Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson grew up with an abusive stepfather, but he found a way to learn from that difficult part of his childhood to become a model family man and athlete.
The American mixed martial arts legend – who returns to action against Tatsumitsu “The Sweeper” Wada at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES on Friday, 2 August in Manila, Philippines – does not believe the violence he suffered has defined him.
Instead, his reaction to it has been a major driving force in his life.
The ONE thing flyweight legend "Mighty Mouse" Johnson puts ahead of his martial arts legacy ????????????????????: Manila | 2 August | 7PM | ONE: DAWN OF HEROES????: Get your tickets at ???? http://bit.ly/oneheroes19????: Check local listings for global TV broadcast????: Watch on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp ????????: Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter
Posted by ONE Championship on Tuesday, July 16, 2019
“I can look at it as a hindrance, and I can look at it as a negative, but I always look at it as a positive where it shaped me into the person I am today,” reveals Johnson.
As a father of three children of his own, the 12-time flyweight mixed martial arts World Champion cannot relate to how he was treated, but he has come to take a more empathetic view of the situation he endured in his childhood.
Many would resent the person that subjected them to the torment, but “Mighty Mouse” has cast any thought of malice aside as he tries to understand the situation.
“I have no ill-will, no bad feelings whatsoever about that whole experience growing up, but obviously I’m taking a different route with my children,” he states.
“I can understand where he was coming from. When kids are being disobedient, not listening, and you’re getting frustrated, there’s a path you would take to restore order.
“My stepdad took a different route of raising us and abusing us. That was his choice, and he has to live with that. I would assume he took that more extreme route because that’s all he knew – that’s part of how his parents raised him, but I never got a chance to ask him.”
Now that he is many years removed from his ordeal, and his stepfather is no longer part of his life, “Mighty Mouse” has chosen to find the positives from his experience – not to excuse the actions, but so he can grow from them.
“Going through that type of abuse, you look back on it, and yeah, it sucked. But, it made me tough, it made me listen, and maybe not talk back,” he adds.
Fortunately for the doting family man, he did not have to take all of his parenting lessons from negative situations. His mother was a caring, hard-working role model, and her strength in the face of her disabilities was his main inspiration.
His biological father only came into his life in recent years, but he had other strong male role models around him in his youth, and watched them closely to see examples he could follow.
He realized that even the most simple of gestures could have a profound impact on the lives of the people closest to him.
“I had a lot of friends and they all had their dads there, and I saw they’d each be different with their children and with their wives,” recalls Johnson.
“One of my good friends’ dad would always wash the dishes. He said if a woman was going to spend all day making dinner, the least a man could do is get off his [butt] and wash dishes! [Since then] I’ve washed dishes my whole life.
“I took a key influence that I liked from each father, and it made me a better man.”
Everything he has learned has helped to make the 32-year-old a successful athlete, a good husband, and a great father.
Violence can often breed violence, but, much like in his martial arts career, “Mighty Mouse’s” moral compass meant he only viewed the negative traits of those around him as things to avoid.
“[Experiencing abuse] makes me a better father because I don’t want my children to suffer the same thing,” he says.