Fit Plus Head Coach Scott MacLean: TJ Grant’s Potential at 155 “Hasn’t Been Realized Yet”
By Kelsey Mowatt
To say 2013 has been an up-and-down year for TJ Grant would be a massive understatement, as after being tapped for two title fights now, the punishing lightweight has been forced to withdraw from both. Of course, the year started out great for the Nova Scotia fighter, as after putting away Matt Wiman at UFC on FOX 6, Grant followed it up with a memorable stoppage win over Gray Maynard in May. The win secured Grant a title fight at UFC 164, but due to a serious concussion he suffered in training, the Fit Plus fighter has been forced to pass on fights with Benson Henderson and newly crowned champ Anthony Pettis.
Although Grant recorded highlight reel victories over Maynard and Wiman, the 29 year-old was already making noise beforehand, thanks to victories over Evan Dunham, Carlo Prater and Shane Roller. After losing by unanimous decision to Ricardo Almeida in December, 2010, Grant decided to drop down to lightweight for his next fight. He hasn’t lost since.
“He’s constantly involving,” said Grant’s Fit Plus coach Scott MacLean, who recently appeared on Full Contact Fighter Radio, before it was announced the lightweight would not to be ready to fight Pettis in December. “TJ’s not one of those guys you can watch, three, four fights in a row and see the exact same thing.”
“In each and every fight of his 25-ish fights, he’s improved, whether it was a win or whether it was a loss,” MacLean added. “His skills are getting better and better. We’re working on different things since he’s dropped to lightweight…we’ve been working on improving his speed and explosiveness. When we were at welterweight, we were constantly trying to make him a bigger athlete to be able to compare with some of those massive welterweights out there.”
While some fighters are reluctant to drop down down because of the weight cut involved, or they’re adamant they can compete where they are, MacLean admits he wasn’t the deciding factor behind Grant’s move.
“If anything, I probably held him back a little too long at welterweight,” the veteran coach noted. “The decision to move down to lightweight was an extremely smart one, and it was one I didn’t even make. I’m happy that he’s made it. It was the smart decision given his five win and the calibre of people he’s starting to beat and how he’s beating them. It was a great career move for him and his future at 155; his potential hasn’t been realized yet.”
Another intriguing storyline to Grant’s run at lightweight has been the striking skills he’s showcased. While Grant has long been respected as a well rounded fighter, a quick glance at his record reveals he secured numerous submission wins earlier in his career.
“We’ve trained everything from day one,” said MacLean, while discussing whether Grant’s worked more extensively on his stand-up in recent years. “He just happened to be, in his earlier fights, at the more regional level the level of grappling hasn’t been nearly as high. So he was able to capitalize early with just grappling. He’s always been decent on the feet but just the match-up, a lot of his match-ups in the UFC were against grapplers. He didn’t necessarily get to showcase those skills.”
“I had mentioned I’d like to see him fight some more well rounded guys and strikers, because there was more excitement to come out of them. As soon as the right match-ups were put in front of him, those skills that he already had been working on, actually started to showcase.”
Since Grant is not ready to return to action in 2013, Josh Thomson has been booked to fight Anthony Pettis at UFC on FOX 9, which will take place on December 14th.