. This is about fulfilling a promise I made to myself as a child and to my dad, it is UFC or bust.”

Gravely didn’t have much to say when asked for a prediction for his upcoming fight, he continuously lets his fight results do the talking for him.

“I’m going to perform to my best. So if I perform at my best, it’ll be a finish whether it’s in the first round or fifth. I’m going to work as hard as I can, and if I do that, I will get a finish.”

Catch bantamweight champion Tony Gravely defend his belt as he takes on Darren Mima at CES 55 on March 29 in Connecticut.