Southern Utah MMA fighters Honsvick, Crawford looking forward to upcoming bout

ST. GEORGE — Two local professional mixed martial arts fighters will soon have the chance to settle their differences with one another in the cage.

Dustin Crawford during a recent practice session at Raven Self Defense Academy, Hurricane, Utah, May 12, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Brandon “Warrior” Honsvick and Dustin “DJ” Crawford, both of whom are Washington County residents, are scheduled to battle each other in a lightweight bout billed as the co-main event in the upcoming SteelFist Fight Night “Lightning,” scheduled for the night of June 18 in Salt Lake City.

Honsvick, 36, whose professional record is 1-3-0, won his most recent bout, defeating Louie Lopez in a December Fusion Fight League match via a submission choke hold in the first round. Honsvick primarily trains at Cedar City’s Empire MMA gym under trainer Steve Eargle, although he also has his own gym, called Downs Warrior MMA, in Hurricane.

A short distance down the road from Honsvick’s gym is the Raven Self Defense Academy in Hurricane, where Crawford, 36, trains under the tutelage of Raven Cain.

As previously reported in St. George News, Crawford recently resumed his fighting career after being away for more than a decade due to substance addictions. His overall record stands at 5-14-0, including 1-1-0 since his return to action last July. 

In his most recent bout in Salt Lake City on March 19, Crawford defeated Kevin Allred by a technical knockout 17 seconds into the first round.

Interviewed separately by St. George News at their respective gyms during recent training sessions, both Honsvick and Crawford said they are looking forward to battling each other.

Brandon Honsvick during a recent practice session at Empire MMA, Cedar City, Utah, May 18, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Honsvick said he’s been wanting to fight Crawford for a while.

“I’ve never had the chance to,” he said. “We’ve always been on different paths until now. But Dustin challenged me to the fight, so when a couple of my other fights backed out and didn’t go through, it just ended up working out perfect.”

Honsvick said he typically fights at the 135-pound bantamweight category but will be fighting at the heavier lightweight level in order to answer Crawford’s challenge.

Honsvick and Crawford have previously been associated with each other’s gyms, even training together at one point.

“I did train with him at Empire MMA for a brief time,’ Crawford said. “So I do kind of know what his game is like.”

Additionally, Honsvick said he formerly trained with Cain before Crawford began working with Cain.

“I used to train at Raven’s, and so I have my feelings towards Raven. He doesn’t agree with my feelings, and that’s fine,” Honsvick said. “And now we’re just getting put into the cage and we’ll see who’s the better fighter.”

Dustin Crawford talks about his upcoming bout with Brandon Honsvick, Hurricane, Utah, May 12, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

For his part, Crawford said he has been focusing on his ground moves in the likely event that Honsvick tries to take the fight to the mat.

“I don’t underestimate him at all on the ground,” Crawford said. “And so we have been working, and really focusing on my ground. Just putting in that work, getting ready for him. I want to keep it standing. I want to knock him out in the first round, maybe a little longer.”

“I don’t think he’s working as hard as me,” Crawford added. “I don’t think he wants it as much as me. I will come hard. I’m like a freight train. Once that gets going, you can’t stop it. I feel like that’s how it’s gonna go.”

Cain added his own vote of confidence in Crawford’s abilities. 

“There’s no stopping him,” Cain said of Crawford. “Even when he’s grappling and rolling, he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t quit. He just keeps going. If you notice the big mark on his face there, that’s a mat burn from just training hard. He’s absolutely the best he’s ever been. He’s like a piece of iron. Like a lion with iron chainmail skin.”

Crawford and Honsvick are each fighting on behalf of their respective causes, with Crawford focusing on addiction recovery and Honsvick bringing awareness to those with Down syndrome and other disabilities.

“I believe I’ve already won,” Crawford said. “For me, it’s a first-round knockout.”

Crawford said one of his primary goals as a fighter is to reach the Ultimate Fighting Championship level.

“I will be in the UFC one day,” he said. “You will see me in the UFC with my gear. I’m going to have an amazing outfit. I’m dyeing my hair blue.”

Crawford explained his chosen future hair color ties in with his adopted nickname “Icy Hot,” which he was jokingly given when he had applied pain relief cream on his back before his very first amateur fight and was told by officials that it had to be completely removed before he could step into the cage.

“Literally seconds from me getting my name announced, they were still scrubbing my back,” Crawford recalled with a laugh. “I go out there and my back is just bleeding. It looked like I got ejected off a motorcycle.”

Crawford then spoke of his primary reasons for competing.

Brandon Honsvick during a recent practice session at Empire MMA, Cedar City, Utah, May 18, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“I’m going for that addict out there that’s still suffering,” he said. “That’s the main thing I want. You know, I love fighting. But I want to stand in front of 50,000 people and say, I am an addict and I have recovered. You can do it, too.”

Meanwhile, Honsvick, who has a young daughter with Down syndrome, said he enjoys teaching weekly martial arts classes to people with special needs.

“Martial arts has changed my life. It truly has,” Honsvick said. “Even when I was training with Raven, the lessons I learned over there helped me a lot and helped me put me on a path I didn’t realize I needed at the time. I’ve watched so many people who deal with addiction and so many different problems, mental health and everything else, and they come in here and they start training. And you can see how much it helps.”

Honsvick said the same holds true for people with special needs. 

“They will never get inside of a cage and fight,” he said. “But the thing is, they need to learn how to protect themselves. They need to learn how to listen a little bit better, they need to have someone who believes in them as much as they believe in themselves. In this society, we see them as outcasts, but they’re not. They’re so amazing. They are so great for the community.”

Honsvick added that he is donating 15% of all his ticket sales, along with proceeds from T-shirt sales, toward the construction of the new “All Abilities Park” that is planned for Hurricane. He has also invited his special-needs martial arts students to come up to Salt Lake City and watch his upcoming fight in person.

Crawford, meanwhile, said he is fighting to support Hope Rising Detox and Rehabilitation, Steps Recovery Centers and Renaissance Recovery St. George.

“Dustin has made this very personal,” Honsvick said. “I can’t wait to get in there and show him exactly what he’s getting in for. I respect everything that Dustin is doing for the rehab community and everything. I think it’s awesome. But I’m sorry, when you run your mouth, you’re gonna pay for it. I can’t wait to get in there with you in the cage.”

Honsvick said that right after his and Crawford’s fight on June 18, the evening’s headline event will feature Josiah “G.I.” Simpson of Cedar City, who also trains at Empire MMA. Simpson, 28, is scheduled to face Troy Dennison (8-6-0) of Salt Lake City in a welterweight bout.

Josiah Simpson during a recent practice session at Empire MMA, Cedar City, Utah, May 26, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Simpson has a pro record of 0-1-0, having lost his only professional bout to date to Justin Winkles-Camparetto in February at a Fusion Fight League event in South Dakota. 

“It was a disappointing loss, but I just don’t feel like I got a chance to really show what I was capable of,” Simpson told St. George News during a recent training session. “I know I can perform a lot better than what I showed that night. It was a questionable decision to stop the fight. I feel like I definitely had a lot more in me.”

Simpson said he’s looking forward to facing Dennison.

“The main thing for me is just that I know what I’m capable of,” he said. “I want to be able to prove that. I don’t feel like I got the chance last time, so I’m really looking forward to being able to do that in this upcoming fight.”

Honsvick said he can’t wait to watch Simpson in action on June 18.

“I’m really happy he’s the main event and I’m the co-main event because I get to watch his fight,” Honsvick added. “Hopefully I’ll be able to sit on the front row and just watch his fight after ours.”

“He is amazing,” Honsvick said of Simpson. “His striking is phenomenal. His ground is great. He’s a great partner to learn from and he puts on one heck of a show.”

For more information about the June 18 fight card, visit SteelFist Fight Night’s website or its Facebook page.

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