Dakota Hope is making his dreams come true in the martial arts world. He’s currently undefeated in MMA and 6-1 in Muay Thai, and though he’s not as involved in competitive jiu-jitsu (though he does have a win in the Expert division at NAGA and victory at a BJJ tournament in Bangkok to his name), he’s hoping to “balance [his] time more” and bring more jiu-jitsu into his life. And tonight, this step of his journey will take him to the 3rd Coast Grappling stage.
Hope will be stepping up at 3CG’s Kumite III event, which will see eight major athletes roll it out for the $10,000 grand prize. Hope will be kicking off the night with a superfight against Tevin Sandoz, and though making it even to a stage like this is an accomplishment in itself, it’s even more significant when you consider just how far Hope has come to get to this point.
Hope told the Jiu-Jitsu Times that he started BJJ when he was a freshman in high school. “I had a friend, Kevin Perez, who I grew up with, who would show me different submissions because he and his brother would go to MMA gyms sometimes and learn them. We were always sparring, and of course, I would use my wrestling to take him down, and he would use the submissions he learned.”
The athlete says that his “official” training began when he joined W4R Training Center under Jeremy Mahon. “He built my foundations up and first taught me how to defend and then gradually how to submit my opponent,” says Hope. From there, the opportunities he earned through hard work and sacrifice began to increase. He was given a sponsorship opportunity to travel to Pattaya, Thailand to train at the Fairtex Training Center. After teaming up with Wild Hearts Management, he made his professional debut in Makati City, Philippines. Hope rose to the challenge, defeating the Aspera FC featherweight champion via TKO in the first round.
Hope continued to push to get fights so he could earn a living, eventually switching to the Sunkin International Fight Club after they offered to sponsor him. Things were really starting to look up. And then — as the story goes for so many people this year — COVID-19 hit.
The pandemic has put a hiccup in Hope’s plans, but he’s still staying busy. He moved back to Texas for the time being and returned temporarily to his team at W4R TC. With everything going on, he may not be able to fight MMA, but he’s still excited for his grappling match tonight. “I am feeling great ahead of my match at 3CG. Given the troubling times we are in now, this match definitely holds some special significance for me. I regularly talk with some of my teammates back in Qingdao, China, at Sunkin and they are training really hard and wish to fight again soon, so in a way I feel like I am motivation to them, showing that the world is still going forward and we will all be competing again soon,” he says.
Hope is, perhaps, the perfect person to help spread those feelings of inspiration, especially in tough times. When his family was hit by the Tax Day Floods in 2016 and then Hurricane Harvey in 2017, their lives were uprooted, and they stayed in hotels for over three months. “The latter was very hard because it hit my freshman year of college and was one of the reasons I had to drop out (which meant I had to give up the wrestling scholarship I worked so hard to get, along with my Marine PLC Contract) and help my family members get back on their feet and help with my siblings as well,” says Hope. “These times we lived in a hotel were some of the most financially hard times I have ever had to deal with. Nobody was really there for me outside of my family, who I was struggling with, and it really made me see how at the end of the day, all you have is family. I promised myself I would never be that financially powerless again, and that is why I hustle so hard with my fighting career.”
This experience could have completely derailed Hope’s life, but instead, he used it to grow both personally and professionally. “We didn’t just stay in one hotel during the two floods we went through — we would be on this app that found the cheapest hotel deals, so we would move around to two different hotels within a week or two, constantly switching hotels and having to pack the few belongings we had over from the flood and drive to a different hotel with them along with my three siblings, who were all very young. We only had two hotel rooms and had to split them between seven people. These were very cramped and stressful times, and it made us all grow closer as a family and reaffirmed my love for MMA, because it is a way to a different life one day. All I have to do is put in the work to get there.”
Tonight’s 3CG match will be another stepping stone that will help Hope along on his endless quest for greatness. His passion for fighting and everything it entails has helped drive him this far, and following his superfight at 3CG: Kumite III tonight, he plans to win his seventh MMA fight in Arkansas. While the future (and the status of Hope’s August 7 fight) is uncertain, you can expect this fighter to take these changes on the chin and come out on top anyway.
You can watch Tevin Sandoz vs. Dakota Hope tonight at 3rd Coast Grappling: Kumite III starting at 8 pm CST on FloGrappling.