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Today's Family Magazine

GriffonRawl Combat Sports and Fitness

By Deanna Adams

When Jason Dent was 13, he decided to take some classes in traditional karate at a martial arts school in Madison.  “I was always drawn to martial arts,” says Dent, now 42. “Things happened fast once I got into it. I knew this was going to be a big part of my life.”

Dent studied under the leadership of Dan Rawling, former owner of GriffonRawl Combat Sports and Fitness in Mentor.  “I was his number one fighter and most dedicated student so he was pleased that I wanted to take over the business someday.”

That day came when Rawling decided to open a gym in Florida.  The mentor passed the torch onto his best student and Dent took over the business in 2002 at age 20.  “When Dan had it, it was more of a straight kickboxing club,” says Dent, “but I decided to expand it to best meet the needs of the community. Now I’d say 70% of our business is less for competition and more towards fitness and self-defense.” 

GriffonRawl Combat Sports & Fitness, a mixed martial arts gym, offers a wide array of options for people of all ages, skill levels and aspirations, be it fitness, self-defense or professional competitions.  Programs include boxing, Muay Thai (a form of kickboxing), Brazilian jiujitsu and of course, mixed martial arts.  In addition, there are targeted classes such as a women-only cardio kick boxing program, a junior mixed martial arts, and an elder fit program.

While competing is not a mandatory requirement for attending any of the classes, Dent is clearly passionate about competition.  He began his professional fighting career in 2003, winning the first of five championships that same year.  He’s earned two black belts, in Sanchin-Ryu karate and jiujitsu, and acquired 22 professional MMA victories, so he enjoys working with students aiming towards those goals.

But it’s working with youth and community that is most rewarding for the prizefighting instructor.  He’s not only invested his money (some through those winnings) to update his facility, but also his time, constantly teaching and being an inspiration to his students.

Dent also teaches outside his facility with self-defense classes at several local venues, including his church, the New Life Christian Academy in Perry, and Memorial Middle School in Mentor.  “At Memorial, I work with assistant principal, Jeremy Rothstein, to teach troubled youth and I really enjoy that.  I want to make a difference in their lives.” 

Statistics show that young people who get involved in a sport activity are 92% less likely to get involved with drugs and three times more likely to graduate.  Research consistently shows that sports help improve social interaction, increase confidence, and improve listening skills.  In turn, this aids in children learning how to interact with the world and the people in it, thus becoming better contributors to society. 

“There are so many reasons to get into martial arts,” says Dent, who trains law enforcement, medical, and factory workers in his jiujitsu program.  “We teach anyone from age 5 into their 70s, with each program designed for their individual goals.”  He adds that he’s trying to get his 6–year-old son, Lincoln, into it but “he doesn’t seem all that interested just yet,” he says with a laugh.

Dent’s passion for the sport extends to his family which includes wife, Masda, who runs the women’s program, sister, Lamatha Sievers, who trains and helps out at the gym, and parents, William and Terry Dent, who were the inspiration for the low-impact Total Body Workout (Elder Fit) program.

“It’s been pretty amazing to see everyone sharing in my passion,” says Dent, who resides in Thompson. “My dad had dangerously high blood pressure but ever since working a regular routine at the gym, his BP is in the normal range, and his weight is down.  I centered this interactive program so that anyone over 40 can do it, and it also helps those unable to do anything high impact.  But believe me, you still work up a sweat,” he says.

GriffonRawl facility is available to rent for birthday parties and other special events.  Or, you can arrange a one-hour class with a combat sports coach that turns a workout into fun and games. 

Prices range from $10 to $20 per class and first-time customers can try out a class for free.  “We love offering a variety of programs for anyone’s interest,” Dent says.  “But it all comes down to being strong, disciplined, and healthy.”

GriffonRawl MMA Academy is located at 6090 Pinecone Drive in Mentor.  For more information and to register for classes, visit them at or call them at 440-358-9371.

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