David Grayson '04

April 25, 2011

davidgrayson.jpgDavid Grayson wakes up early. Sometimes early enough to beat the sun, the same sun that his imposing 310-pound figure might blot out if he stood near you. But that’s what it takes to make it to the top. Grayson is a Jiu-jitsu world champion, having won his title last November in Long Beach, Calif.

But Grayson isn’t heading to the gym. Not yet, anyway. No, he’s heading to Muskogee’s Taco Bueno, where he’s the general manager.

“Work comes first,” he said. “I wake up and start my day there.”

Tacos, enchiladas ... and ground-grappling? All part of a balanced day for this Oklahoma City-born title-winner.

Grayson went to high school in Moore and wrestled at both Labette Junior College in Parsons, Kan., and then at Bacone, where he was a two-time all-American. After college he dabbled in martial arts, but never took it seriously until the day three years ago when he walked into Craig Blacklock’s gym.

Blacklock, himself a veteran of more than 200 fights, runs World Class Fighting Systems in Tulsa. His gym specializes in Vale tudo style, which translates to “anything goes.” Safe to say it takes a special breed to compete in such a fighting style.

One day, Grayson saw that Blacklock’s gym also trained people in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

“I always knew that I wanted to try it,” Grayson said. “But I’d never really had the opportunity. He gave me that opportunity.”

From there, Grayson was a quick learner. He said his wrestling background gave him a nice base to start from, but his rapid improvement as a fighter learning a new discipline took a lot of work.

“I would mess around with it and stuff, but nothing serious,” he said. “And when I would mess around with it, I would get beat. A lot.

“There are just so many rules and regulations and techniques that wrestling didn’t prepare me for. I’d get caught in chokes that I didn’t know how to defend.”

But Grayson was a diamond in the rough, and once under Blacklock’s tutelage, he began to shine.
“He’s the man, once I started training with him, it was all uphill.”

The training is intense, as you might expect. First there’s 30 minutes to an hour of just cardio work. Most people would be willing to call it a night after just that, but Grayson still has hours of strength and conditioning work ahead, not to mention the actual training itself.

“The gym doesn’t cater to just me, there are a lot of different kinds of fighters there,” he said. “From 6 to 7 p.m. we train in Muay Thai fighting and sparring and stuff; Then from 7 to 8 p.m. we take the gloves off and do Jiu-jitsu.”

When Grayson is getting ready for competition, the training intensifies. They’ll do what’s called a “round-robin,” where he fights a fresh fighter every 30 seconds for minutes on end.

“Blacklock makes me get some boxing training in, too,” Grayson said. “I’m not a boxer at all, but he makes sure I prepare for it, in case I need it.”

In the three years that the duo have been together, Grayson’s lost just two fights. His last defeat was in 2008.

“He’s a real straight shooter, he’s all about discipline. He’s a huge reason why I’ve been able to do the things that I have, because he keeps on me.”

Grayson said that the gym and the attitude of those in it have contributed to his winning ways.

“There’s no ego with anyone involved, even though there could be,” he said. “Coach Blacklock could turn people away left and right if he wanted to, but everyone’s welcome here.

“He says that if you’ll make the commitment to show up, then you can train here. It’s the same with fighting, if you don’t train, you don’t compete.”

Last November, the pair traveled to Long Beach, Calif., for the NAGA World Championship. But not before he earned a sponsorship from Taco Bueno.

“They were nice enough to sponsor our trip there,” Grayson said. “It meant a lot to me because the fighting was so important to me, so I appreciated the sponsorship.”

And he paid them back by bringing home a belt. Grayson, who at 310 pounds fights in the Super Heavyweight division, found himself in a loaded tournament.

“It was just full with Brazilians who’ve trained in these styles their whole lives and with world-class UFC fighters,” he said.

 “We were all in different weight classes and things, but that just shows you the level of the tournament and the level of the competition. It was legit.

“The guy I beat in the championship had just gotten out of training with (current UFC Heavyweight Champion) Brock Lesnar.”

But when that tournament ended, it was back to Muskogee and back to the daily routine of early mornings at Taco Bueno and blood, sweat and tears-filled afternoons training.

And Grayson has his eyes on another prize. The 2016 Olympic games are going to be held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, where MMA (Mixed-Martial Arts) was born. According to Grayson, there’s a push to get Jiu-jitsu added to the events, and if it is, he’ll be there.

“If they add it, we’ll push for it and try to make it,” he said. “It would be an honor and it would be something that I would love to compete in. Competing for your country is something all athletes would love to do. But if not, I’m happy defending this title.”

-Article by Dylan Goforth, Muskogee Phoenix