After 10 years of study, Evan Dunham (10-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) is now a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Wellington “Megaton” Dias, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based fourth-degree black belt under Royler and Rolker Gracie, surprised the UFC lightweight with the belt late last month at an affiliate school in Eugene, Ore., where Dunham built his mixed-martial-arts career.
The lightweight up-and-comer said the belt is nice but that it’s not the end of the road in his evolution as a competitor.
“Just having the belt doesn’t make me any better,” Dunham told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) Monday. “So at the same time, it kind of humbles you because it makes you want to work harder to get better.”
Dunham met Dias in 2000 after he took a jiu-jitsu class at the University of Oregon. He competed in several jiu-jitsu competitions before making the transition to MMA in 2007.
“Dias doesn’t hand belts out by any means,” Dunham said. “He definitely makes you earn them through competition. It was a long road, but that saying goes (that) anything you get easy isn’t worth having. That’s how I look at it.”
In January, Dunham won a “Submission of the Night” bonus for his slick armbar win over “The Ultimate Fighter 8” winner Efrain Escudero at UFC Fight Night 20.
Students did not line up to beat Dunham with their belts when the black belt was awarded; the gauntlet of back-smacks if often done during belt ceremonies at other gyms.
“None of that frat stuff,” he laughed.
Next week, Dunham makes a permanent move to Las Vegas to begin formal camp for his next fight against Tyson Griffin (14-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) at UFC 115. He is still deciding where he will train.
“I don’t have that all figured out yet,” he said. “I’m going to be working with the guys in TapouT and Legion Jiu Jitsu to work on a few things.
“Tentatively, I’m thinking I might go over to Urijah Faber’s camp in Sacramento for six weeks before the fight, but nothing’s set in stone right now. I’m just going to be hopping a lot of gyms, which I think will be good for me because I’ll get lots of different looks.”
But it appears for now that Dunham will avoid Xtreme Couture – the gym where he and Griffin often trained together – during his preparation.
At this point, the fight’s strategy is only roughly sketched out.
“I have somewhat of a game plan, but we’re so familiar with each other that it’s one of those things where I have a gameplan for what I think he’s going to do, but he probably has a game plan for what he thinks I’m going to do,” Dunham said. “When the fight actually happens, things are probably going to change up quite a bit.
“It’s just one of those things where I have to get in really good shape and be ready to go and be ready to fight wherever the fight goes. Tyson’s really talented, and he knows my game, and I know his game, so it should be pretty interesting.”