Fed Up with Football, Demetrious Johnson Turned to Wrestling & MMA


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Demetrious Johnson will be vying for the UFC flyweight championship Saturday when he meets Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152.

Before his shot at the title, he joined host Jack Encarnacao on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Rewind” show to discuss his youth, MMA and more.

Johnson on his mother being deaf: “I didn’t know she was deaf until I got a lot older because just the way she raised us was each time we talked to somebody, we looked them in the eye, so she could read our lips. We were in different rooms and we’d scream her name, and she said to always to pound on the ground or on the wall and then [she’d] come because she could feel the vibrations in the house. Being raised by her, it went well because she just made it work for her. We were living in her world.

“As I got older, my sister goes, ‘You know Mom’s deaf, right?’ I was like, ‘No, she’s not,’ and she goes, ‘Yeah, she is.’ Then I went to my mom and I was like, ‘Hey, are you deaf?’ She goes, ‘Yeah,’ and I was like, ‘What?’ It was a little shocking, but at the same time, she did what she had to do. ... Even now, if my wife’s in the shower, if she starts banging on something to get like lotion out of something, I’ll come running to her because I’m so used to it.”

On not knowing his father: “There was just no father figure ever there at the household, so my mom had to do both roles. I just rolled with the punches and just went with the flow. My friends, obviously, when I’d go over to their house and I’d see their dad and mom, I would listen to what his dad said to him and I would see how his father treats his mother. I picked up tips from there, but other than that, there was nobody at home telling me you need to do this and this as a father figure. It was always my mom telling me what I needed to do in school and even when I did sports. She goes, ‘If you want to do anything, just go do it. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.’”

On his parenting outlook now: “I guess you could say I come from a broken household and I believe my wife does too. I think we’re going to break that cycle. We’re going to stay together for the rest of our lives and be here for our children. That’s my plan.”

On why he started wrestling: “I took up wrestling because I was tired of, honestly, being punished for people’s lack of dedication in football. I would go to football practice and the next thing you know, kids are in the bathroom smoking weed. Coach would come in and be like, ‘Oh OK, you guys are running gassers all day.’ I was like, ‘This is BS.’ The next season was wrestling, and I wanted to do wrestling because it was just a one-on-one sport. At the end of the day, the whole team could lose, but if I won my match, then I won my match. That’s one thing I loved about wrestling. As the years went on, I just fell in love with it.”

On playing football: “I was the smallest guy on the team. When I made tackles, I’d just jump on people’s back and call my teammates to help and jump on me, then take the guy down. ... I was too small. I’d jump on their back and wrap my legs around him, and they’d be hopping away and then the rest of the team would come jump on me.”

On “The Ultimate Fighter” sparking his interest in MMA: “It was the one that Rashad Evans was on. He was a cast member on it and he was punching the bag. I was like, ‘Man, this guy can punch. He knows his stuff.’ That’s when I decided to go do it. ... I guess they showed more of the training aspect of it, of mixed martial arts. I was like, ‘I think I’m going to give it a try.’”

On his first MMA fight: “I was very influenced by Andrei Arlovski at this time, by his style, the way he moved. I went out there and I threw some hands and was successful there. Then I took the guy down. I was beating him up and I could have finished him, but I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to get up. I’ve got to work my standup.’ I jumped off him and I started working on my standup a little bit more and then I took him back down, then ended up TKOing him in, I think it was, the first or second round.”

Listen to the full interview (beginning at 41:54).

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