Now on a seven-fight win streak, Contender Series winner Tony Gravely wants to make his UFC debut on the east coast later this year, preferably at UFC DC.
Las Vegas, NV — CES MMA bantamweight champion Tony Gravely walked into the Contender Series a title holder. He walked out with a UFC contract, perhaps the biggest prize in his career to date. It’s a goal he’s had in mind since he was seven years old, he told reporters including Cageside Press following the fight.
“Honestly, my mind is just so blown, I don’t think it’s hit me yet. It’s been a long journey,” he explained Tuesday at the UFC Apex. “It’s been one of those things where, ever since I was a child, me and my dad would watch UFC. I was probably six or seven years old, and the sport has grown a lot since then, that was right when it first came out.”
Other sports, a hundred years or more into their development, have had generations of kids idolize athletes, and follow in their footsteps. In the relatively young sport of MMA, that has only recently become reality.
“Just to watch that, and then to now be a part of that— obviously I wasn’t just watching it and jumping to it, it was a long journey, it was wins, losses, a lot of hard work,” Gravely continued. “I’ve been competing in combat sports my entire life. Taekwondo, wrestling, once I started fight obviously, then jiu-jitso, all the other [combat] sports.”
Gravely reiterated that the win “hasn’t hit me yet. I’ll probably wake up in the middle of the night, probably start crying and just be like completely, I don’t know, all over the place.”
18-5, 23 fights into his pro career prior to Tuesday, Gravely isn’t your typical prospect. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn there were times he doubted whether he’d ever make it to the big show. “That part happened when there was a point where I had lost three of my last four fights,” Gravely admitted. “This was like a while ago, well it wasn’t that long ago, I fight so often that it happened pretty quick.”
“At that point it was like, I’ll have to get a job again, start working as a construction project manager again,” he continued. “And my wife wouldn’t let me do that, my family wouldn’t let me do that, my coaches wouldn’t let me do that. I wouldn’t let me do it, but they encouraged me to keep fighting.”
He’d then go on a six-fight win streak, with his win over Ray Rodriguez on the Contender Series making it seven.
“Once I hit this streak, I was like ‘there’s no way I’m not going to be in the UFC,'” recalled Gravely. “I was determined, regardless one way or the other, whether it be a last-minute call two days out from a fight, or Contender Series, it didn’t matter to me. I was determined to make it a reality, not just for me, but for everybody that supports me and watches me, family, friends, teammates, coaches, everybody from where I live, I did it for all of us.”
Looking ahead to his debut, Gravely wants to stick around the east. “There’s a couple different [cards]. I like, they’re going to be in Boston in October, I’m on the east coast, I fought a lot of fights in the north east, so I have a pretty good support system up there. Madison Square Garden would be great, I fought in New York a couple times. But D.C. would obviously be the closest to where I live.” Washington, headlined by Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris, has the most appeal. That means his supporters could be on hand.
As for Tuesday’s opponent Ray Rodriguez, Gravely was up against some stiff competition. To prepare, “I trained with some of the best wrestlers in the country, some in the world,” said Gravely.
That included working at Virginia Tech at least four days a week. “I’m training against guys that are really good wrestlers, better wrestlers than me. Wrestling’s all about control, controlling your opponent, so it’s just another day. I usually do that for two hours, so to do it for fifteen minutes is not as bad.”
Watch the full post-fight press scrum with Tony Gravely from Dana White’s Contender Series Season 3, Week 8 above!