Grant Dawson is chomping at the bit.
Originally booked to face Chas Skelly at UFC 246, Dawson and Skelly rebooked their bout for the end of February. Then, a few weeks before fight week arrived, Skelly pulled out, citing a training injury. Dawson, having been in camp since booking the original fight, now had an opponent he hadn’t been thinking about for the last four months, but that wasn’t going to stop him from taking this weekend’s fight against Darrick Minner.
“I’ve been in camp for 18 weeks; I’m hungry,” Dawson told UFC.com.
Keeping that same grind isn’t necessarily out of the realm of normalcy for Dawson, who says he trains every day whether he is booked for a fight or not. That said, keeping that same focus over the course of four-plus months on the same individual can have its taxing moments.
“The only difference is the intensity behind it,” he said. “The intensity of, ‘I can’t give up this takedown because I’m fighting in x amount of weeks, and I cannot give up this takedown.’ The intensity changes, and that’s what makes it rough. And also, you’re bringing your food down. You’re drinking only water. It just makes it a lot harder.”
Most recently, Dawson took on TUF 27 winner and then-undefeated Michael Trizano in May. In the second round, Dawson sunk in a rear naked choke and cites that fight as the one that solidified his high confidence in himself.
Though it may come off as brash, Dawson’s self-assurance is unwavering because he hasn’t seen any reason not to believe in himself. When it comes to thinking about his opponent, he isn’t fazed by Minner’s record showing nearly 20 more fights than his own.
“He’s got more pro fights than I do, but I have more wrestling matches than he does,” he said. “I’ve got more jiu-jitsu matches than he does. I got more backyard fights than he does. Like, what really is experience? I’ve got more experience at the high level than he does.
“He’s got more experience losing,” Dawson continued. “That’s for sure, but other than that, how is that going to help him?”
While that sounds like a young fighter looking past a veteran who had to wait for his chance, Dawson is aware of the expectations around the situation.
“I actually think there’s a little bit more nerves behind fighting a guy who’s making his debut,” Dawson said. “I’m supposed to steamroll Darrick Minner. I’m supposed to run through him. I know he’s dangerous for two minutes, so don’t think that I’m not taking him seriously. I’m going to take him very seriously. It is up to me to show everybody why I’m going to be the favorite in this fight.”
It’s that type of measured self-belief, mixed with the obvious talent, that has people excited about what Dawson brings to the featherweight division.
His awareness that he not only has the talent and ability but also a responsibility to those expectations is what he looks to prove true on February 29, and he boiled down that responsibility quite promptly.
“I have to smash this guy,” Dawson said. “That’s the only thing that’s going through my brain. I have to smash this guy, especially this one. He’s making his debut. He’s trying to get into the UFC, and I’m really happy for him that he got signed, but it’s not going to be good against me. I have to smash this guy, and I have to show why I’m the favorite and how much of a level difference there is in this.”
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