This Is HardCore: RIP John Grantham

This Is HardCore: RIP John Grantham


(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.


  1. That pic was the night Forrest won TUF 1 and one of the best weeks of my life. John and I shared a bed at the Sahara! We managed to get 5 of us in a room meant for 2. John probably made 50 new friends that week. He was always smiling and always glad to talk to anyone. I was always happy to see him and glad to get a big hug. I didn’t get to see him as much as I wanted, but I always felt a little happier inside when i did. I’ll miss you Big John.

  2. Thanks for writing this. I considered John one of my best friends and lived with him for 4 years while at GT. I remember him talking about his muay thai and BJJ training back in the mid 90’s. He was so happy when he earned his “shorts.” I remember when rick rufous broke his nose and he was so proud. We Went to UFC 10 together in Birmingham. John was a great coach and had a big heart. He will be missed. This loss is hitting me hard as we just spoke 10 days ago. He brought Jake down to my house for New Year’s Eve. Despite John’s vices, people liked him so much that they would put up with his “unique” lifestyle. I dreaded the phone call I received Saturday night and I am trying to put together a timeline and find out who saw John last on Wednesday night. He was sounding good lately, really up beat, the old grantham. People were drawn to Jon because he was a fun person to be around, you never knew what he would say or do next. There are so many things that I could write here. I’m glad some of our GT football brethren have left messages here for Jonny. I have alot of respect for a guy who walks on to GT as an undersized defensive linemen and eventually earns a starting spot and a scholarship as Jon did. I was looking forward to seeing him compete in an upcoming grappling tournament. I swear I was driving today thinking about Johnny and didn’t know whether to start laughing or crying. Someone else told me that Jon was the most unique person they had ever met and it is true, Jon marched to the beat of his own drummer more so than anyone i have ever known. Recently, Jon was considering a career move to being a collegiate strength coach. I have no doubt that he would have excelled in that arena. I don’t know what I will miss most about Jon, but I considered him a brother and someone I could always call up and talk with about anything. I love you buddy and I will sincerely miss you.

  3. John and I go back to high school. We both trained together in high school. Even at that time John had a good 60+ pounds on me. I would always dread having to hold the kicking pad for John because every time he would kick it, he would lift me off the ground. I also remember having to spar against him and always accidently popping him in the groin with a kick because I had trouble overcoming his long reach. I would apologize, we would laugh about, and then continue. John always enjoyed training and gave everything he did 110% effort. After graduating from high school our lives started to split but we always tried to keep in touch periodically. Despite how our lives changed, John always had a good soul and would give the shirt off his back to help a friend. I will always hear John’s voice echoing in my head saying “I love you like a brother”. John you will truly be missed and you touched more lives than you realized. I too love you like a brother.

  4. We trained last wednesday night & he said Keep your hands up D…Me, Kelly and him were chatting about stuff & He said it was his birthday in a monotone voice.. He gave a circle talk at the end of class about fighters making sure they didn’t book their own fights and upcoming NAGA stuff….and we left…thinking that next wednesday he would be telling me to keep my hands up 🙁

  5. John, I am going to miss you big guy. Teaching you jiu jitsu was lots of fun, what a chore to spar with though, 300 lbs was tough to deal with, especially with the knowledge that you already had. For those that loved John I wanted to tell you that John’s last goal in life was to get a black belt in BJJ under me. I tested and presented John with a purple belt instructor level after lots of training, then gave his father his final wish, a promotion to Black Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. From this day forward lets refer John as that, I have never seen anyone more determined and he trained very hard, his son will be able to see and appreciate his fathers accomplishments. I hope all of you find a way to fill the huge hole in your hearts (as in me) that John left. John’s friends are my friends also.

  6. John, this is hard to believe, brother. I will never forget the good times we had in the academy. Like when we were sparring drunk in the hotel room and you jumped on me and I somehow threw your big ass through the air and into the air conditioner. We shared some deep stories and I felt honored to be the one you shared them with. You were a very cherrished friend and I’m glad to have had you in a chapter of my life. I love you, brother.

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