(Grantham, Adam Singer, Forrest Griffin, Rory Singer.)
Hopefully this is not starting a trend for me. I promise – I hope – that I will not write any more obituaries masquerading as blogs.
On Saturday night I set out to my friends bar to watch the UFN show with my guys. I had just had dinner with my girls (wife and daughter) and I was planning on having a great weekend: two MMA events, Fathers Day, time with friends. What could be better? On my way downtown I received a call that cast a dark cloud over the weekend, and over the near future. One of my guys called and asked if I knew John Grantham. I said of course I do, he is one of my oldest friends.
“I just heard that he was found dead.”
I pulled my car over, told my guy thank you for the info, and started making frantic phone calls. No way was my big, tough, 33 year old friend dead. Ten minutes later and it was confirmed. John had been found dead in his apartment Saturday evening. No one is sure how long he had been dead or how he died. All I knew was that my long time friend was dead, and his son Jake would never see his father again.
Now don’t bother looking up John on Sherdog. His contributions to MMA came in much more subtle ways. John always claimed he was the only guy to corner a fighter in both a K1 championship fight and a UFC championship fight. Who was I to argue? John played defensive tackle at Georgia Tech. He transitioned to Thai boxing and law enforcement after graduation. He had an ill fated tryout with one of the upstart pro football leagues about four years ago. At one time John was a very highly ranked amateur Thai boxer and promising pro. He lost a close decision in a fight and never did it again. He said he did not like the pressure.
Me, my brother, John and Scott Hicks opened our first gym together about 10 years ago. This was the first version of The HardCore Gym (and Plachalarm Muay Thai). John was a huge, muscular and intimidating gentleman. The first time we sparred, he went light and I bloodied his nose because I was so afraid of him. John rarely had an aggressive bone in his body, unless he was drunk. John, Rory, myself, Forrest and a large cast of others training hard and playing harder. This was one of the most exhilarating times in my life. Check out Forrest’s book, Got Fight, for some crazy stories by and about “Big John.”
One of the highlights of my life was the week we spent in Vegas when Forrest won The Ultimate Fighter Season 1. Rory, John and I bled a lot for that victory. The events that took place in our suite at The HardRock after the fight are sealed in a vault that will remain forever closed. John spent all night, every night for a week playing blackjack and drinking beer. We would meet for breakfast and then he went to sleep until we had dinner and he went “back to work.” He claimed he did not have any any water, just beer for a week. Every night he found a way to make friends with whatever motley crew of people he ran into. That’s how John was, you were going to like him or he was going to keep working at it until you did.
John had problems deep down in places only a few people knew about. I was one of those people. John and I shared many of the same afflictions. But where I was reserved and generally in control, John was larger than life and often let his demons get the better of him. He did things that we all knew were wrong, but it was just John being John. We loved him for it but knew that it would catch up to him one day. Last week the world caught up with John and his son Jake will remember this Fathers Day for all the wrong reasons.
RIP John Grantham. I love you.
Adam Singer is the owner of The HardCore Gym/American Top Team of Athens in Athens, Ga.