Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time – but he did not earn that status without walking a long, hard road.
Lesser men would have given up in the face of tough times, but the American athlete stuck it out through thick and thin to hone a set of elite skills, help establish the flyweight division at the highest level in the West, and become a record-breaking World Champion.
However, Johnson is only human, and he had his doubts through the hard times along the way. Ahead of his return to the Ryogoku Kokugikan on 13 October, he remembers the mindset he had, and if he had the chance to talk to that younger version of himself, what he would say to keep him on the right path to greatness.
I want you to remember these words – punch in, punch out.
No, not that kind of punch. I’m sure you’re training hard right now. I’m talking about the nine-to-five, man. Learn to embrace it.
Yeah, you read that right. Embrace it, because the nine-to-five will set a standard – one that will keep you on the path to becoming a World Champion. To you, it’s just reality. The nine-to-five is going to keep it real for you.
Life as an athlete isn’t easy. It can be difficult to navigate the world of mixed martial arts, so treat it just like you would any other nine-to-five job. Punch in, do the work, train hard, and punch out for the day. Rinse, repeat, and you’ll do fine.
Remember when Mom and you got on the bus, the 55, and went down by Red Lobster, by Sports Authority, just so you could get a new pair of cleats? We didn’t have a whole lot, yet she toiled the nine-to-five to provide for you and support your athletic ambitions.
You got that crazy work ethic from her. Stepdad was a military man, it was his house, his rules, but that toughened you up. Add in that athletic ability you’ve always had, and you got yourself a World Champion in the making.
Maybe you can’t piece it all together right now and that’s okay. Listen, for now just stay loyal to the nine-to-five, not because you want to, but you have to. Don’t quit it to chase a dream – at least not yet, anyway. Mixed martial arts is not a dream, it’s a constant grind that will test every bit of your ability and character.
Keep living in the present. You’ll be surprised – the nine-to-five will take you to places you never thought possible. There’s going to be both good and bad moments, and you need to tough it out through the bad.
Working as a chef at Red Lobster isn’t all that bad. Trust me, your catch of the day won’t be snow crab for long. You’re going to fall in love there, and all the tough-nosed parenting you got from mom and stepdad – that’s going to come in handy real soon… just saying.
The time you spend in recycling and construction will be the release you need from the rigors of training and competition, too.
The nine-to-five wears on everybody eventually, even you. Don’t worry though, those guys you’re training with up at AMC Pankration, they’re going to give you a new sense of normal. You’re going to fit right in at the gym.
These are cool dudes – policemen, office workers, guys holding regular jobs and trying to live the nine-to-five like you are. Training with them will keep you grounded and help you stay focused. Life is much more than just professional competitions and winning. Besides, you’ll do plenty of both anyway.
Soon, everyone is going to start calling you “Mighty Mouse.” It could be referencing your superhero-like performances, or maybe it’s one of those small stature-big heart clichés, I don’t know. But here’s what I think – it might be from those ears you got hanging off the sides of your head.
The next time you’re getting your ear bent by people constantly telling you to quit your job and go pro, or that you made it because you’re a professional fighter, you won’t listen to them, and that’s smart. Keep surrounding yourself with people who will render advice with you in mind. They will know when you are ready to make that move. Until then, stay the course.
Mixed martial arts is a tough business, whether you’re a World Champion or not. You’re only ever four or five matches away from washing out, so keep cashing those checks because every little bit counts.
Just like in those games you love, remember to save in real life. Save your money, save more, and save often. You want to provide for the people you love and everything they will need in the future. Having a business mindset when it comes to your career will be one of the smartest decisions you will ever make.
Everyone loves cheese, especially “Mighty Mouse.” Growing up poor and being around many of the other guys, you too will have a bit of an expensive taste. Temptations will be all around once the dollars start coming in, so be wise with your winnings.
Heck, you will get more mileage out of a used BMW than the tricked-out rides those other guys splurge on. Here today, gone tomorrow. That’s what the nine-to-five teaches you. Never forget where you came from, and always remember what your goal is – to provide for your family.
You’re going to see guys whom you just beat wearing Gucci sneakers at press conferences while you’re rocking your sneakers. That’s okay because not everybody gets to walk in the shoes of a World Champion anyway.
Oh, and I shouldn’t need to tell you, but just like in video games, wins and losses will happen. That’s just part of life. Fortunately for you, all that training, staying grounded, and keeping up the nine-to-five for so many years helps build character. Winning or losing will never define who you are as a person. Make sure it stays that way.
At this point, you probably realized you will make it out of the nine-to-five earlier than most can ever hope to. Congratulations but there’s more work ahead and no time to stay complacent. You just traded in your regular nine-to-five for another as a professional athlete. It just so happens you are much better in this new job.
When you finally make it out of the nine-to-five, don’t let it go to your head. Your hard work, discipline, integrity, and humility, however, will earn you recognition and get you noticed eventually. Competing in North America is just the first chapter… but I’m not one to spoil surprises.
Just know that it’s going to happen, it will be really exciting, so enjoy the journey, and keep doing you.
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization in history has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.