Deep in the featherweight division is one of the UFC’s best prospects, Grant Dawson. “KGD,” as he is called, is 15-1 as a professional. Since joining the UFC after his spectacular win on the Contender Series, Dawson has gone 3-0 in the UFC. He is one of the best signings on the Contender Series and looks to continue his rise in rankings.
Getting to Know Grant Dawson
Growing up, Dawson never saw himself fighting. Instead, he was an aspiring football player.
“I’ve been in sports my whole life. When I was a kid I thought football was going to be my path. I never got to play. I worked really hard to play football but I never got to play. So I switched to wrestling. I really took to wrestling. Then one day, one of my friends invited me over and asked if I wanted to watch Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans fight. I asked if that was the WWE stuff and he said, ‘No, it’s real.’ After I watched that fight, it was pretty much all I wanted to do.”
Outside of fighting, Grant Dawson is a person as well. He doesn’t spend 100% of his time training, no fighter does.
“I play video games and I hang out with my girlfriend who is also a fighter.” Dawson is seeing Elle Wagman, a 6-3 amateur fighter with dynamite in her hands.
As to the games he plays, Dawson sticks to the tried and true. “I play mostly Call of Duty and Halo. Those are my two main ones. I also like Watchdogs,” says Dawson. But the new Call of Duty: Warzone is something he hasn’t had a chance to dabble in just yet. “I haven’t played Warzone yet. I have it, I just have not gotten down to playing it yet.”
Dawson’s Featherweight Rise
Originally, Dawson was supposed to fight Chas Skelly at UFC Norfolk. Unfortunately, Skelly was forced to pull out due to injury. Regardless, Dawson knows how tough Skelly is and welcomes a challenge.
“Chas has his weapons that he’s good at. He’s got a really good guard and he’s got a really good wrestling system. We’re doing a lot of wrestling and defensive wrestling into offensive wrestling. Also a lot of D’arce defense and a lot of front choke defense. We’re basically getting ready to stop his offense and start my own. My gameplan pretty much stays the same every fight, you know, beat you up until you quit. Basically everything is stopping your plan and implementing mine.”
While the Skelly fight is one Dawson and his team like and would love the challenge, he says he will not wait around for Skelly.
“I respect Chas as a competitor. He’s a good guy and I really think he’s a good fighter. And that’s what I want, I want fighters. I want the guys that are going to give me challenges. On paper he’s supposed to be a better wrestler than me. But I’m going to put that to the test. I’m not afraid of the challenges. I’m not shying away from the good wrestlers because I’m a wrestler. I want to see who is better. I definitely think that down the line we will fight each other, however I’m not waiting for him. I think he just had bicep or pectoral surgery. I think his pec muscle came off of his chest. He’s going to be out for a while. I’m not waiting around. I’m trying to get ranked by the end of the year. I’m trying to get closer to that belt. The end goal is always the belt, names are irrelevant.”
Grant Dawson has been truly tested in the UFC. His three combatants have been insanely experienced. With a combined record of 54-16, with a win over Mike Trizano, a TUF winner as well, Dawson is a friend of the fire. He credits his team and coaches for such a great job in preparation each fight.
“I think it’s a combination of great teammates, coaching and just hard work, man. You know, eat your vegetables and that stuff. I really feel like James Krause has really put something together in our gym that you just don’t find anywhere else. I’ve seen a bunch of gyms. I’ve gone to other gyms and seen what they’re about. They have great guys and they have great coaches but there is not a lot of leadership. It’s kinda, ‘Hey you do what you want to do and we will be here if you need us.’ Whereas James is like, ‘I know how to win fights. We go this route. If you don’t like it, get out.’ He’s got such a great leadership quality to him. You want to do these things. You want to go on that extra mile run because he’s leading by example. I feel like a big part of my success has come from my coach, James Krause, my teammates and the work that I’ve put in.”
Learning From His Mistakes
Dawson’s lone blemish on his record came back in 2016. While he’s not out to make excuses, he and his team understand that the fight was not the right one for him. But that loss didn’t hold him down or derail his career.
“It really just showed me that I’m a 45er. I think I’m better than that guy, I absolutely think I’m better than that guy. I got a hold of his legs and I was trying to take him down. I kept thinking, ‘Man, this dude is big!’ He currently fights at 70 now. He’s not a small guy. I don’t think the shots he was hitting me with would have done as much damage have he had been a 45er. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I believe you can make the best out of everything that happens. I really looked at it and said, ‘What am I doing wrong here? Why did I loose this fight?’ It all came down to size issues. That’s when we decided to make the move down to 145 and we’ve been there ever since.”
Upon winning his contract on Contender Series, Dawson said it was a dream come true. He and Krause understood what UFC President Dana White was looking for and game planned accordingly.
“It was amazing. There was so much nerve going into the fight, you know. It’s not about winning anymore, it’s about performing. If you win and have a boring fight, Dana is not going to give you a contract. James told me, ‘Hey, you got to up your volume and you really got to smash this dude.’ And that’s what we did, we smashed. As I walked back to my corner, I saw Dana standing and clapping. I was like, ‘Man, that’s a good sign, I think we got it.’ Once they said, ‘Hey, Grant Dawson has made it to the UFC,’ it was like a weight was pulled off my chest and it was like, ‘We did it. This has all been worth it, everything since high school has been worth it to this point.’ It was a great feeling.”
What does the future hold?
As for what is next, Dawson already mentioned he’s not waiting around for Chas Skelly to fight. While he hopes the two fight one day, his plans are much bigger. He and his team are gunning for a much bigger fight, one that will put him closer to his ultimate goal.
“I’ll take whoever they put in front of me. But the fight we’re really campaigning for is Darren Elkins. I feel like Darren has only fought studs, he was on a seven fight win streak against The Who’s who of the division. He was coming off of a couple of losses but they’re all to excellent guys. I feel like a win over him can let me call out that next guy. I obviously want to fight Volkanovski now and get that belt. But I haven’t earned that yet. You have to earn that. It’s a process, you’ve got to play the game. A win over Darren pushes my name out there. They see I’m serious and get me a top 15 guy. And that’s what I’m looking for.”
Predicting UFC 249
UFC 249 is right around the corner, allegedly. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson are getting ready to throw down should all the logistics be sorted out. Grant Dawson also weighed in on the big fight and who he thought would emerge victorious.
“I think Khabib makes pretty easy work of him. I think in the first round, Tony is going to make it weird. But once Khabib gets that figured out I think Khabib is going to have pretty easy work of him. The fight I go back to is Kevin Lee. Lee took him down at will and passed his guard and mounted him. Mounted him. Lee was dropping big shots on him and he got tired and got sloppy. Still took him down, still got on top, still passed his guard then got caught in something stupid. Now replace Kevin Lee with something who doesn’t get tired, who is a much getter wrestler and who has much better ground and pound. I can’t see Ferguson winning this fight. Ferguson’s danger factor is his cardio and his jiu jitsu. I think Khabib’s cardio, strength and wrestling nullifies both of those.”
Grant Dawson will continue to climb the featherweight ladder. He is one of the best prospects in the division and one of the most fun to watch. Follow Grant on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to follow his fight journey. Thanks for reading!