By Chris Howie
April 17th, 2009
TJ Grant will bring a 13-2 record with 12 submission victories into the UFC Octagon this weekend when he makes his UFC debut at the Bell Centre in Montreal at UFC 97 against Ryo Chonan and for Grant, the debut is something he had hoped was coming sooner rather than later.
“I had a feeling it was coming.” says Grant. “We knew they were interested and they told us to be smart about what we were doing. At that point I didn't expect to be fighting at UFC 97 but to be fighting here with so many great Canadian fighters and on such a huge card is a pretty awesome feeling. I’m also pretty happy that I get to make my debut in Canada”
Grant, who lives and trains in Halifax, NS, Canada, stayed close to home for the training camp leading up to his debut and the 25 year old felt as though it couldn’t have gone better.
“I'm feeling pretty good going in. Training went really well. We had a few top US college wrestlers such as Ben Askren come in. He was my size and he is a purple belt in BJJ so we had some good sessions with him. I've been training everything separately so I can get as good as I can at every aspect of MMA because I think I’m going to need it in this fight. I don’t think I’m going to walk all over this guy although sometimes that sort of thing can happen.”
He will be the underdog going into this fight with Chonan, who is from Japan and spends time training at Team Quest in Temecula, CA, but confidence is key going for any fighter going into the UFC and Grant is no exception.
“I’m happy I got a tough fight for my first fight. He's a warrior and I think he will help bring me to another level. He's a tough guy.” Grant says of Chonan. “I think it will be a good fight and I need to be ready in all aspects. I feel confident and feel I can control the fight wherever it goes. I feel my grappling will be better than his. He has good submissions and will be tough to catch but I feel good going in. I want him to fight my fight and not the other way around.”
With a four fight deal signed with MMA’s top promotion, Grant understands that just “looking good” won’t get him far and winning is key to sticking around and fighting the best in the world.
“It is a four fight deal but they can always cut me if my performance is bad. This has been my key and what I have been working for. I plan on making the best of it. People tell me that even if I lose as long as I look good the UFC will bring me back but I just don't want to look good. I want my hand raised because my goal is to win every fight I'm in.”
Grant will be no stranger to the Bell Centre when he makes his debut Saturday night as he has had the chance to fight in the building three times previously for the TKO promotion. Because of that, Grant feels that the jitters of being on a big time stage such as that of the UFC won’t be as difficult as other fighters may have had when they made their debuts.
One of Canada’s best kept MMA secrets, Grant know things will likely change for him following his debut but for now things have stayed mostly the same.
“Things haven’t changed too much but we will see April 18th after UFC 97. I think that’s when things will change. I've had to focus on this fight. I always have had support from my hometown and now I’m looking forward to getting my name out there. On April 18th you can expect my best performance to date.”