As he resumes his career as a professional fighter in MMA, a recovering addict shares a message of hope – St George News
HURRICANE – Mixed martial arts fighter Dustin Crawford, after being sidelined for over a decade, seeks to help and inspire others as he pursues his own path to recovery.
Crawford, whose professional record is 5-14-0, has not participated in any bouts between September 2010 and July 2021.
“I was in a very deep addiction for over 10 years. I really thought I would never get clean, but I found hope,” Crawford, 36, told St. George News, adding that he had been sober for over two years.
St. George News caught up with Crawford during a recent training session at the 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 facility that bears his name, said that in the few months he worked there, Crawford has already had a big impact.
“He just doesn’t give up,” Cain said of Crawford.
“The main thing I want to spread is, for all the drug addicts who are still suffering, there is 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 smoking. Everyone falls…it’s just when you stop, it’s a failure.
Everyone is scared, he added. “Embrace your fear and overcome it because you’re going to come out of this stronger and a bigger man, a better man.”
Crawford said he is now dedicated to helping others on their path to recovery.
The back of his workout shirt features 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 breaking free from addiction.
Crawford says he hopes to be a source of inspiration and support for those struggling with their own addictions.
“You never know when someone who is really addicted is just at rock bottom,” he said. “And just seeing someone who has done it, sharing that experience, that strength and that hope, that it can happen. You might be the spark they need to clean themselves up. You never know when you’re someone else’s beacon. You always have to shine bright and I hope you may be able to guide them to safety.
Cain, whose facility opened at its new Hurricane location last year, spoke about the mindset competitors like Crawford need when they step into the cage.
“So like DJ just said, when you’re struggling or when you’re working with somebody else, nothing else exists,” Cain said. “You are here now. You are in the present moment. And really, that’s where life exists, it’s here, right now.
“You can confront yourself and face your fears,” Cain added. “And you can be with yourself and be authentic, and you’re totally comfortable. Now you’re reaching higher levels of consciousness, really, because you’re present. And most people aren’t present. They are normally in the past or in the future.
Cain said his facility welcomes attendees of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.
“If you don’t want to fight, there are so many aspects to mixed martial arts. You can just come for a free lesson, and there’s a whole softer side to it.
“Women and children, and (people from) all walks of life can come here, get some exercise and not too extreme workouts. The vast majority of our courses are for everyone. Self-defense classes are amazing.
“We use martial arts and self defense as a vehicle to help spread higher consciousness, greater awareness, greater self-esteem, more self-skill and martial arts as a vehicle to improve your life “, added Cain. “Because really the biggest battle you’re going to face is not the opponent in the ring. Ultimately your fight is against you, it’s you against you.
In Crawford’s next welterweight bout, he is scheduled to fight Kevin Allred (8-19-0) at 7 p.m. on March 19 at the Union Event Center in downtown Salt Lake City, in an event billed as SteelFist fight night “Imperturbable.” The fight should last up to three rounds of five minutes.
Crawford said he plans to continue striving towards his goal of successfully competing at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) level.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Crawford said as he finished light training and prepared to return to work as a case manager and peer support specialist at Steps Recovery Center.
“You know, If I hadn’t been through everything I’ve been through in my life, I wouldn’t be the man I am today., and I’m grateful for that,” he said. “I wouldn’t be with my fiancée. I wouldn’t be here in St. George. I wouldn’t have a beautiful son and another on the way. Like, I’m where I’m supposed to be today.
“I was given my life back, and if I can do it, anyone can do it,” he added.
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