Last week was a good one for Grant Dawson. Just days removed from an Aug. 15 win over Adrian Diaz that pushed his pro MMA record to 12-1 and earned him a UFC contract, the Missouri featherweight got to do something most never do.
He got to quit his old gig in order to start his dream job.
“It’s unreal,” Dawson said before leaving his job as a dishwasher in a nursing home. “And the thing about it is that 90 percent of the world, maybe more, don’t get to do that. And maybe they work a job that they enjoy, but I’m not doing that. I’m working a job that I absolutely, one hundred percent love in every sense of the word. It’s insane to me that I get to leave the job that I like to do the career that I love.”
There are few feelings better than that, and to be able to do it at the age of 23 makes it even better. But a lot of hard work went into this moment – seven years worth to be exact, as Dawson decided that fighting was his path at 15 years old. It was a decision that was surprisingly embraced by his parents.
“My parents supported me one hundred percent,” he said. “They just wanted me to do something. They didn’t care what I did as long as it’s legal and it was something other than sitting around the house. At first, I told them I wanted to be a football player and my dad loves football, so he was definitely about that. Then I got into wrestling and then MMA, and once they saw that I was serious about it and I trained hard and I had my first fight, they were all on board and they’ve done nothing but support me since.”
Dawson hasn’t stopped moving either. And even though finding fights as he got better and received more notoriety became an issue at times, the 145-pound prospect trusted in his manager, Joe Wooster, and kept putting in the hours at the gym.
“My manager finds me fights and I trust him completely,” Dawson said. “And I enjoy training, so whether I have a fight coming up or not, I’m in the gym and getting better. I like preparing for a specific person because I feel like it helps me visualize better, but if I’m just in the gym training, it’s still fun. So it didn’t really bother me.”
And now that he’s on the UFC roster, he will not have to chase fights anymore.
“Nobody’s scared of me, nobody’s worried about what this new kid on the block is gonna do,” he said. “They’re all gonna come in hungry like me and we’re gonna put on some great fights and I’m gonna run through them all.”
It’s a confident stance from Dawson, who should have that attitude, given his performance against Diaz and his daily work with a gang of top-notch fighters at the Glory MMA gym in Lee’s Summit. But ultimately, what it all comes down to for him is his belief that one day he won’t just be a UFC fighter, but a UFC champion.
“My goal isn’t to be in the UFC,” he said. “My goal is to be a world champion. When you set your standards that high, you have to improve. You have no choice. You have to get better every single day, you can’t make excuses, and you can’t say something is holding you back. For seven years, I’ve made no excuses, I’ve stuck to it, I’ve known that I’m going to be a world champion and I still know. This is just a step and I feel that I’m exactly where I need to be. They’re gonna give me a good matchup, I’m gonna make him look silly and we’re gonna go from there and keep racking up wins.”