In my last interview, I introduced one of Colorado’s premiere gyms, namely the Defense Institute. Today, I am privileged to introduce one of their fighters who is fighting at the Kickdown 94 in Denver, CO July 16. The young man’s name is Jon Nelson-Griffith, and I believe you will agree with me that this guy bodes well not only for the future of fighting, but for the future of our country. For the sake of honesty and full disclosure, I should also probably tell you that he is my son.
Craig Nelson: Ok pal, let’s do this. Start by giving me some background, who are you, how old, training, like that…
Jon Nelson-Griffith: My name is Jon Nelson-Griffith, I’m 18 and have been training for roughly 8 years in a variety of Martial Arts ranging from Koi Kan Karate to a more modern, all-encompassing system known as Bushido Seshin Jitsu which is the basis for all my Mixed Martial Arts training. Recently I have started a very demanding martial art that’s thousands of years old, wrestling. What a tough sport and Martial Art; it’s very demanding and as any wrestler will tell you it can make or break your spirit.
CN: How did you get started in Martial Arts, and how did that transition to MMA?
J N-G: This may sound silly, but as far back as I can remember I have gravitated towards fighting, and even as a young boy I saw myself as someday being a great warrior riding on horseback through the battlefield. All my toys were weapons, and this laid down the foundation for all my future training. I consider my transition into MMA a natural progression from doing a more traditional karate style system, that started incorporating jiu jitsu and kickboxing, to a full-fledged MMA system that now hits every major component of MMA. As the gym I trained at grew and evolved, I grew and evolved with it.
CN: Doesn’t sound silly at all. Kind of inspiring, actually! What gyms have you trained at?
J N-G: My home gym where I got started in the Martial Arts and where I do the majority of my training is The Defense Institute here in Colorado Springs, but I have been fortunate enough to train (and be humbled, I might add) at a variety of gyms like The Fight Factory here in the Springs, and Greg Jackson’s down in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Also I might add that I consider my high school wrestling room as a gym/dojo and a place of honor.
CN: So, tell us about your fight experience…
J N-G: Officially my Mixed Martial Arts record is 1-0…..and thats it! (lol) The beautiful thing about this sport is that every day in training is filled with victory and loss and if you are training the right way every day, you should be getting beat by somebody who is better than you at something. It forces “growth”.
CN: Amen to that, something my Dad taught me when I was wrestling. What’s the most important thing you learned at each gym you’ve trained at?
J N-G: I have received enough lessons to spend the rest of my life interpreting. I can honestly say that each gym is different; they have different environments and have different goals and aspirations. From The Fight Factory, I learned how to let go of my pre-conceived ideas of a fighter, not to size them up, because 99% of the time this will get you hurt. A fighter’s job is to fight, not ponder how another fighter looks better or seems “cooler”. From Greg Jackson’s I learned the value of strategy, and on a DAILY basis was reminded of where I fit in the overall scheme of things. High School Wrestling showed me in a very brutal way how to accept defeat with honor, and how to bounce back from your losses. And finally, The Defense Institute has shaped my entire life. I have put more blood, sweat, and tears into that gym than any other. Sensei Eric Lalone has inspired me and shown me what it truly means to be a fighter, and how to live the Martial Lifestyle with integrity.
CN: Very cool, and valuable lessons, all. Sounds like you have been taking notes, so to speak. (lol)
J N-G: I take my training very seriously, and these lessons are etched on my heart. I hope to honor them by being a good fighter and a good man.
CN: It sounds like you are well on your way to both. I hear you have some even bigger challenges on your plate in the near future. Tell us about that…
J N-G: This Saturday at the Red Lion Inn in Denver, I will be facing a young man named Quinton Dooley at Kickdown 94. We are both debut fighters here in Colorado. He is a bit older than me, and since I have limted information I am assuming he is a young, capable fighter, dangerous in all areas, who is coming prepared and in-shape, ready to fight.
CN: A wise plan, to be sure. And after that, win or lose, the biggest challenge of all….
J N-G: August 17th I ship off for Navy Basic Training. My life-long dream has been to become a SEAL Operator, and I have qualified for the program. All my Martial Training and the past chapter of my life have been spent preparing for that challenge.
CN: Well, that is certainly a much more difficult test than any MMA fight, and we wish you well in what may be the toughest challenge on the planet. If you had to name one defining characteristic of Jon, one philosophy that you live by, what would it be?
J N-G: Thank you, and one characteristic?…..I would have to say that I’m a wildman, being wild and giving myself the freedom to do what makes me happy, to make mistakes, to love unconditionally and be who I am. That, to me, is the essence of life. The greatest form of discipline is self- discipline, and I know my code, I will take it to the grave. All of history’s great men were rebels; they looked at what was “normal” and said “I can do this better”. That’s what every man should strive for.
CN: Nice. Who’s your favorite superhero, and why?
J N-G: From comic books: Wolverine, because he is a rogue animalistic character who has a dark past. From non-fiction literature: Miyamoto Musashi, they call him the Sword Saint of Japan. He was a Samurai who wandered from town to town, living off of the land, dueling other warriors to the death. He was said to have killed over sixty men, and was never defeated. He was ungroomed, filthy, scarred, and blind in one eye, but he lived the life of a pure warrior. I would also like to add that the servicemen and woman who are deployed worldwide are the real heroes and they have my utmost gratitude.
CN: Very well said, and they have my gratitude as well. Anybody you’d like to give a shout out to? Coaches, training partners, like that?
J N-G: I would like to say thank you to all of my training partners and teammates from Jackson’s, Fight Factory, Wasson Wrestling, and the Defense Institute for helping me on this journey in life; to my loyal friends who have kept me from giving up when life beat me down; and my family for their love and support, I am a product of everyone’s wisdom and patience.
CN: Fantastic, Jon, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of you, of all that you have accomplished, and all that you will accomplish. Any last thoughts to share with us?
J N-G: I would just like to say thanks again and Saturday night, win or lose, I will be putting it all out there and I will be leaving with my head held high.
CN: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today! Best of luck Saturday, and with all your future endeavors!
J N-G: Thank You. Have a good day.
Photo courtesy of Jon Nelson-Griffith