Most of the world knows Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson as the flyweight GOAT, but neighbor Chris Gorham knows the real man behind the celebrity.
Johnson — who will challenge Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes for the ONE Flyweight World Championship at “ONE on TNT I” on Wednesday, 7 April — doesn’t take any of the fanfare home with him. Instead, he concentrates on being a great father, husband, and friend.
“He’s just a regular guy, and he doesn’t feel like he’s a big-time [celebrity]. You would never even know,” Gorham offers.
“He doesn’t think he’s any better than you or me — he’s just another guy with a family, trying to take care of his own like the rest of us.”
The Michigan native moved in next door to Johnson six years ago, and not being a fan of combat sports, he was oblivious to the superstar one house over.
“[Someone said to me], ‘Hey, you’re never going to believe who your neighbor is,’” Gorham recalls.
“I wasn’t into mixed martial arts at the time, so I thought it was going to be a Seattle Seahawk or Mariners player, so he was hyping me up, and he goes, ‘Mighty Mouse!’ I said, ‘I don’t know who that is.’
‘He goes, ‘Demetrious Johnson!’ I didn’t know what or who he was. And that’s probably why [DJ and I] bonded, ’cause I just look at him as a regular guy.”
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As a neighbor, Gorham saw the 12-time Mixed Martial Arts World Champion mowing his lawn and taking care of his pond just like anybody else, and their children began playing together.
That led to conversations between the pair, who realized they shared a mutual passion.
“You know how it is when the dads get out there. We all talk and we realized that we were both big gamers,” Gorham says.
“And so now we just game all the time. Our kids and our families are growing up together, so they’re basically like my family. I’m like an uncle to his kids and he’s like my brother.”
That shared interest in gaming has given the relationship between Gorham and Johnson an extra dimension. As busy fathers with jobs and home lives that require much of their focus, they get to spend their downtime together — albeit in a virtual world.
Whether it’s Madden NFL, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Escape from Tarkov, or something else, the dads bounce from game to game, enjoying the camaraderie and escapism.
“He’s a gamer just like me — not quite as good as me, but not too bad,” Gorham jokes.
“Mighty Mouse” has always said that his incredible success stems from a tireless work ethic rather than any innate talent, and Gorham agrees.
The neighbor has gotten a firsthand look at the life of a world-class competitor – and also what fuels him.
“I think what motivates [DJ] most as a person are his humble beginnings and showing that, ‘Hey, if you work hard, do the things you want to do, and put your mind to it, you can do what I do,’” Gorham offers.
“Obviously, he’s had his family now, so that’s definitely a motivating factor. He was able to start from basically nothing and get to where he is now, so I think he knows the sky is the limit in anything that he does.
“He’s never satisfied, he can never work hard enough. He’s not just a perfectionist when it comes to mixed martial arts. It could be gaming or the new German Shepherd puppy he just got — all his energy and focus go into whatever he does. He doesn’t take days off. He doesn’t take shortcuts.”
Like millions of others around the world, Gorham is inspired by his friend and his relentless pursuit for self-improvement.
But unlike those fans, he does not measure Johnson’s success by victories inside the Circle or social media followers.
“Everybody knows the athlete he is and the drive and all that, you can see his successes all over the place. But the fact that he remains a humble person, to me that’s what encapsulates him,” Gorham says.
“He knows nothing is given, and he knows there’s another guy just like him either working harder or just as hard, so he’s not going to take anything or anybody for granted.
“He’s able to keep this same level of intensity and success, but he doesn’t lose anything at home. Everyone who has a wife, kids, and a new puppy knows it’s like a full-time job too, so he’s able to maintain this high level wherever he goes.”