Grant Dawson is one of the best fighters in the lightweight division right now. Sitting right at the number 15 spot in the division, he's only ranked beneath some of the best fighters and biggest names in the promotion. Fighters like Islam Makhachev, Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler — this is the talent that is above Dawson in the division.
Now, cracking the top 15 is a huge feat in and of itself, but this is not where Dawson plans on setting up camp for his career. ‘KGD' wants to go to the top, and he's well on his way to doing so. Having fought eight times in the UFC since a win on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series, Dawson is 7-0-1 with five finishes.
I was lucky enough to chat with Dawson earlier this year. We talked about the UFC, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and much more. Dawson was nice enough to have another call with me to talk about his upcoming bout against Damir Ismagulov. This is a bout between the currently ranked number 15 fighter and the 12th ranked Ismagulov. The action will go down on July 1st for UFC on ESPN 48.
Damir first lost way back in 2015. He then went on a tear, winning 19 fights in a row. However, his last fight saw him on the wrong end of a decision against the highly-touted Armen Tsarukyan. Let's jump into the interview and see what Grant Dawson had to say about things like his upcoming fight, his least favorite hair style, and more.
Grant Dawson Exclusive Interview
Dawson postponed our interview by a whole two-minutes because he had to shower. Unacceptable.
Just kidding, I'm on his time. We got the call going, but I had to ask what kind of shower-taker he is. The world needs to know.
Okay, so, I'm going to hit the ground running with this… Are you the type of person that, like, jams out in the shower or do you take silent showers?
“It depends… I don't jam, but if I'm not in a hurry, I definitely fight in the shower. 100%, I go through full on, like- I've probably spent an hour in the shower going through ‘I'm going to fight this guy and I'm going to beat him this way and then I'm going to fight this guy and then I'm going to be world champion and then everyone will love me'. I'm not really a sing in the shower type of guy, but I definitely shadow box, I definitely imagine myself fighting — that's a little niche about me.”
I'll take just a “yes” or “no” answer on this: Have there been a lot of Damir Ismagulov shower thoughts lately?
“Yes. I think about you in the shower, Damir.”
Now that we've got that out of the way.
Grant, how have you been, my man?
“I'm good, bro! I'm happy as can be. Finally got a fight lined up, finally got something going. I'm a happy man — married, ready to fight, in shape, I've got abs again, I'm ready to go. I'm a happy guy.”
I'm very happy to hear that! Like I said last time, you're one of my favorite fighters, and it's always a pleasure watching you do media work… I was watching, I believe it was after you won [your fight on] The Contender Series, you had an interview with Laura Sanko… it was brought up that in high school, you weren't the type of guy that was invited to a lot of parties. Correct?
“Correct, but that was by choice. Like, people knew that I wasn't a partier.”
I was going to invite you to my birthday party. I was going to send you, like, a formal invitation. But, your birthday is way too close to mine so I don't want the attention to veer off from me to you. You're the 20th of February, right?
I'm the 29th. It's too close for me. Can't do that. I figured I'd invite you to my UFC watch party on July 1st. You think you could make it?
“July 1st? For your UFC watch party? Probably not, I'm sorry. I'm busy that day.”
I'll let you know next time I'm having a party.
“Alright! I don't even remember what I'm doing that day…”
Let's Talk Fashion
Another thing I noticed in that Laura Sanko interview was that you were kind of growing the lettuce out back then… I like the hair, but what's the deciding factor to not grow it out?
“Haircuts here cost $50… Haircuts here are too expensive, man. I just shave my head because I like shorter hair… I bought a razor for $3 and it's already paid itself off, man. Maybe when I'm rich, maybe when I make that Dustin Poirier money[I'll grow it back out]… He's got good hair.”
So, maybe a bonus against Damir, you might do something with the hair? Maybe get a little perm action going?
“I was thinking about doing a mullet.”
“No, my wife would leave me if I did a mullet. We already had that conversation, it's: if you cheat on me and if you grow a mullet, I'm out.”
Onto The Fight Against Damir Ismagulov
With Damir Ismagulov, what was it like when you got the call for that? Was [he] someone you had in mind for awhile? Last time I talked to you, the names were Tony Ferguson, Jalin Turner, and Dan Hooker.
“Right. So, it was kind of — I got the call- my manager calls me, I'm like ‘Okay, about time. Finally got some fight news, What's up?' [my manager] says they want to do Damir, and I said ‘I'd rather not do Damir. I've trained with him before, I like Damir. But, if we're not getting anything else, I'll take it. So, we said yes to it… Maybe a week or so goes by and I get no information about a contract, no information about a confirmed date and my manager calls me and is like ‘Hey, Tony Ferguson is on the table, would we like that instead of of Damir?'. I was like ‘Absolutely! [Ferguson's a] way easier fight, way bigger name, 100% I want that fight. And, so, I was kind of like ‘Damir's out, Tony's in.' and then Tony kind of no-showed, no-called no-showed and wouldn't pick up the phone… They reached back out to me and were like ‘Hey, Tony's not going to happen, do you still want Damir?'. We said ‘yes', Damir said ‘yes'. He needs to fight just like I need to fight; I like the dude, but we got to get it on.”
Damir Ismagulov is a very complete fighter. His striking is fantastic and his grappling is incredible.
With this fight, is it the same game plan as always?
“Yeah man, if we're fighting Ryan Hall, the game plan's going to stay the same… I'm going to look to get the takedown and get your back until you show me I can't do that. Obviously I've got other weapons, I've got other tools, my striking is coming along so far with [American Top Team], my sparring is coming along so far with ATT. But, if you can't stop the takedown, there's no reason for me to show you anything else.”
When was the last time you trained with Damir?
“I trained one round with him in boxing gloves when he was getting ready to fight Arman. So, it's not like we're super close training partners, we've never drilled together. I think the dude has said, like, three words to me.”
What were they?
“I think he said ‘Thank you, Grant'.”
Not ‘I love you'?
“Yeah, no. Sorry… That would've been nice, though.”
That's a movie. I'd buy that movie.
“Did you ever watch Warrior?
I've never watched Warrior.
“Here Comes The Boom is my favorite MMA movie, Never Back Down is probably up there, too- the first one, and then Warrior is up there, too. In Warrior, it's like, two brothers fight at the very end and he's got, like, a rear naked choke in and he says ‘I love you!', it's so funny.”
What would a finish over Damir mean?
“Man, I think it propels me. It's one of those things where any type of win over Damir, even a split decision win over Damir, is good. It propels me forward. But, if we're talking about a dominant win and a rear-naked choke finish, kind of like how I've been doing lately, I think that puts me in the top ten. If I finish, I don't think this is going to be an ‘I'm 12, he's 15 now', I think it's going to be he stays at 12 and I'm bumped to 10 or 9… We're talking big money, we're talking big fights next.”
Is there anybody you'd prefer to see next?
“[Jalin Turner and Dan Hooker] are fighting the week after me. Obviously, Damir has my utmost attention, and I'm only considering him. However, if all things go according to plan on July 1st, I would like the winner of Hooker and Turner.”
Do you have a solid call out planned?
Other Fights In The Lightweight Division – Grant Dawson Chimes In
How do you see [Tony Ferguson vs Bobby Lee] going?
“I think Bobby will win. I think it'll be a pretty boring decision, actually. But, I think Bobby will stay on the outside, touch him up a bit, and win. I think Tony is done.”
The BMF title is on the line with Poirier vs Gaethje [II], how do you see that one going?
“I've got Dustin Poirier winning by , I'm going to say knockout but I could also see a unanimous decision. Gaethje looked really good in his last fight but man, I've trained with Dustin, I've worked with Dustin a bit, and that dude is good. Like, that man can box. That man can strike and he doesn't get tired, he doesn't slow down, he's rock solid upstairs, I just think he's going to get it done.”
Is there a preference between Dan Hooker and Jalin Turner?
“Hooker, because I think he's a bigger name that's an easier fight.”
Grant Dawson plays “Did Damir Ismagulov Say It, Or Did Erik Say It?”
Dawson and I discussed the requirements of being a BMF contender, the downfall of Glory MMA, and more fights. This will be available to see on the NYFights YouTube page shortly. Dawson and I ran through our time for the interview and I had to end things with a game I like to play. It's called “Did Damir saiy it, or did Erik say it?”, a game where I read a few quotes and Dawson has to guess whether it was his next opponent, Damir Ismagulov, or me that said it.
“This is my chance to prove what I can do to wrestlers when I'm 100%”. Who said that?
Correct. I did say that.
Okay, second one: Grant Dawson is good on the mic, great at fighting, he's got a good hairline and a soothing voice — he's got it all.”
It was me, but I wouldn't doubt that Damir said it at some point. I've got one more for you: “Grant Dawson is a great fighter, like, a really good fighter, but if he duels Erik in Yu-Gi-Oh, he'll be an even better first class passenger to the shadow realm.”
“That's got to be Damir, 100%.”
It was actually me that said the last line. Grant Dawson dueled me after this interview in beat me in about three turns. Not only an expert an Yu-Gi-Oh(you have to be an expert to beat me), Dawson is an incredible fighter that's gunning for top spots, big names, and hopefully even a championship. He's not too far off thus far into his career! Catch him on July 1st on the UFC on ESPN 48.