Being locked in a cage with competitor whose sole purpose is to knock you out probably isn’t most people’s idea of fun. But for Dylan Mason, it’s just another day at the office as a mixed martial artist.
It’s been more than seven years since the 2010 Mount Airy High graduate first stepped in the octagon. After 14 fights, a handful of fractures, and too many punches to count, he prepares for his professional MMA debut on June 22.
After accruing an imposing amateur record of 11-3, Mason had no hesitations about making the jump to the big leagues. But don’t think he wants to fight a low-level competitor just to boost his win-loss record. Dylan made it clear he is ready for any and all comers.
“Give me one of the toughest fighters in the state; I want to make some noise,” Mason said. “Coaches want their guys to start off by fighting cupcakes, when I honestly feel like I could beat any featherweight in the state.”
Mason got his wish when his opponent was revealed. Mike Powell will stand across the ring from Mason in three weeks’ time in Charlotte. Powell has a professional record of 1-0, earning a submission victory over featherweight Chris Teague last September. Like Mason, Powell had a lengthy amateur career before turning pro. Tapology ranks Powell eighth among active North Carolina pro featherweights.
Fighting at the professional level comes with some changes. For example, North Carolina allows the use of knees and elbows to the head of a standing opponent for professional-level competitors. One thing that hasn’t changed is how Mason approaches his fights.
“I feel like mentally and physically, I’ve always trained like a pro,” Mason said in reference to his diet and work ethic.
When asked about Powell and how he is preparing for the fight, Mason said no amount of film will prepare him for their upcoming bought.
“[Powell] will have plenty of tape, because a lot of my fights are on YouTube,” Mason said. “But I’ve had fights end on the ground, fights end with knockouts, and so on. I can do it all.”
Of Mason’s 11 wins, four came as a result of a submission, two were unanimous decisions, and five came from KO/TKOs. Want to know what happens when you come out unprepared against “Gingersnap” Dylan Mason? Just ask Kyle Blair, who Mason defeated in just five seconds for the Featherweight title at Combat Night 74 in 2017.
Mason continues to train at Eight Points Muay Thai & Fitness in Winston-Salem five days a week in preparation for his fight, but has also added to his training regimen. Since he is moving down a division from his last amateur fight, Mason is trying to build as much muscle mass as possible without going over the 145-pound weight limit. This led Mason to try CrossFit at InVictus Sports Performance in Mount Airy.
“CrossFit changed my game a whole lot,” Mason said. “Training at InVictus also gives me time to spend with my girlfriend, since I’m rarely home and we’re able to work out together.”
Mason has also been training with another Mount Airy native, Michael Stevens, who has an 8-4 professional record. Stevens has been with Mason as he climbs the ranks of MMA.
“A lot of people I used to train with don’t fight anymore,” Mason said. “Mike and I are the only two that pursued a pro career. It’s very humbling to see myself stick with it.”
Making it pro has been a dream of Mason’s since day one of training more than seven years ago. He said that there have been times he wanted to quit. He recalls laying on the couch for the better part of two weeks because he was in so much pain after a loss. He persevered by picturing his future in the sport five or 10 years down the road.
Seven years of blood, sweat, and tears have led to this moment for Dylan Mason. Mason has transformed from the little guy at Mount Airy High School to the fighter that wants to represent his hometown with pride.
Mason will sport his “336” mouth guard on June 22 as part of Fight Lab 59. The match takes place at the Grady Cole Center in Charlotte.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith