As he resumes professional MMA fighting career, recovering addict shares message of hope – St George News

HURRICANE — Mixed martial arts fighter Dustin Crawford, after being away from the cage for more than a decade, is seeking to help and inspire others as he continues on his own road to recovery.

MMA fighter Dustin Crawford talks about his personal recovery journey at Raven Self Defense Academy, Hurricane, Utah, March 10, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Crawford, whose professional record is 5-14-0, didn’t compete in any boots between September 2010 and July 2021.

“I was in a seriously deep addiction for over 10 years. I truly thought that I would never get clean, but I found hope,” the 36-year-old Crawford told St. George News, adding that he has now been clean for more than two years.

st. George News caught up with Crawford during a recent workout session at Raven Self Defense Academy in Hurricane. He is training for his next scheduled fight, which will be in Salt Lake City on March 19.

Raven Cain, owner of the dojo / training center that bears his name, said that during the few short months he has been working out there, Crawford has already made a great impact.

“He just doesn’t quit,” Cain said of Crawford.

“The main thing I want to spread is, for all the addicts that are still suffering, that there’s always hope,” Crawford said. “Recovery is possible. And if you dream it, you can do it. Never give up. And the true meaning of failure is quitting. Everybody falls … it’s just when you quit, that’s a failure.”

Everyone has fear, he added. “Embrace your fear and conquer it because you’re going to come out stronger, and come out a bigger man, a better man.”

MMA fighter Dustin Crawford and Raven Cain, owner of Raven Self Defense Academy, Hurricane, Utah, March 10, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Crawford said he now dedicates himself to helping others on their road to recovery.

The back of his training shirt includes a memorial message that pays tribute to Crawford’s own mother, who died of an overdose, and his close friend Devin Koja, who passed away last September after getting free from addiction.

Crawford says he hopes to be a source of inspiration and support for those who are struggling with their own addictions.

“You never know, when somebody who’s really suffering with addiction, just is at the absolute bottom,” he said. “And just seeing somebody who has done it, sharing that experience, strength and hope, that it can happen. You may be the spark that they need to get clean. You never know when you are somebody else’s lighthouse. You’ve always got to just shine bright and hope that maybe you can guide them into safety.”

Cain, whose facility opened at its new location in Hurricane last year, spoke of the mindset that competitors like Crawford need when they step into the cage.

MMA fighter Dustin Crawford works out at Raven Self Defense Academy, Hurricane, Utah, March 10, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“So like DJ just said, when you’re grappling or when you’re working with somebody else, nothing else exists,” Cain said. “You’re here, right now. You’re in the present moment. And really, that’s where life exists, is right here, right now.”

“You can confront yourself and confront your fears,” Cain added. “And you can be with yourself and be authentic, and you’re totally comfortable. Now, you’re getting to higher levels of consciousness, really, because you’re present. And most people aren’t present. They’re normally in the past or in the future.”

Cain said his facility welcomes participants of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

“If you’re not wanting to fight, there’s so many aspects to mixed martial arts. You can just come in for a free lesson, and there’s a whole softer side of it.

“Women and children, and (people from) all aspects of life can come in here, get a little bit of exercise and do some not too extreme workouts. The vast majority of our classes are for everybody. The self defense classes are amazing.”

Promotional poster for upcoming MMA welterweight bout between Kevin Allred and Dustin Crawford scheduled to take place in Salt Lake City, Utah, March 19, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Dustin Crawford, St. George News

“We use martial arts and self defense as a vehicle to help spread higher consciousness, higher awareness, higher self-esteem, more competence in yourself, and martial arts as a vehicle to improve your life,” Cain added. “Because truly the biggest battle you’re going to face, it’s not the opponent in the ring. Ultimately your battle is against you, it’s you against you.”

In Crawford’s upcoming welterweight bout, he’s scheduled to fight Kevin Allred (8-19-0) at 7 p.m. March 19 at the Union Event Center in downtown Salt Lake City, in an event billed as SteelFist Fight Night “Unfazed.” The fight is scheduled to last up to three five-minute rounds.

Crawford said he plans to continue striving toward his goal of eventually making it to compete at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) level.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Crawford said as he finished his light workout and prepared to head off to his job as a case manager and peer support specialist at Steps Recovery Center.

“You know, if I hadn’t gone through everything that I have gone through in my life, I wouldn’t be the man that I am today, and I’m grateful for that,” he said. “I wouldn’t be with my fiancee. I wouldn’t be here in St. George. I wouldn’t have a beautiful son and another one on the way. Like, I am where I’m supposed to be today.”

“I have been given my life back, and if I can do it, anyone can,” he added.

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