The last two CES bantamweight champions — Andre Soukhamthath and Andre Ewell — have signed with the UFC. Tony Gravely is hoping this trend continues when he meets Dinis Paiva for the vacant 135-pound crown in the main event of CES 53 on Nov. 2 in Lincoln, R.I., LIVE on AXS TV Fights.
Before that, he spoke with FightBookMMA.
Why do you think you’ve been so successful with the sport?
I think there are a lot of different reasons, the biggest being the people around me. Wrestling really helped. The mental toughness required to keep wrestling over time and find success has helped me tremendously. It’s that same toughness. I always thought of wrestling like fighting without throwing punches, so it’s a very easy transition if you can carry over that drive. My dad always watched motivational videos and listened to Jim Rohn and must have picked it up by osmosis. As a child, I didn’t catch any of it. I didn’t understand it at all. But, maybe if you hear it enough it’ll start to happen subliminally. i’ve got great coaches and they do what they can to help me out. They’re tremendous. There are a lot of reasons I’ve been successful at fighting.
How does Dinis Paiva stack up against the other toughest opponents you’ve fought?
I have fought a lot of tough opponents. He just seems like a tough guy. You can just tell with some people. I’m actually excited about that. I enjoy fighting tough people because I know it’s going to push me. I know he likes to stand and he’s a southpaw and doesn’t mind trading blows. That really excites me. I enjoy having an opponent who wants to stay in my face the whole time. I’m that type of person. To get two people who both want to go forward is fun. It’s like trying to see who is going to back off first. I enjoy that type of pressure.
What’s the most likely outcome of this fight?
I honestly don’t know. I’m comfortable wherever it goes. I’m confident in wherever it goes. I’m always training every aspect of my game, so wherever the opportunity presents itself, I’m willing to make it happen.
Does a win here put you in the UFC?
I think so. Seeing as though I was supposed to fight against Andre Soukhamthath for this title. It was last year, maybe. He got signed about a month before we were supposed to fight. I keep up with CES and all of the AXS TV fights, so I saw the last fight between Dinis and Andre Ewell, Andre won and he got signed about a week or two later. So, there’s definitely a chance. That belt holds a lot of weight with the UFC, so that’s the big ticket right there.