Grant to Debut against Chonan at UFC 97

When most fighters learn they have finally received a coveted UFC invitation, their emotions can run the gamut, from incredulousness to joy. However, when Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, native T.J. Grant learned he had an offer to fight at UFC 97 on April 18 in Montreal, he tried to go back to sleep.

Grant (13-2) is currently half a world away, training his muay Thai with teammate Ryan Jimmo at the famed Kaewsamrit Gym in Thailand, and when his manager/trainer, Scott MacLean, gave him the big news, he did not really believe it.

“When I first got the offer, it was 2 a.m., and my manager told me I was fighting Ryo Chonan in the UFC,” Grant told Sherdog.com in an exclusive interview. “And I was like, yeah, sure, and tried to go back to bed.”

Although Chonan (15-9) has been offered, the contract has not yet been signed.

However, once MacLean convinced him he had a four-fight contract with the world’s most popular mixed martial arts organization, Grant knew all the hard work he put in since he started fighting nearly three years ago had paid off. Making his debut in his home country is just icing on the cake.

“Getting an opportunity to be making my UFC debut in my home country is like a dream come true,” he said. “I have fought in the Bell Centre three times before, and the fans in Montreal have always been great. It’s going to be nice to have some home-field advantage in this one.”

In Chonan, Grant will face an extremely skilled and experienced fighter. He is, after all, one of only three men to have ever beaten UFC middleweight juggernaut Anderson Silva -- excluding Silva’s disqualification loss to Yushin Okami. However, Grant sees it as an opportunity for him to showcase his skills to the world.

“I’ve seen Chonan fight a few times in the past,” he said. “He is a great fighter with very few weaknesses in his game who has much experience and has fought the who’s who of MMA and has some very impressive wins. Fighting him is going to bring out the best in me, and I can’t wait.”

Fighting in the UFC for the first time can be extremely daunting for anyone. However, Grant has defeated two UFC veterans -- Chad Reiner and Forrest Petz -- in his last three outings, so he should have plenty of confidence going in to his April 18 bout with Chonan. Although he dares not look past this fight, he certainly has an eye on his future.

“Once I get there, the plan is to fight my heart out and put on great fights for the fans,” Grant said. “There is so much talent there, and I want to see how I match up with the best.”
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