Saturday, March 3, 2007

Putting a Dent in Ultimate competition

By Tom Valentino

Area native and owner of mixed martial arts academy in Mentor will battle in UFC event tonight in Columbus

Just five days before Jason "Dynamite" Dent steps into an Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon in Columbus for an undercard bout at UFC's 68th pay-per-view event, Jason Dent, local business owner, is surveying the expansion of his training academy in Mentor.

Dent has arguably the biggest match of his career in less than a week, but just before he leaves for Columbus, he has some work to do.

A $9,000, hexagon-shaped, professional mixed martial arts cage was delivered earlier in the day, and a large hole was made in one of his gym's cinder-block walls as part of an expansion that will increase the facility's layout from 3,000 square feet to 5,000.

Not only is the 26-year-old Dent a 5-foot-9, 155-pound mixed martial arts fighter, he's also the owner and head instructor of GriffonRawl Thai Boxing & MMA Academy, which has more than 150 students. And on the day before he leaves for Columbus to begin the final preparations for his UFC bout with Gleison Tibau, Dent is tying up some loose ends with his academy's expansion.

"Running an academy is not easy," said Dent, a 1999 graduate of Ledgemont High School. "Everybody walks in, and they don't realize how hard I'm in here working, paying the bills, advertising, getting the place running and looking as good as it does, getting the equipment we need. But when a big fight comes up, I've got enough of my guys to step up and help me run the place."

For the rest of the week, GriffonRawl will be in the hands of Dent's staff. He has work to do getting ready for his second shot in the UFC spotlight. Breaking into primetime.

Dent's foray into martial arts began in Madison, where he trained in San Chi Ryu Karate under long-time local instructor Richard Fike.

Dent branched out into muay thai kickboxing and eventually Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

After a four-year maintenance apprenticeship, Dent dove into the mixed martial arts world. It didn't take long for him to begin thinking about a career in MMA.

"I don't want to be arrogant, but I thought I was really good when I was working my rank up in karate," Dent said. "I was good at teaching, and I was really competitive. I never knew I'd be fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, though."

After years of fights, Dent received a call from UFC officials last September. Just days removed from a co-main event victory in Honolulu, Dent thought he was about to have some down time.

"I got home and I was like, 'Ah, I don't have to diet!' " Dent said. "I was sitting there eating a couple cookies, and I got the phone call. I had to throw the cookies away and go right back on a diet."

Within a couple weeks, Dent found himself in a UFC ring in Anaheim, Calif., facing Roger Huerta. Dent lost a unanimous decision ("Judges don't like me," Dent says with a laugh. "Every one of my 19 wins has come by knockout, submission or TKO. I finished all my opponents. Every time it has went to a decision, I lose."), but the night itself was a major victory.

The Dent-Huerta bout was named the pay-per-view's fight of the night, and Dent made $20,000 - money that was put into improving his Mentor academy - and he received a three-fight contract from UFC.

Second round

Fight No. 2 of that deal is tonight, and this time, Dent, who sports a 19-7 record in amateur and professional fights combined, said he is better prepared.

Dent called his first UFC fight a nerve-wracking experience, noting UFC legend Tito Ortiz nearby in the dressing room as he warmed up and lights and video screens in the arena when he emerged from behind the curtain.

This time around, Dent has had months to prepare. While his administrative workload has been heavy, Dent said he has scaled back on teaching, focusing more on training.

"It's easy to get fat when you're in teacher mode," he said. "You worry about getting everybody else in shape and worry about getting them ready for the fight. You don't take enough care of yourself training. I always step aside from teaching as much just to train a lot more."

Tonight's event will take place from a sold-out Nationwide Arena in Columbus, the first UFC pay-per-view to be held in Ohio.

Having the fight so close to home, Dent will have plenty of family, friends and students looking on when he steps into the octagon. That can be blessing in the form of inspiration, but also a curse, he said.

"I've got to come back to work," Dent said. "If I lose and get my (rear end) beat, I've got to teach classes in front of everybody with my black eyes." Long-term plans

In a perfect world, Dent said he'll get a knockout victory tonight and be able to take some time off before another UFC fight - time he would use to get back to overseeing his MMA academy. This latest round of expansion - the school began in Madison in 1997, moved to Mentor in 2000 and then to its latest location in Mentor last April - is progressing rapidly. Dent said the newest part of the facility - which primarily will be used by the academy's fight team - could be functional within weeks.

The GriffonRawl Academy offers boxing, muay thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and women's kickboxing aerobics/self-defense classes. Dent said down the road he'd like to add junior adult boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and youth programs.

But that's talk for six months, a year or even further down the road. For now, Dent has one focus: UFC 68 in Columbus. But regardless of the outcome tonight, Dent said he can walk into GriffonRawl Academy on Monday and run the school with his head held high.

"Just making it to the UFC is such an honor," Dent said. "Even worst-case scenario, I lose, I've made it to the UFC. I made it to the Olympics of our sport. I already had a fight of the night. I was able to show everybody I belong there."


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