“How I would want to be remembered…”
There’s a silence on the other end of the phone. Matt Dixon, the Xtreme Fight Night (XFN) welterweight champion, thinks for several seconds as he ponders the question. It’s the end of a lengthy interview, with dozens of questions and topics already answered and dissected.
Dixon, just 23 years old, has been extensive in his answers; verbose and articulate. But this question, how he’d like to be remembered, seems to give him pause. Ultimately, his answer is succinct:
“…as one of the greatest, for sure.”
And that’s not arrogance. Dixon was raised in a deeply religious household; he knows all too well the warnings of lofty prides and falls.
“My father is a pastor. My mom and my father met in Bible college. So, I always grew up around the church. My father owned the church – all of that stuff,” Dixon told The Body Lock.
Watching Ali, emulating Ward, and finding MMA
It was his father, Dixon says, who put him on the path he walks today: the path of a mixed martial arts champion.
“My dad is the one that got me started with MMA. He got me started, first with just doing mitts in my living room when I was just a little kid. Some of my earliest memories were just doing mitts with my dad.”
Boxing was Dixon’s first love. The Oklahoman remembers vividly sitting in front of the television with his father, watching boxing greats like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson slug it out to the roars of raucous crowds.
“Growing up, my dad was a very big Muhammad Ali fan, so I did watch a lot of Muhammad Ali. That wasn’t actually a guy that I wanted to emulate, besides his confidence, his charisma, all that stuff. I always admired that. Obviously, I don’t talk like Muhammad Ali, but everything other than that I really appreciate and admire about him.
“I grew up watching a lot of Andre Ward, Floyd Mayweather, and watching like Mike Tyson highlights. So, yeah, I would say, you know, it’s been an interesting combination. Like, I would say if there was one fighter in particular that really always caught my attention and I always stuck with, it would probably be Andre Ward.”
Ultimately, though, Dixon turned his attention to mixed martial arts.
“Then when I was about six years old, my dad took me to an MMA gym for the first time, and it really wasn’t MMA back then. Like, there wasn’t an MMA gym, I guess, but it was a gym where they did, like, boxing; they did some catch wrestling, and every time they would learn a new jiu jitsu move, they would bring it and teach us that,” recalled Dixon.
That unique amalgamation of disciplines and blending of styles is just what Dixon wanted.
“I was never too tied up in one style, you know? My dad was very big on Bruce Lee growing up, and he was very big in the JKD philosophy: the style of no style, formless form, that type of stuff. And so whenever I first got started with it, my dad was like, ‘Wrestling’s beneficial; boxing’s beneficial; karate’s beneficial,’ so I never was too tied up on, ‘Oh, I have to have it this way.'”
Matt Dixon began a fighting career in boxing, competing in multiple amateur bouts with success. He then transitioned to kickboxing and MMA, where he made his amateur debut the moment he reached 18 years of age.
“It was December 6th, I still remember it to this day,” Dixon said of scheduling his first amateur MMA bout. “I had my first amateur fight at 155 pounds, and I believe it was just like we had just come off of a kickboxing fight. My coach was like, ‘Hey, you know, as soon as you turn 18, we’re going to have an MMA fight,’ because in Oklahoma you have to be 18 years old to have an amateur MMA career.
“And so I was doing the kickboxing, and all of that stuff, and having competitions ever since I was like 14 or whatever for kickboxing. But then whenever I was 18, as soon as you know, I had my birthday, my coach wanted to sign me up for my first MMA fight. The best show we could get on was going to be XFN.”
Dixon would go on to win that amateur debut and the next four of his fights. Despite such success, however, Dixon’s decision to turn pro wasn’t exactly his own.
“I just remember having, like, I can’t remember how many fights it was in a row get canceled; it was probably like four or five, and I was trying to box at the same time as well, too. So, it really was just a matter of we couldn’t get any more amateur fights. I made that transition to going professional; I just couldn’t get any more amateur fights locally, or anything like that.”
Still, Dixon and his team were ready for the jump, even if it came more out of necessity than choice.
“My coach was like, ‘You’re ready to go pro, but we want to make sure that we’re doing this the right way because obviously when you’re pro, there’s no going back.’ And so, that was really the biggest thing that kind of drew the line for us: we couldn’t get any boxing fights; we couldn’t get an MMA fights as an amateur anymore.”
Undefeated, undisputed, unperturbed
Today, Matt Dixon competes in XFN, the same promotion for which he fought in his very first mixed martial arts bout. There, he is the promotion’s undefeated welterweight champion.
“It’s been really great. Dale Cook, and XFN, and those guys have been really great for me. And they’ve done a lot of good work for me ever since I was an amateur. That was actually where I had my first amateur MMA fight, was for XFN, and when I had that [amateur fight], I loved the way that they ran the show. They were very professional, they were very fair to everybody, and they just really wanted to put on a good show. And so I was very happy with XFN as an amateur, and I’ve been even more happy with them as a professional.”
One of Dixon’s favorite aspects of fighting with XFN is the exposure the promotion has as a result of airing on UFC Fight Pass, the UFC’s exclusive streaming service.
“As far as [XFN] being on UFC Fight Pass and all that stuff, it’s been great. It’s been awesome. Just to see guys, you know, coming from my gym; to see guys that I know that are getting these opportunities to fight on big cards like that in front of people on UFC Fight Pass and stuff… that’s just awesome. And I love the fact that it’s a platform to reach a lot of people.”
Dixon captured XFN’s welterweight title back in November of 2018. He defended that title successfully just this month, scoring a knockout of talented finisher, Braden Smith. Being a champion, Dixon says, is more of a mentality than a gaudy belt.
“I’ve always believed that in order to be a champion, you have to carry yourself as a champion inside and outside of the cage. Being a champion isn’t defined by your belt, [but] the symbolism aspect of the belt kind of makes people inspired and have something to strive for,” said Dixon.
“For me, it honestly just gives me something tangible to show people, children, or young adults, that to be a champion and all that stuff, it’s a process. You work hard, you’re determined, you show discipline, and all of that stuff. And you also can be respectful. You don’t have to be a disrespectful individual to be a fighter, as well. So I just try to use it as a tangible means to express what it means to be a champion to people that are younger, or that are looking up to me in any form.”
That mentality has served Dixon well so far, guiding him to an undefeated amateur and professional record as a mixed martial artist. But, as one might expect, Dixon doesn’t put much stock in numbers, records, and accolades.
“I don’t really even concern myself necessarily with [being undefeated]. As far as it being a good thing to kind of look back on and say, ‘Hey, you know, I’ve been undefeated and all of that stuff?’ I think that that’s great. You know, it sounds good and all that stuff, but for me personally, I’m always thinking about the next. What’s next? What’s in front of me? In this present moment, I don’t really concern myself with what I’ve accomplished.
“As far as me being undefeated, that’s just what I am today and that’s what I plan on being tomorrow. But at the end of the day, I’m just going to take it one day at a time and keep setting bigger goals; keep moving forward. I never want that to be something that makes me afraid to challenge myself. I don’t want my record to be a reason to shy away from welcoming competition.”
Speaking about inspirations, not indecencies
Far too often, MMA fighters are subject to negative stereotypes; the occupation has a stigma seemingly permanently tied to it. Yet, Matt Dixon endeavors to change that perception, chiefly by sharing his journey and encouraging others to live their own. Dixon believes the passion to do so was instilled in him from a young age.
“I grew up around speaking, hearing my dad speak. I was very interested in different motivational videos and inspiring, not necessarily because I liked the motivational videos for myself, but I loved the process of seeing someone encouraged. I really enjoy seeing that. That’s one of my passions,” said Dixon.
Now an undefeated martial arts champion, Dixon has a larger platform than ever to affect change.
“Whenever I first initially started to speak, it was at an FCA, which is just basically ‘Fellowship of Christian Athletes’. And I was just speaking in front of like probably like 30 kids or 25 kids, whatever the number was, and they were just, you know, football players; baseball players.
“Now I’ve had some people contact me to go out and speak at different churches or different areas where they’re, you know, trying to inspire their kids to stay on a good path.”
Dixon is committed to doing just that, both in and out of the realm of mixed martial arts. Especially during the build-up to his fights, Dixon keeps things clean and respectful.
“I was always was a huge fan of Georges St. Pierre; I was a huge fan of Fedor Emelianenko. I was a huge fan of a lot of the guys who were able to turn it on whenever the cage doors closed, and they didn’t necessarily have to cuss anybody out; they didn’t necessarily have to try to promote a fight to become these big, huge stars in the sport,” Dixon adds.
Dixon acknowledges that trash talking is prevalent in mixed martial arts, but is determined to take the high road and become a star doing so.
“I’m just going to keep being myself, and whether people think I’m a ‘good guy’ or a ‘bad guy’… I mean, everybody’s a bad guy in somebody’s story. I’m just being myself. I was raised in that kind of environment, and so I don’t really have the desire to, you know, talk about people’s family and their moms, and disrespect people, and dishonor my coach and my mom and my dad and all of that stuff by going out there and just selling out for a paycheck. I just don’t have any desire to do that.”
“I wanna show people that you can become a star in this sport without selling out.”
What the future holds for Matt Dixon
Matt Dixon is undefeated as a mixed martial artist. He holds four amateur wins, eight professional wins, and six professional finishes. He’s a champion in XFN, and he’s been doing it all on UFC Fight Pass. To an outside observer, a UFC call, or perhaps a shot on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, seems inevitable.
But Dixon preaches patience.
“I really am not in any rush to jump ahead to the UFC. Until it is the time to go to the UFC, I will be with XFN, and I want to make sure that I just do it the right way.”
As for a Contender Series bid, Dixon again wishes to take his time. He’s open to appearing on the show, but would prefer signing with the UFC without the extra step.
“I’d rather sign to the UFC outright. I have respect for the Contender Series. I’m not too familiar with the Contender Series, honestly. I haven’t watched a lot of TV in the past two years, and so I’ve just seen little fights on the Contender Series, but I don’t actually know very much how the actual process works; the business side of it works, as far as what type of money they pay to their fighters and situations like that.
“XFN does a great job as far as what they compensate us on, so I’m just not sure exactly what they’re talking about money-wise on the Contenders Series. I’d be much more interested in going straight into the UFC, honestly.”
In the meantime, Dixon plans on continuing to defend his welterweight title, and maybe even going up and capturing middleweight gold in the XFN ranks, too.
“That would be awesome, to move up to middleweight. I think I could,” Dixon pauses. “I know I could do that at 185; that actually is very appealing, you know? This whole ‘champ champ’ thing cracks me up. I think it’s a funny situation as far as everybody wanting two belts and all of that stuff. I’m interested in that for sure.”
“You know, that’d be a nice icing on the cake before I moved to the UFC, honestly.”
Dixon is confident he will make the UFC jump with the same degree of success he’s enjoyed to date. He envisions adding a UFC title to his growing list of accolades.
“I see myself fitting in really well with those guys. Honestly, right now, I feel like I could go in there. I see myself as the UFC welterweight champion. I’ve got a lot of respect for Kamaru Usman; I’ve got a lot of respect for Tyron Woodley, but at the end of the day, I really don’t have any doubt in my mind that I could take that UFC welterweight title.
“Now, I do believe that it’s about timing, and I do believe that timing is everything. So, obviously, if it takes five or ten more fights to get to that point of the UFC welterweight title, I’m willing to pay that price and to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
One thing that Dixon believes will set him apart from other UFC newcomers is his strong self-belief and lack of so-called ‘Octagon jitters’.
“At the end of the day, I don’t fear any of these welterweights. Honestly, I have no fear against any of them. Whenever I sign that contract, I have a job to do, and that job requires me to take out whoever’s in front of me. I have the ability and the training and everything that I’m doing to do that, and so I am very confident in my ability. So whenever that time comes, and when the timing is right, I’m sure I will fare very well.”
Matt Dixon returns to that final answer: how he’d like to be remembered as one of the greatest.
“I don’t want that to come off as arrogant or anything like that, but I want to be one of the greatest, and I want to be remembered as one of the greatest ever do it. For some odd reason, I hear, like, Joe Rogan yelling it out, and announcing it, you know? I hear a little Mike Goldberg in there, all of that,” Dixon says with a laugh.
“I would want to be one of the greatest. That’s what I want to be remembered as: one of the greatest.”
Michael Fiedel is an avid MMA and BJJ fan. He loves the stories of mixed martial arts, and he seeks them out whenever possible. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but will soon be moving to Nashville, Tennessee.