The year 2018 could not have gone any better for Jett Grande.
After winning the Havoc FC lightweight title to close out 2017, Grande went on to add the XFFC lightweight strap to his collection and, most importantly, the under-21 welterweight gold medal in the IMMAF World Championships.
His incredible run has Grande entering 2019 with an unblemished 11-0 amateur MMA record, which is a number he’s incredibly happy about.
“At the end of the day, I don’t base everything off it, but it’s really nice to have a record like this,” said Grande in an interview.
“It shows you all the work you’ve put in, all the sacrifices you made, and the level you’re at. There’s not many people with an 11-0 record in the amateur scene, or even the pro scene, so it’s great to have.”
Four of Grande’s 11 wins came in November at the IMMAF World Championships in a run of four fights in five days, en route to the gold medal.
Grande, 20, said his journey to the gold medal was one of the most difficult things he’s ever done, on many levels.
“It was amazing, but it was also very challenging. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, possibly the most challenging,” said Grande.
“It’s not just one fight. You have four fights, you’re fighting back-to-back, and you have to make weight every day. It’s not an easy task, but it’s very rewarding and I’m glad I went. It definitely paid off in the end.”
And as if winning four fights in five days wasn’t hard enough, Grande did so against the best amateur fighters the world has to offer.
He said the level of competition was the toughest he’s ever faced in his career, making the victory even more rewarding.
“There’s definitely very good talent here, but over there it was an eye-opener because you really got the best of the best,” said Grande.
“The athletes are very respectful and extremely high-level. They’re probably a higher level than some of the pros you have here.”
When Grande entered the cage for his first bout at the World Championships, he already had a 7-0 record, plus two titles to his name. But that didn’t keep the nerves away.
Grande said his nerves and anxiety were high during the early stages of his first match, but he started to relax and find his groove as the fight went on and as he advanced in the tournament.
“The first fight I was super nervous and didn’t feel I fought to my full potential, said Grande.
“I got rid of a lot of nerves the further I went. Every fight I got less nervous and more comfortable.”
Grande will remain an amateur for 2019, beginning at the Canadian National Amateur Championships in April where he will look to qualify for Team Canada and another shot at the gold medal at the IMMAF World Championships in November. Grande said he will also be competing at the IMMAF Pan American Championships in May and the IMMAF European Championships in June.
Following the conclusion of the World Championships in November, Grande will make the jump to the professional ranks to begin 2020.
“My amateur career just helps me get those credentials. When I go pro, the more credentials I can get the more hype there will be behind me,” said Grande.
“I could be fighting anywhere from two to five fights each event, so at the end of the day, if I keep winning these fights, I could have a 20-something and zero amateur record.”
From The Beginning
As Grande’s primary coach, Gary Vig was with him every step of the way through his astounding 2018.
Vig said Grande was impressive in many areas throughout his run to the gold medal, but the one area that stood out most was his performance when faced with adversity.
“What always impresses me most is whenever there’s a gut-check, he really shows what his character is,” said Vig in an interview.
“The moment I’ll always remember is it was a minute and a half into the third round of the gold medal final. A lot of guys would’ve wilted after the second round he had. He couldn’t get the takedowns, the opponent was starting to land some stand-up, and starting to get loose. Jett comes out in the third and starts throwing bombs back and puts the guy back on his heels. Then, he hits a huge takedown 90 seconds into the third round. To me, that’s Jett.”
Vig has been working with Grande since he first came to Arashi Do at 14 years old.
He said Grande has always been the hardest working and most motivated athlete he’s worked with and is not surprised at what he’s accomplished so far in his young career.
“Jett’s a very special athlete,” said Vig.
“A lot of people can do well if they have ability or if they have the work ethic, but Jett’s got both. He has tons of physical potential, works really hard and does everything right.”
Prior to accompanying Grande to the IMMAF World Amateur Championships, Vig said he viewed amateur MMA as a good opportunity to get a few fights and gain experience before making the jump to professional, which seems to be the standard for the majority of Canadian MMA.
But after seeing what IMMAF offers and the athletes being groomed through their events, Vig said it’s a road all Canadian amateurs should be working towards.
“After this event, all I can think of is how many of my athletes would’ve benefitted from going through this process,” said Vig.
“If Canadian athletes and coaches don’t get on the bandwagon and start utilizing IMMAF and get up to the standard we’re seeing internationally, Canadian MMA is going to be redundant in 10 years. It’ll be irrelevant.”