TJ Grant has been a force during his entire 10-fight UFC tenure.
He’s taken fighters like Dong Hyun Kim, Ricardo Almeida, and Johny Hendricks to the wire. But in the UFC, going to the wire isn’t enough. If you go to the wire, you still need to notch a W.
That’s why Grant, competitive as a welterweight, made the drop to 155 pounds about a year and a half ago. He hasn’t looked back since.
Instead of being competitive, he’s dominating. His record now sits at 20-5 overall and 7-3 in the Octagon.
Grant’s latest victim was Matt Wiman at Saturday night’s UFC on Fox 6, a fighter that, like Grant, was starting to rise up the ranks.
Grant blasted Wiman, knocking him out with a combination of elbows and punches just before the end of the opening round.
The victory was the Canadian’s fourth consecutive at lightweight, not yet putting him in a position to vie for Benson Henderson’s belt, but definitely marking him for bouts with other contenders that are nearing a title shot.
“I'm gonna leave it up to the UFC. I'm just looking to take the next step,” remarked Grant after the fight.
“Top 10, that's where I want to be. I wanna keep moving closer and closer. I'm realistic; I know there's a lot of tough guys out there. One guy that I think would be really exciting (for me) is Jim Miller. Ultimately, that's up to the UFC.”
Miller would seem a logical next step for Grant. Miller had a seven-fight streak derailed by Henderson in late 2011, which touched off a four-fight stretch that left him alternating between wins and losses.
But with his recent victory over Joe Lauzon, Miller is still among the elite in the lightweight class, and a victory over him would be a huge next step for Grant’s championship aspirations.
“Going along early in my career, it was quiet, flying under the radar,” Grant recounted. “I built up a lot of experience in the UFC. I've had 10 fights and I'm fortunate for that.
“Right now, I feel like I'm putting it all together and I'm making a statement.”
His boss tends to agree.
Although UFC president Dana White wouldn’t yet commit to Grant’s next opponent – something he’s become rather averse to on fight nights – he agrees that it’s time for the level of competition to match the level of Grant’s impressive run.
“This breaks that kid into the Top 10 and he's got big fights ahead of him now.”