Seven years of tireless training sessions, long commutes, sleepless nights, and an unfathomable amount of punches all came to a head on Friday, June 22. The crowd cheered as Skillet’s “The Resistance,” reverberated through the Grady Cole Center. That song only meant one thing: Dylan Mason was about to walk down the aisle for his professional Mixed Martial Arts debut.
When speaking with Mason three weeks ago concerning his professional debut, he said he approached this fight just like every other. Training like a professional is something he’s done for years.
Also notable from our previous interview, Mason requested a tough opponent for his first fight. For him, it wasn’t about fighting a cupcake and improving his record, but rather he wanted to test himself against the best North Carolina had to offer. Dylan Mason asked for the best and out came Mike Powell. Powell made his professional debut in September of 2017, earning a submission victory.
It was a clash of styles as Mason and Powell jockeyed for control of the fight throughout the first round. Powell aimed to force Mason to the ground for a battle of submissions, while Mason dared Powell to trade blows with the Mount Airy native.
The fight continued into the second round as each competitor slowly wore the other down. It seemed business as usual until 2:40 into the round, when a near-escape by Mason was countered into an armbar. Everything happened so quickly that before he could think, Mason had to watch the official raise the hand of his opponent.
“I got caught,” Mason said. “I feel like I was definitely the better fighter, but I just got caught by the armbar. I got complacent.”
Powell (2-0), a brown belt, focused in ground submissions throughout the bout. Mason said his opponent worked his arm constantly in the first round, even popping it a few times. But Mason kept fighting through the pain. He knew he could take a punch in this fight, but once Mason went to the mat with an experienced grappler like Powell it was a completely different ball game.
“I knew I lost the first round because he took me down a couple of times,” Mason said. “I let my ego take over. I wanted to prove a point, that I was good on ground. I knew I would have easily won if we stood up and exchanged punches.”
The two competitors had nothing but respect for each other following the onslaught. The two embraced after the fight and even got a beer later that night.
“[Powell] is a great individual,” Mason said. “He said I was one of the toughest fighters he’s ever competed against and was still afraid to stand up with me. I hope we can train together down the line.”
Mason continued, “You go in there and fight. Me personally, I don’t get mad during a fight and I’m definitely not angry at him. I want to test my skills in the ring. We are trying to prove a point about who is better.”
It’s been days since the fight and Mason said he still hasn’t watched it back. The last time Mason suffered defeat was September of 2016 in an amateur fight. Whether it be at the professional or amateur level, losing still stings.
“Physically, I’m good,” Mason said. “Mentally I’m a little messed up. This is my job now and I just started off bad. Losing stings, but I guarantee it won’t happen again any time soon.”
So what’s next for Dylan Mason? It’s almost cliché at this point to reference Rocky Balboa when discussing any combat sport, but a particular line from Sylvester Stallone is more than an inspirational quote on the wall for Dylan Mason. It’s a lifestyle that inspires him to punch adversity square in the jaw.
“But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done,” exclaimed Stallone in the 2006 film Rocky Balboa.
For Mason, the next step in his evolution is a no-brainer: fight. Fighting got him this far and now that he is backed into a corner, he will continue fighting until he reaches the mountaintop. “Keep moving forward,” is a phrase Mason used to describe his current situation.
The agony of defeat isn’t something that held Mason back in the past and certainly won’t in the future. In fact, he is already doing research on when he can step back into the cage.
“I’m ready to fight again,” Mason said. “I would do it this weekend if I could. I love doing this; it’s my favorite thing to do.”
Mason began training again on Monday, stating he felt empty not going to the gym. He even plans to find a CrossFit gym when on vacation.
Mason hopes to get back in the ring as soon as August or September.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith