Wednesday night, UFC lightweight fighter, TJ Grant, spoke with BJPenn.com Radio in the midst of his training for a May 25 fight against former title-contender, Gray Maynard. For Grant (20-5), this will be his fifth fight at 155 lbs, a weight-class in which he has found enormous success. He is 4-0 at lightweight, with one submission, two unanimous decisions and most recently, an impressive KO over Matt Wiman on the UFC on Fox 6 card.
About that fight, Grant said, “That fight had the makings of three rounds of a grueling fight, whether it be a slug fest or a battle on the ground, scrambling. I know Matt, he didn’t get to show what he’s all about that night, I know that. You can say that I fought a great fight. I did my job, and sometimes when you do that, he didn’t get to show [it]… You know, he’s had a ton of fights, a ton of battles, and I knew that was where his strong point was: getting it in to mix it up. I took the more technical approach. I just tried to be devastating and be elusive at the same time, frustrate him a bit. It all worked out. I could sit here a bit and say that’s exactly what we hoped for- it really was- but how often does that happen?”
That fight last January only further legitimized TJ Grant’s steady climb amidst the 155 lbs. rankings. For him, the drop in weight has proved to be a huge benefit, allowing him to showcase his skills more comfortably.
“When I was fighting at 170,” said Grant about his drop to lightweight, “every single time that I fought, [I would] get on the scale, and I’d be thinking, ‘Man, this guy’s going to be 190 tomorrow.’ I was chubby, I was like 182 sometimes when I fought, sometimes less than 180.”
The realization he needed to change came with his last fight, and loss, at 170 lbs. against Brazilian jiu jitsu phenom, Ricardo Almeida. Grant described him being “so technically good, it was like he negated my technique because he was so big… I was glad I made the switch. They’re so densely muscled at 170. You know, at 55, I feel like I can get into scrambles. If a guy takes me down it’s not the end of the world. That was kind of my Achilles’ heel early on, guys just taking me down and being on top of me. When you’re giving up 15-20 pounds of solid muscle in a fight, it’s tough to overcome that. Especially when you’re fighting at the highest level. I wouldn’t even be open to going up or down again, I’m staying at 155. It’s my home for sure.”
Of course, there are fighters who have made a habit of fighting at in multiple weight-classes. BJ Penn and Randy Couture are two fighters who each held belts in two weight-classes. Current UFC middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king, Anderson Silva, has kept his unbeaten record in the UFC while continuing to jump up to 205 lbs. for fights. For Grant, however, that extra weight is something not easily overcome. Citing BJ Penn’s two recent losses at the tail-end of his move up to welterweight from lightweight, Grant said, “I don’t think that BJ should have ever left 155; but he went up, and he did well at 170, and he won titles, you know, he accomplished a lot. I feel like the sport has just evolved, you’re fighting guys that not only are getting technically better, but they’re finding ways within the rules to compete and win- you know, using the cage, using their size, using the time limits, I’m not knocking that, it’s a sport and that’s the way it’s going to be- I feel like there’s weight-classes for a reason. Props to him, he went up there and fought Rory [McDonald], he fought all these great fighters and done well, but I really feel like BJ Penn could be a force still at 155. You know, that’s just what I think.”
Any discussion of weight-classes and size-advantage in MMA inevitably turns to the hot topic of performance enhancing drugs that has been making headlines for quite some time. In recent years, MMA has seen many of its fighters turning to Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) as a means to elevate their testosterone levels to ‘normal.’ Allegations have been made about the causes of the fighters’ otherwise lowered levels, but the athletic commissions continue to allow TRT as a common practice. All the more attention has turned to the commissions’ continued disallowance of marijuana for fighters, a drug which very few people would label as performance enhancing.
On these issues, TJ Grant spoke honestly, saying, “All I know is with my personal experience just training. There’s not enough days in the week. If you want to train to be a mixed martial artist, you got to cover all the bases. There’s so much to learn, to be a good grappler, to be a good striker, to be a well-conditioned athlete. There’s really just not enough time, you’re body just can’t recover in order to really [drive]. That’s why I feel I train as much as I can all year around, because your body can get burnt out really easy. I think it’s unfair if people do steroids, that’s one thing I’m completely against 100%; TRT, you know, I don’t think I’d ever even think about taking it. To me it’s not fair, you know what I mean, especially guys that have been tested in the past and [who] failed drug tests. If they say that can cause your body to stop producing the same amount of testosterone, that’s kind of the repercussions you almost deserve for using in the past. That’s the way I feel about it…
“As far as the pot, I don’t care if people smoke weed. I’m from Canada, and it’s pretty liberal up here, people smoke and it’s not that big a deal. It doesn’t really help you, I just wonder what people’s logic is. Why do you test positive for something that is banned? Why don’t you just not smoke it for like four weeks, or whatever you got to do? How do you get caught? How do you get caught two or three times? Like Matt Riddle got caught multiple times. He’s had his best performances [stripped], he’s got two of his last three fights overturned. You got to use your head a little bit… Don’t get caught. It’s weed, man, smoke it and then stop smoking it before your fight. Then you’re good. Some people, they test to the point where they must have smoked it the day before. I guess some people have anxiety and stuff and smoke it, I guess that’s what they got to do, but I don’t know. It’s not for me. I would never smoke the stuff anyway, I just can’t function on it. Say no to drugs.”
Follow TJ Grant on Twitter as he continues to get ready to face Gray Maynard on May 25 at UFC 160.
Be sure to check out the second half of his interview where he talks about his upcoming fight with Gray Maynard, his own background with jiu jitsu and more! You can hear his full interview with BJPenn.com Radio here.Tags: "bj Penn", Anderson Silva, BJPenn.Com Radio, BJPennDotCom Radio, Gray Maynard, matt wiman, mma, MMA NEWS, PED, PEDs, performance enhancing drugs, randy couture, ricardo almeida, rory mcdonald, Testosterone Replacement Therapy, TJ Grant, TRT, ufc, UFC 160, ufc news, UFC on FOX