Archive for Jens Pulver

Matt Horwich, World Champion!

Posted in Legends MMA, Live Event Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2010 by jaytan716

Photos courtesy of Brian Robertson / MMAStation.com

Matt Horwich, PHP middleweight world champion

Legends MMA’s resident middleweight metaphysician, Matt ‘The Limit Smasher’ Horwich simultaneously reversed his own polarity and recorded a new milestone for the gym this past weekend, submitting former UFC title contender Thales Leites to become the first Powerhouse World Promotions (PWP) middleweight champion. The event took place on Saturday the 14th, at PWP’s “War on the Mainland” pay-per-view event at the Bren Events Center in Irvine.

“It’s a beautiful universe. Thank God for good friends and good victories,” said the newly-crowned champ in the days after the fight.

“I just think it puts him on a whole other level, if he can keep it up. Thales has never been submitted. It’s a huge victory,“ added his wife Kelly.

Ironically, Horwich was a last-minute replacement for Hawaiian fighter Falaniko Vitale, who withdrew from the event in early August. Anxious to shake off the taint of two recent debatable decision losses to hometown heroes, Jason ‘The Athlete’ MacDonald in Canada and Tom ‘Kong’ Watson in the U.K., respectively, Horwich jumped at the chance to fight in his own backyard.

Moreover, the fact that he didn’t need to board an airplane sat just fine with him. .

“It’s funny, because I like skydiving, but I hate flying. . . God’s well aware I’d rather die any way besides flying, because I mention it to him thousands of times every time I have to fly on an airplane to fight,” he lamented, adding “props to Thales. It’s hard to come to someone’s hometown and fight him. This is where my friends and family are. Where I train, and where I’m comfortable and have everything I want.”

The match itself was largely a back-and-forth ground battle, with Leites taking Horwich down, where both would trade sweeps and transitions for top position until one would escape to his feet. Standing, Horwich pushed the action, stalking Leites with jabs and low kicks, though Leites also had several sweeping low kicks that tripped Horwich on his rear.

Matt Horwich connected with knees on Thales Leites.

“I had the reach on him. I was trying to throw the jab, and work a smart game plan. Tie him up and tire him out,” explained Horwich. “I was getting knocked over with that beautiful leg kick that he was doing to the back leg. I wasn’t really hurt from it. I was just looking dumb. I was like ‘alright Horwich, you’re laying down on the job. Get up, stupid!’”

According to head trainer Chris Reilly, beating Leites at the cardio game was a key strategy in the match: “As each minute passed, I saw [Horwich] get stronger and Thales weaken. By the end of the second, I was getting pretty confident. Event after losing the third. I felt good going into the fourth, and it didn’t take long from there,” he said.

The second round was Horwich’s, successfully muting Leites top position offense early, and then coming back with a leglock attempt and strong ground-and-pound in the last minute. Leites decisively took the third round with a threatening side choke that he held on Horwich for almost a minute. However, in Reilly’s eyes, surviving that position was in fact the tipping point which swung momentum back in favor of the Legends team.

“The arm triangle was [Leites’] best move. . . When Thales got it locked in, I knew he was going to gas trying to finish it. As soon as Matt came out, I knew the fight would shift our way.”

Horwich noted “I worked with my good friends at 10th Planet on how I should defend the side choke, just in case. It’s a good thing we worked on it. I wasn’t gonna tap. I was worried . . . it was like ‘alright, relax. Don’t panic. Do the correct defense. Count to 60’.”

Horwich choked out Leites erly in the fourth round.

Indeed, the energy Leites burned on that choke compromised him for the fourth round, where Horwich scored an easy takedown and cinched in a rear naked choke to end the match, and win his third MMA championship, at 0:44.

“I felt he was getting tired. . . I’ve been working a lot with Eddie on how to finish it better, squeezing my own leg. Working on squeezing the choke muscles. And then it went under his chin and then I knew it was in. And I was like ‘thank God.’ Then I was going to hold on until the referee pulls me off, because I’ve seen a lot of fights where the guy taps and the ref doesn’t see it,” explained Horwich.

For almost any victorious fighter, once his hand is raised, he realizes that journey is the destination. The hard work, training, sacrifice, and discipline all gain mass and resonance, embodied in the win. According to Horwich, it was his spiritual faith that powered that journey, and as such, it was his faith that defined his victory.

“The thing is my faith felt better than any fight. I didn’t really have any anxiety or anything. I felt fired up, but not anxious. . . So I was feeling that. Even when the fight got tough, my faith felt good, when I was caught in the side choke. So I think that was a big difference in this fight. . . Like Proverbs teaches us, those who work hard will be leaders and those who are lazy will be slaves. Those who work hard are likely to get what they want in life. Faith is the most important, but you just can’t expect God to do everything for you. You gotta put in the hard work,” said Horwich.

“It was an honor to fight Thales. He was really respectful, even afterwards. We saw him when we were leaving and he had the most respect for Matt,” commented Kelly.

Links to Horwich vs. Leites from “War on the Mainland” are here:

Round One

Round Two

Round Three & Four:

In other “War on the Mainland” action that night:

PWP heavyweight (275 lbs.) championship – Tim Sylvia def. Paul Buentello via TKO, R2, 4:57.

205 lbs. – Terry Martin def. Jorge Ortiz via split decision.

PWP light heavyweight (205 lbs.) championship – Tony Lopez def. Jason Lambert via KO, R2, 1:49.

Erin Beach def. Joao Silva via unanimous decision.

Diego Garijo def. Jens Pulver via submission, R1, 1:08.

Gustavo Machado def. Rick Reeves via split decision.

Cleber Luciano def. Todd Williamson via submission, R2, 3:18.

A.J. Matthews def. Sean Choice via TKO, R2, 3:54.

PWP has not yet announced a date for their next event. Matt Horwich is sponsored by X-Pole and Melee Fight Gear, with support from Legends MMA and 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu.

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Jouban wins debut, Bollinger blemishes Couture’s amateur graduation in controversy

Posted in Legends MMA, Live Event Reports, Tuff-N-Uff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2010 by jaytan716

By Jay Tan

Ryan Couture and Sean Bollinger fought to an inconclusive draw at the March 26th Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA event in Las Vegas.

The friendly rivalry between Legends MMA and Xtreme Couture, best illustrated with the historic three-fight saga between Chris Brady and Jimmy Jones, wrote another chapter last weekend, as Sean Bollinger and Ryan Couture battled to a razor-thin draw, capping off a Tuff-N-Uff event which saw six members of the combined 10th Planet / Legends MMA gym face difficult but important moral victories.

The match, a title bout for the Tuff-N-Uff 155 lb. championship, was a back-and-forth battle of wits between two celebrated ground technicians, one of whom had quickly become an affable fan favorite, and the other an underestimated but dangerous dark horse.  Fans were calling it one of the most exciting matches in Tuff-N-Uff history, although several were up in arms that a title match would be allowed to end in a draw.

For Bollinger, the victory was, if nothing else, a moral one, as he said “this fight really showed me my heart.  It proved something to myself: nine minutes of straight war.  And I didn’t quit. . . It didn’t surprise me, but it showed me something.  We both took a beating.  I just need to see that in myself, to pursue this MMA career.”

Moreover, there was much debate over whether the match should continue into the third round,  as Bollinger trapped Couture in a triangle choke and by all accounts (including Couture’s), put the second generation star to sleep moments before or right at the bell.

Teammate Tommy Gavin noted “I think Bollinger clearly won the first two rounds.  He actually put the kid to sleep, so I think he won the fight. “

In a Las Vegas Sun article that ran the next morning, Couture told writer Hepi Mita that that he was put out, saying “He did have me asleep as the bell rang. . . It’s not every day you get to pass out and then still fight another round.”

Not to be outdone, Legends MMA / 10th Planet mainstay Alan “The Jedi Knight” Jouban finally made his MMA debut, winning with a highlight reel-caliber 14-second TKO over Dustin Chevalier (Striking Unlimited).  With an 8-0 record in amateur Muay Thai, Jouban’s MMA cherrybreaker came after a series of injury mishaps.  Ironically enough, Jouban was a last-minute replacement for Eddie Jackson, who himself withdrew from the event due to injury.

“I felt like I was more hungry for that fight than I was for almost anything in my life.  It was almost two years of being sidelined, watching my peers grow and get better in this sport, and me not getting to do it.  And once I kept building momentum, I get hurt again. . . Now that I think I’ve got that first hurdle out of the way . . . that’s my biggest goal right now – to stay hungry, to keep building a career,” explained Jouban.

“Alan was, what can you say?  He went out there and took the guy out quick.  He did exactly what he wanted to do and looked like an animal with his twelve-pack, the whole time,” said teammate and pro fighter Garren Smith.

155 lbs. – Tommy Gavin vs. Jon Gorton (Team Quest)

Tommy Gavin vs. Joe GortonGavin scored two trademark takedowns in round one, and Gorton worked for submissions from the bottom each time. The second takedown was a guillotine choke, which, while tight, offered little threat to the Upstate New York wrestler.  With credit to teammate Eddie Jackson’s pre-fight head-shaving tradition, Gavin had little problem popping his head out, working for a D’arce choke to the round’s end.  Round two saw Gavin and Gorton repeat the takedown / guillotine sequence from before.  Gorton got a takedown of his own, and although Gavin worked for the armbar from bottom, Gordon was able to pass guard to full mount, throwing lefts and rights until the referee ended the match at 0:42 of the second round.  Gordon was awarded the TKO victory.

Never one to get hung up on the past, Gavin saw a silver lining in the match itself, noting “one positive thing is I’m definitely getting better on my feet.  I believe I was winning the stand-up in the fight, and my coaches told me to keep it standing, but I kind of went back to the wrestler instinct.”

Teammate Jouban added “Tommy let his hands go.  He might have discovered something, that he’s got power in his hands.

170 lbs. – Takashi Munoz vs. Warren Roberds (Wand Fight Team)

Takashi Munoz vs. Warren RobardsThis match was three rounds of Roberds keeping the pressure on Munoz with jabs and wild overhand rights.  Fists flew right from the bell, as Roberds charged and cornered Munoz, who got caught up in the ropes.  Munoz was able to retard Roberds’ pace with over/underhooks and Muay Thai knees, but Roberds broke free with lefts and overhands rights, scoring a knockdown that threw Munoz under the bottom rope just as the bell rang.  Roberds again bullied Munoz into the corner in round two, but Munoz was able to slip in some knees from a Thai clinch, as well as mounting an offense of his own with kicks.

Munoz opened up round three with a perfectly-timed head kick that could have possibly knocked Roberds out, had he not gone with the momentum, but Roberds was able to clinch up and catch his bearings.  Up against the corner, Munoz threw a controversial leg strike which the referee ruled as an illegal knee to the head, penalizing Munoz with a one-point deduction.    Munoz threw more kicks and knees in this round than previous bouts, but that wasn’t enough to stop Roberds, who looked for the trip takedown and knees.  Munoz fired another head kick, but tripped to the floor as the final bell sounded.

In a very close differential, Warren Roberds takes the match with a majority (split) decision.

Like with his teammate, Munoz indicated that despite not getting the victory, the match added another block to his mental arsenal: “I found out a lot of things about myself in this fight. I realized I’m way tougher than I thought I would be . . . You know how there’s a saying – ‘how can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?’  In this fight, I now know that I’m ready to get hit, and I’m still going to come back at you.”

Discussing the point deduction, Munoz explained “[the referee] said something like ‘I told you there’s no knees to the head.’ And in my case, I was looking at him like ‘that was no knee.  That was the middle to the top of the shin.’  If he looks carefully, it didn’t even look like I was throwing a knee.  It was a kick.  A complete kick.”

185 lbs. – Rick Borden (10th Planet Riverside) vs. Zach Conley (Xtreme Couture)

Rick Bordon vs. Zach ConleyDespite this being Borden’s Tuff-N-Uff debut, the 10th Planet Riverside rookie is no stranger to the lights and big stage.  Borden went into the event 2-0 in amateur MMA, and previously played football at Eastern Oregon University.

After the first flurry of strikes and a takedown attempt by Borden, he and Conley circled and felt each other out.  Borden pushed Conley into the corner with a punch combination, throwing left body shots as Conley tried to mar the action with over/underhooks. During the scuffle, the corner pad came loose, which led to a brief stop in the action.  Upon the restart, the two traded combinations and vied for takedowns that neither got.

Both men engaged much more gingerly in round two, only throwing single or two-strike combinations.  Conley had a chance to capitalize off a slip by Borden, but didn’t.  Borden tried for another takedown towards the end of the round, but Conley stuffed it and held him at bay, landing a big knee.  In round three, Conley opened up with a wild right, then attacked with single left hooks and low kicks.  Borden fired combos to the head.  Conley scored a trip takedown off a body lock, but was unable to get out of Borden’s half-guard.

Judges awarded the match to Zach Conley by unanimous decision.

“I wish I could have got a little more takedowns and worked my ground game, because that’s what I’ve been working on.  My jiu Jitsu game is probably my strong point. . . I knew he was gonna be a pretty well-rounded fighter.  I knew he had a lot of experience on me, which obviously showed at the end of the fight,” Borden said after the fight.

135 lbs. – Chris Brady vs. Casey Johnson (Team Driven)

Chris Brady vs. Casey Johnson

This match was destined to be a barn burner from the entrance music, as Brady walked out to “A Country Boy Can Survive,” with Johnson emerging to Justin Moore’s “I Could Kick Your Ass.”  Johnson, making his Tuff-N-Uff debut, is the 145 lb. champion in the MMA Explosion promotion, with a 7-1 MMA record and training out of Jens Pulver’s Team Driven in Idaho.

Round one was a kicking battle, as both men traded a series of low shots, one of which Johnson used to trip Brady to the ground.  Johnson chose to keep it standing, however, knocking Brady down again with straight-ahead punches.  Brady got revenge by knocking Johnson down with a high kick, but got tied up in top position and almost caught in an armbar before the round ended.  The pair traded heavy leather and furious kicks and knees in the second round.  Brady neutralized Johnson on the ground with rubber guard and mission control.  Round three saw Johnson catch another kick, pushing Brady to the ground and in the corner, but Brady escaped and engaged on the feet, brushing off a Superman punch from Johnson.  They traded combinations until Johnson got another trip.  Brady had him in an armbar in the waning seconds of the match.

Judges awarded the match to Johnson by unanimous decision, but this was one of the closest matches in recent Legends MMA memory.

For Johnson, the slugfest took its toll, commenting “I tell ya, halfway through the second, all into the third, my ears were ringing. . . Chris Brady is a tough, stacked kid. . . I appreciate him taking the fight.  It’s a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to fight him, to go three rounds with him.  Hat’s off to Chris and hat’s off to Tuff-N-Uff.”

170 lbs. – Alan Jouban vs. Dustin Chevalier (Striking Unlimited)

Alan Jouban vs. Dustin Chevalier

Jouban and Chevalier almost instantly started throwing flurries at each other.  Jouban connected with left high kick to the head, following up with a right hook that dropped Chevalier.  With Chevalier on his knees, Jouban fired off several more punches to the head before the referee jumped in.

Alan Jouban won by TKO, R1, 0:14.

Ever the perfectionist, Jouban was surprisingly disappointed in at least one aspect of his match: “I was really actually kind of jealous of [my teammates’] fights.  All of them did things that I wanted to do in my fight that I didn’t get to do.  A 14 second knockout’s great, but all-in-all, the amateur league is to get the ring experience, which I feel like I’m not getting when I was with that dude. . .  Takashi went three rounds, Brady went three rounds.”

155 lbs. Tuff-N-Uff Title Match – Ryan Couture (Xtreme Couture) vs. Sean Bollinger

Sean Bollinger vs. Ryan CoutureThis match, along with the two other title matches of the night, were three-minute rounds.  The story of the match was that Couture, a noted armbar specialist, was facing his toughest submission challenge in Bollinger, who was only the second black belt under Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system.  This was also Bollinger’s second amateur MMA fight.

Bollinger set the first round off with kicks, including an unexpected headshot.  Couture got Bollinger to the ground after engaging with a combo, but opted to keep it standing, which would be the theme of the fight for Couture’s ground strategy.  Conversely, Bollinger would pull guard whenever possible, and did secure Couture in tight mission control at one point, but Couture eventually escaped.  Bollinger didn’t shy away from stand-up engagement, however, holding his own with headwork, left hooks, and overhand rights.  Couture missed several overhand rights, but did his fair share of damage with low kicks to Bollinger’s left leg.

Round two opened with a longer feeling out period, as the two traded measured combos for the first minute.  Bollinger got double overhooks and pulled Couture down, trapping him with mission control and a triangle. The controversy really kicked in with eight seconds left, as Couture, still trapped in the triangle, tried to escape by stepping over Bollinger’s head.  Sensing it, Bollinger hooked the leg and held on to the ring of the bell.  Referee Joe Sullivan, not in position to stop the action right at the bell, made contact with the fighters 1-2 seconds after the ring, by which point Couture’s arm was visibly limp.

According to commentator Ron Yacovetti, Sullivan’s hand gesture could have been interpreted as the round ending or the match ending.  After a brief celebration by the Legends / 10th Planet corner, Sullivan informed them that the match was not over.

Going into round three, both men engaged.  Couture caught a Bollinger kick and tripped him to the ground, then followed up with combos, stepping away from Bollinger’s sweep attempt.  Couture kept the pressure on Bollinger, stuffing a takedown attempt and landing rights to the body and head.  Bollinger did briefly get mission control on Couture on the ground again, but Couture peppered the body with punches and escaped.  The two traded selective shots in the last few seconds of the round.

Judges scored the entire bout evenly, ruling it a draw.  Couture won the first round by a split, with two judges scoring it 10-9 for Couture and one judge scoring it 10-9 for Bollinger.  Bollinger took the second round unanimously, 10-9 on two judges’ scorecards and 10-8 on the third scorecard.  Couture walked away with the 10-9 for the third round on all judges’ cards, ending the match with one judge scoring it 29-28 for Couture, one judge scoring it 29-28 for Bollinger, and one judge scoring it 28-28 as a draw.

Fans were visibly upset by the decision, with loud chants of both fighters’ names, as well as “one more round.”

Afterwards, Bollinger spoke about the match being an opportunity to show that he wasn’t simply a one-dimensional fighter, saying “I’m just happy that I could go all three rounds, and I can display other talents than just the grappling.  I guess people kinda know where my hands are at.”

As for thoughts on a rematch, Bollinger said “Ryan was saying he didn’t want to fight a rematch, unless we went pro.  He said he didn’t want to do that for free again, is the actual quote he said.  But I’m down for a rematch for sure.  I definitely want to fight a couple more amateur fights.  I love Tuff-N-Uff.  I love coming here and fighting at the Orleans. I’d love to see him in the future.  Maybe on a UFC undercard or something.”

In other Tuff-N-Uff action that night:

170 lbs. – Joey Angelo (TapouT) def. Jesse Bowler (Team Hollywood) via sub (triangle) R3, 1:27.

135 lbs. – Jerry Shapiro (Cobra Kai) def. Victor Henry (Strike Sub Club) via sub (rear naked choke) R2, 1:57.

155 lbs. Jimmy Spicuzza (Team Lethal) def. Oron Kahlon (freestyle) via TKO, R3, 0:21.

185 lbs. Tuff-N-Uff Title Fight – Edmond Xhelili (Warrior Training Center) def. Tim Bowman (Striking Unlimited) via unanimous decision.

145 lbs. Tuff-N-Uff Title Fight – Andrew Alirez (Top Notch MMA) def. Vince Norica (Suffer Fight Team) via sub (arm triangle), R1, 2:41.

Tuff-N-Uff returns to the Orleans Hotel & Casino on Friday, April 23rd.  Legends / 10th Planet expect to send fighters.  Check back here for details.

Legends MMA is sponsored by X-Pole, Melee Fight Gear, HPE, Inc., and Stripper 101.

Verbal Sparring: Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (AMC Pankration)

Posted in Genesis FIGHTS, Interviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2009 by jaytan716

If you do a YouTube search for Demetrius Johnson, you’ll see footage of him wrestling Alan Calahan at the USA Wrestling National Junior Duals.  You’ll also find a highlight reel from his college basketball days with the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) Mastodons.  And you’ll find his “I’ve Got My Strength Back” sermon, based on the story of Samson and Delilah.

None of these are the Genesis FIGHTS / AX Fighting / Rumble on the Ridge bantamweight MMA champion Demetrious Johnson.  With an ‘o.’

Demetrious 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson, with his girlfriend, Destiny, after another victory.

Demetrious 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson, with his girlfriend, Destiny, after another victory.

Known to his friends simply as “DJ,” Johnson is another young star on the rise from the Pacific Northwest.  As the reigning 135 lb. king of three different fight promotions, Johnson has a legitimate claim to be the toughest bantamweight fighter in the Pacific Northwest.

In January, Johnson broke his hand in a match where he claimed his Rumble on the Ridge 135 lb. MMA title.  At the time of the first part of this interview, he was waiting for medical clearance to begin sparring.  He has since been cleared to train and is preparing for a match at Genesis FIGHTS’ next event, “Rise of Kings, Emperors of MMA,” which takes place on June 27th at the Shoreline Community College.

In a two-part phone interview, Johnson offered insight and reflection on his passion for running, how it translates to fighting, and of course how he deals with being “the smallest guy on the scene.”

JT:  Tell us a little bit about your high school wrestling background.  Have you been wrestling all your life?

DJ:  No, I started wrestling in eighth grade and I did very well in that season.  I only lost one match the whole season, and then I took first in districts, which is the highest level you could get in middle school.  After that I went to high school and my freshman year, I got tore up.  Just mop the mat with me.  Sitting there with a black eye, bloody lip. And it was because I weighed 109 lbs. and I was wrestling 118.  I didn’t want to wrestle JV [Junior Varsity] 112, because I couldn’t beat the 112-pounder, but I could beat the 118-pounder.  So I wrestled my whole high school freshman year at 118, and got beat up, didn’t go nowhere.  My sophomore year, I started peaking a little bit. . . I took fifth [place] in state.  And then my junior year, I dominated and I took second in state.  And my senior year, I was supposed to take the whole state tournament and everything.  Went undefeated throughout the whole tournament season, and then I lost in the third round, to the semi-finals, to get to the finals, to a kid from Sedro-Woolley.  He pinned me.

JT:  That must have been a hard pill to swallow.

DJ:  No, I wasn’t that – I think we were both good.  I think I was better than him, but the whole season, I never fought off my back.  I’d never been taken down the whole entire season of wrestling, and I’m about to go against a freshman that has a very decent record, that’s wrestled all throughout the state and all this other stuff.  And then when I went against him, he took me down. . . And once he got me there, it was like “oh my God, I’ve never been here before.  How do I fight out of it?” . . . Because I had no idea how to fight from there.  It basically broke me, mentally.

I got up and approached my coach and he was like “well, oh well!”

And that’s just like MMA.  If you don’t train your ground game, when you fall to the ground with the guy, the first thing in your mind is “oh shit, I’m on the ground.  What do I do?” . . . And I told myself from then on there, if there’s anything I can do [to keep from] losing, I will do everything in my power not to lose. . . Because I’m not going to repeat that.  I’ve already had my loss, in my career, and as an amateur, I want to go through this circuit as 14-0.

JT:  After wrestling your senior year, you ended up at Vision Quest.  Were you just looking for a workout or how did that pique your interest?

DJ:  Well, I got into MMA right after high school. . . I never knew about MMA until right after the first “Ultimate Fighter” came on. . . I saw how they were training hard.  I said “damn, they’re kicking the bag, [they’ve got] tough bodies.  I think I’m gonna try it.”

So I walked into a gym, Vision Quest, which I no longer go to . . . I’ve always been working out at Vision Quest, ever since they opened. . . since my junior year.  My wrestling coach thought it would be good for me, because there’s a lot more wrestlers that go there.. . . And I just started punching the bag, kicking it.  And (former IFL / UFC fighter) Reese Andy looked at me, he said “hey, can you kick?”  I was like “yeah.”  He said “can you punch?”  I started punching.  He goes “you wanna do MMA?”  I was like “I’ll learn.”  And he set me up with AMC when the classes were at Vision Quest.  And I’ve been with AMC since then.

JT:  Was it the glitz and glamour that got you [interested], or did you know you were looking for release for your sense of competition after wrestling?

DJ:  I’d say competition.  I wanted to keep on competing.  I didn’t want to stop doing a sport and being fat and lazy on the couch.  And go to my 10-year high school reunion and be like “hey guys, I gained 80 pounds, and I’m fat.”

JT:  Was college in the decks for you, or were you going to work a scholarship for wrestling?

DJ:  I did have a couple of scholarship offers for wrestling, but I didn’t want to leave my family behind and go off and do my own thing. . . If I wanted to go to college and wrestle, I would have to go out of state.  One college that I went to was Southern Oregon Community College, but they didn’t have dorm rooms, so I’d have to rent an apartment out there and work out there and I didn’t want to do that.

So I went to Pierce College and I was working a job there too and working out part-time.  Just lifting, trying to get bigger, since I didn’t have to stay at 118 pounds in high school.  I didn’t take any scholarship offers.  I don’t regret or anything, because I’m in a better place now [with fighting than wrestling].

JT:  If I remember correctly, you spend part of your time at AMC South and part of your time at Kirkland, right?

DJ:  Yeah, usually . . . what people don’t understand – there’s AMC Kirkland and there’s AMC South, which is AMC Pacific.  When I train, basically, my instructor, my teacher, was Steve Skidds and Luke Pitman.  And basically Drew [Brokenshire], Taurean [Washington], Brian [Roberge], us little core guys, we basically taught ourselves – not to fight, but that’s what training was like.

Usually, when I go up there on Saturdays, I try to get beat up a lot.  From Caros [Fodor], Trevor, Daniel [Eng], Matt [Hume] – basically, the big dogs, up there.  Because that’s the best thing you can do.  I think you learn from getting beat up. . . I was up there a few weeks ago and I was getting my hard sparring round in.  Me and Caros were just banging away.  Here I am, 140 lbs., and he’s a 180-pounder.  And we’re just going at it.  And after the fight was done, I asked Matt “tell me what I did wrong.”  And he just told me everything that I did wrong.  And I understood him.  That’s why I like going up there on Saturdays, up in Kirkland.  So I get beat up, basically.

'DJ' and Drew Brokenshire, in the midst of high-impact lightsaber training.  Note the raised platform for high-altitude conditioning.

'DJ' and Drew Brokenshire, in the midst of high-impact lightsaber training. Note the raised platform for high-altitude conditioning.

JT:  I talked with Drew and he said the same thing.  That you guys drill with each other and beat each other up as the team down south, and then go on Saturdays and test your skills [in Kirkland].

DJ:  Yeah, and it’s funny, because you’ll see me and Drew – we’re main training partners.  I like him to hold mitts for me, because he holds them just perfect, the way I like it.  And same as for him for me.  When we fight, we fight a little bit similar; we have the same pressure, but he’s more stand-up, and he’s developing his ground game.  But me, I like to pressure in fights.  I used to be slick fighter, like “I’ll fight you when I want to fight you.”  So we’re both trying to get adaptable to our styles.

JT:  Am I right in remembering, you guys have a 10-pound difference?

DJ:  Yeah, there’s a 10-pound difference, but when he’s not cutting weight, there’s a 30-pound difference.  If I walk around, on a good day, at 144-145.

JT:  So you keep it down and he does the whole Ricky Fatton [Hatton] thing.

DJ:  You could say that, but [laughs] he walks around like 167, which is really good, and I walk around 140.  And I’ve cut down to 125.  I’ve fought twice at 125, but Matt wants me at 135, just to get used to the weight class up there.

JT:  Tell me your thoughts about being a part of AMC and training under Matt.

DJ:  It’s awesome.  It doesn’t get better than this.  One thing that I love about AMC is that there’s always somebody that can beat you up.  And what I mean by that is an instructor – I really don’t get a chance to spar Matt, Trevor, or Daniel, or Brad [Kurtson] as much as I wish I could, but I know that if I go up there and I’m like “shit, I want to spar,” if they want to, I know they’ll just mop me up.  Even though I mop all my opponents up.

JT:  There’s always somebody higher on the totem pole, right?

DJ:  Yeah, there’s always someone higher on the scale.  Granted, they’re not my same weight, but I’ve been dealing with that my whole life and that’s just what [propels] me.  Five-four, 145 pounds.  There’s just not a lot of guys around here that weigh that much and are at my skill level.

JT:  How long have you been training at AMC?

DJ:  I’d say I’ve been training MMA, like, four years now.

JT:  And coupled with wrestling training, which certainly is no joke either. . .

DJ:  Oh now, so then you’re going back to wrestling.  So you got four years of MMA.  I started [wrestling] when I was in eighth grade – so about nine years total.

JT:  So that said, I would think by now you’ve developed your own kind of training philosophy or style.  What’s your outlook on training?  How do you approach it?

DJ:  Okay, so, it’s like, I think you train hard and the fight’s easy.  You train like a champion, you fight like a champion.  You train like shit, you fight like shit.  With us being down at AMC Pacific, where it’s just us little core guys, we have to learn to train ourselves hard, because we all don’t live by each other.  Like I’m in University Place, Drew lives in Piala, Taurean lives in Covington.  So does Brian.  And Steve – he’s an Alaska Airlines pilot.  So when we train, we’re not always together.

I don’t need a coach behind me, yelling at me, like “run your sprints.  Do this, do that.”  That actually irritates me a little bit.  I went to college and I could have finished school and got my higher education and went off and done something else, but I decided that I wanted to fight.  And I know what fighting comes with.  And it’s a job to be in top shape when you fight . . . You don’t need to babysit me.  But sometimes I feel that guys are in a world where they need babysistters.  Even pro guys.  If you don’t tell them what to do, they’re just going to sit at home like “oh, I’ll wait until the next time I’m fighting and not do whatever I gotta do.”

JT:  You’re really a self-started and you have to kind of make your own training and regiment, really.

DJ:  As a regimen, Steve Skidds tells me what my lifting should be and what I should be eating and stuff, but as for somebody calling me, waking me up out of bed, and telling me to go to the gym, I don’t need it, and that’s how it’s been my whole life, ever since I was in elementary running.

JT:  What pro fighters has Matt brought in that you’ve trained with?

DJ:  I’ve trained with Rich [Franklin] and Chris Leben.  I got to wrestle with Jens Pulver.

Rich was pretty fun.  He’s a lot heavier.  I was trying to keep up with my pace and try to choke him out.  When I trained with Chris Leben, I didn’t roll with him, but doing stand-up with him, it was a little bit difficult with him, because it was when I was first starting, so I really didn’t understand the southpaw position, but. But he’s beef.  He’s huge.

JT:  Was it difficult to get over the size difference there?

DJ:  No, I’ve been dealing with that my whole life.

JT:  Tell me about that part, always being the smaller guy.  Did you deal with bullying as a kid?

DJ:  When I was growing up, I didn’t really get bullied, but I was an easy target.  So everybody makes fun of me.  When I was in elementary, it wasn’t as bad.  Then when I got to middle school, I had a temper and I was one of those bad kids who stayed out late at night and did bad things.  Just to prove that – you make fun of me at all, ‘cuz I’ll beat you up.  Then, when I got into eighth grade, when I started learning, when I started maturing, nobody messed with me.  When I got physical, in ninth grade, the seniors, nobody messed with me.  They make fun of me, because I was short and I had big ears.  Like a mouse.  But nobody really picked on me at all.  Just being the smaller guy in the room, when I got ahold of them, I could wrestle them and they’re like “oh, you’re a small guy, but you’re not weak like a small person.”

JT:  When did you get blessed with the Mighty Mouse nickname?

DJ:  [Laughs] That came, probably, during when I had been training with Skidds and those guys. . . I’m the smallest guy at my gym right now, besides Scott McDonald, who is one of the new guys.  So I’ll roll with Brian, Taurean, Skidds, Drew, and I’ll give them fits.  . . . And so Skidds gave me the nickname “Mighty Mouse” because I’m small, but I always bring the fight.  I’m always gonna be there, wherever you’re gonna be at.  I’m not just gonna keep it on my feet, because I’m better than you, but I’ll beat you to the ground and submit you even though that’s your aim.  And so he nicknamed me “Mighty Mouse.”  And the way my ears are too, and my structure.

JT:  I was gonna say, it really fits in there.  The whole thing about good things coming in small packages, right?

DJ:  Yeah [laughs].

JT:  For you, what’s the toughest thing about fighting?

     Casualty of War - Johnson broke his hand while en route to winning his third 135 lb. MMA championship.

Casualty of War - Johnson broke his hand while en route to winning his third 135 lb. MMA championship.

DJ:  Honestly, I love training hard, I love running, I love lifting hard.  I’d say the toughest thing about fighting is the sparring hard. . . Because when you spar, you get hurt, you get bruises, and you can potentially tear something.  Or anything.  But people believe that you need to spar hard to get in good shape.  And I totally disagree with that, because yes, people say that I’m a freak when it comes to cardio, but I can tell you that I don’t spar hard when I get ready for a fight, because you get hurt that way.

When I jump in the ring and I have to fight, I know that I gotta be in perfect condition, and I gotta make sure I train my body to be ready for that aggravating throwing and to work hard and not [get] tired when I throw hard.  And some people don’t train their minds to do that. . . My training is very strict.  I know what I need to do to get ready for a fight, and it’s the same thing what I did for wrestling. . . I [want] to make sure my whole body’s recovered, and make sure, when I fight, I’m at 110%.  Not with all the aches and bruises.  Because you don’t want to walk into a fight with aches and bruises.

Now, when I train, I take care of my body.  I pop my fish oil and my multivitamin.  I make sure I wrap my hands.   I wear kneepads.  I wear shinpads.  Because if I get hurt in practice, let’s say I break my hand in practice. . . That’s a huge setback, because now I gotta have surgery.  There’s another 40 G’s down the drain, because of surgery.  And now that’s the main rule.  When me and Drew spar now, we spar hard, but we spar with our heads.  We don’t try to hurt each other and break our legs.

This body has to last me until I’m 39 or 38, because this is my career.  I stopped going to school, and if I don’t make it like this, it’s gonna be McDonald’s or Jack-in-the-Box, and I don’t want to go to any one of those.

JT:  Well, they also got Dick’s Burgers up there on Broadway too.

DJ:  [Laughs] Dick’s Burger are not a go either.

JT:  I guess that kinda answers my next question.  If you had to make a living outside of fighting, what would it be?

DJ:  If I was to do something, it [would] be in the athletic department.  That would probably have to be it.  Honestly, I would like to be a high school coach, probably wrestling or cross country.

JT:  Is running or fighting more your passion?  Do you still have that same passion for running?

DJ:  Oh no, it really hasn’t taken away from running, because I use most of my running for my training for MMA . . . I used to run half-marathons and street races and stuff. . . Fighting – I look at it as my hobby and it’s my job.  So I take it very seriously.

I ran ever since I was little, and in second grade, I ran [in a group] called track club.  Nobody coached you how to do it; nobody [said] you shouldn’t do it.  You basically go out on the track and you run the whole recess.  So while people were on the swings swinging or playing the monkey bars, I was running laps.  Constantly.  Every recess, for five years.  Every school year.  At the end of the year, the goal [was] to get 100 miles.  At each 25-mile mark, you get something.  25 miles you get something, 50 miles you get something, 75 miles, I remember you get a big pizza party, and 100 miles, you get a medal.  My last year, I had like 117 miles at the end of the year.  So I beat my old personal record. . . And that became a passion for me when I got out of high school.

My mindset in running, it kinda rolls over to MMA for where I go in a long run or I’m running sprints for MMA training.  My technique comes back in running, and it’s like “oh man, I’m so glad that I love running, or this would be a pain in my ass.”

JT:  As a fan of MMA, who are some of your favorite fighters, or some of the best matches you’ve seen?

DJ:  My favorite fighter, hands down, would be Thiago “Pitbull” Alves.  I think his last fight with Josh Koscheck was really good.  How he didn’t get taken down at all, and he controlled the center of the ring. He had a pretty good game plan.  Rampage, he’s another one of my favorite fighters, just because of his attitude.  He keeps it real when he’s fighting. . . He has his fun.  He enjoys his life.  George St-Pierre, he’s one of my favorites too.  He’s more of a game-planner, but at that level, the UFC competition, you have to have a game plan.  You just can’t go in there and try to fight your way like that.

JT:  Who do you like in St-Pierre vs. Alves?  You looking forward to that fight?

DJ:  If I had to put down $100, I’m gonna pick Alves.  And the reason why is because Thiago Alves is a bigger guy and I think he’s gonna come up with a good game plan against Georges St-Pierre.  Because Georges St-Pierre does have a weak chin.  It’s been exposed.  Thiago Alves has real good power in both hands and his knees and in his kicks.

JT:  Run me through your fight career, as far as matches goes. I believe your AMC site said you were 8-0 in MMA and 4-0 in Muay Thai?  When was your first match?

DJ:  It would have to be Brawl at the Mall III, so that was back in 2006. . .

Yeah, I remember how they went.  The first match was mixed martial arts against Oren Ulrich.  After that I did a kickboxing fight against Mike Richardson.  And the reason I did that was because Matt was like “okay, we know you can wrestle, but we gotta work on your stand-up.”  I did that one.  And then my third fight – it was actually a forfeit, so I don’t count that.  It was against Michael Aries, and I remember him showing up nine pounds overweight.  I said I’d still fight him, but he didn’t want to fight.  I think my next fight was at AX [Fighting], at 125 pounds. And this was when I first tried out 125 pounds.  I knocked out my opponent, Brandon Fields in 17 seconds.

I won the Axe [title] first, then the Genesis Muay Thai title.  Then I defended the Axe title.  And then I fought for the Genesis [MMA] title.  And then I fought for the Rumble on the Ridge title.  And [that’s] all four belts that I have now.

JT:  Did you defend the AX title at all?

DJ:  Yeah, I defended it against Jorge Garza, and I armbarred him in the second round.  Because after I fought a kickboxing match, against Scott McDonald, I broke my rib.  And when I came back, Matt told me “You’re already exciting to fight.  You go out there and you bang, but now you have to start finishing people.” So right after Matt said that, I started finishing people in MMA.  I armbarred Jorge Garza.  And that was the first fight that I finished somebody.  After Matt said that comment to me.

JT:  So you’ve fought steadily four times each year, since your debut.  You’ve been busy, man.

Sometimes I’ll fight more in a year, and take it less [next] year.  But if you do a ratio, yeah, it’s like four times each year.

You’ve gotta stay busy.  Because I’m the type of person that, if I’m not hurt or not strapped for cash or anything, I just keep on training. . . Because I want to get to the next level where I’m fighting overseas or anything.  I basically told Matt “what do I need to do to get to Shooto,” and he said “you need to do this and this and this.”  And so far I’ve kept on doing that.

JT:  What’s the next milestone for you?

DJ:  My next goal is to become pro and fight overseas in Shooto.

JT:  Thus far, what has been your best and worst memory of your fight career?

DJ:  Probably when Drew lost his belt to John “Prince” Albert.  Even though it had nothing to do with me, that’s probably my worst memory.  And the reason why I would say [that] is because John came in, and we didn’t overlook him, but the way he came in, and he did everything right; it’s like, that pisses me off because Drew should have been there.  And yes, things happen and stuff, but that’s my worst thing. . . because they never got a chance to fight.  Just like Caros and Taurean.  Caros beat Taurean twice with the same move, and the same sequence.  Guillotine.  But they never got a chance to fight.  Those are my worst memories – Drew losing his belt to John “Prince” Albert and Taurean losing to Caros.

JT:  What about good memories?

DJ:  My best one was probably when I defended my belt at AX and I armbarred [Jorge Garza].  And the reason why that’s probably my best memory is because of two reasons – one, that’s when Matt was saying “in order for you get to that next step, you need to start finishing people.”  And what did I do?  I finished that person.

And the second one was, that whole week, Skidds – we’re working on armbar from side control with the knee ride.  Over and over and over.  And once the chance popped up, I did everything perfect. Pushed the head down, circled around, armbarred him, pulled through, sat on my butt.  Had to break the lock, so I hammerfisted him in the face.  Once he let go, pop the hands up, and finished the armbar.  And then me and Steve had a big hug.  We were like “oh yeah, that’s what we worked on, baby.”  And it was just perfect.  Because we worked it and I wasn’t tired at all.  I could have fought somebody else that night, because I was in such good shape.

Even when flanked by his girlfriend and best friend, 'Mighty Mouse' is still all business.

Even when flanked by his girlfriend and best friend, 'Mighty Mouse' is still all business.

JT:  Tell me about your downtime.  What do you like to do when you’re trying to step away from the pressure of training and the ring?

DJ:  All I do is I come home and I chill with my girlfriend Destiny.  I like to dance a lot. . . Now that me and my girlfriend have calmed down, we don’t really go out.  But if I ever get a chance to go to an after party and dance, best believe I’ll be on the floor cutting some rug.

When she’s not here, I’m usually playing video games or working out.  And the video games I play are fighting games.  And zombie games too.

JT:  What’s worse – the 28 Days Later zombies or the remake Dawn of the Dead ones?

DJ:  I’m liking the Resident Evil zombies.  I know now, in Resident Evil 4 and 5, they’re not really zombies.  They’re the Lost Project, which is a whole different story.  But I like the whole background, how it’s a bioweapon.

JT:  How many zombies does it take to succumb Matt Hume?  How many before they turn him into a zombie?

DJ:  I’d have to say 24.

JT:  How about Matt Hume and Resident Evil zombies?

DJ:  That’s a good one.   If Matt Hume has the virus that Albert Wurtzker has, I think Matt Hume would destroy anybody in the zombie world.

JT:  Who do you think would win in a match between Matt Hume and the cartoon Mighty Mouse?

DJ:  Umm, Matt Hume. . . I think he’ll take his back and choke him out.

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is scheduled to fight at the next Genesis FIGHTS event, “Rise of Kings, Emperors of MMA,” on June 27th, at the Shoreline Community College.