‘A Fire In My Heart’ – John Lineker’s Emotional Life Journey From Bullied Child To MMA World Champion
Over the course of his 15-year professional MMA career, John “Hands of Stone” Lineker has rightfully earned his reputation as one of the world’s most entertaining and dangerous fighters.
The former ONE Bantamweight World Champion will return to action this Friday, February 24, when he squares off against bitter rival Fabricio Andrade for the vacant belt in the main event of ONE Fight Night 7: Lineker vs. Andrade II on Prime Video.
That highly anticipated contest will be Lineker’s chance to reclaim the throne after his October 2022 showdown with Andrade ended in a disappointing no contest following an illegal low blow.
To make matters worse, “Hands of Stone” missed weight for that bout and was stripped of his belt as a result. Now, he’ll have a golden opportunity for redemption in this World Title rematch.
Before the 32-year-old Brazilian knockout artist makes the walk at the historic Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, he guides us through his life story and how he became the global superstar he is today.
‘I Couldn’t Sit Still’
“Hands of Stone” was born and raised in Paranangua, Brazil, where he still lives to this day.
With his father working as a mechanic, Lineker, his two brothers, and his two adopted sisters certainly weren’t rich but nonetheless enjoyed their modest upbringing.
He told ONEFC.com:
“We were happy children. We played a lot in the street, close to our house. The place where we lived was very humble, but we had a lot of fun on the street, in the rain, stepping in the mud. Our family life was very good. Despite not having much, we were happy.”
The young Brazilian was filled with hyperactive energy and was always on the move.
He looks back fondly on his rough-and-tumble childhood, recognizing that he may have been a handful for his loving mother and father:
“I couldn’t sit still. I spent the whole day on the street, chasing horses. I was very fond of horses. I played soccer, played hide and seek a lot. I didn’t stop for a minute. At school, I was also very hyper and a little messy (laughs). But, thank God, my parents raised us well, even though I’m a little electric.”
Fighting With Bullies
Despite his happy memories of childhood, Lineker says it wasn’t without challenges.
Today, he’s one of the most feared pound-for-pound punchers on the planet, but when he was young, “Hands of Stone” was just another small kid – and an easy target for bullies.
“I was not popular. At the time, we did not understand bullying. We simply cursed each other and fought, exchanging punches. But at the time, as I was short, the tall ones always wanted to pat me on the head and called me a dwarf.”
Walking away from such a conflict wasn’t an option.
Before long, Lineker learned how to handle himself, and at his dad’s urging, he fought back against those who bullied him.
“Hands of Stone” recalled:
“The thing was already heating up, and we solved it right there. My father always said, ‘If you fight in the street and get beaten up, you’ll get beat up at home, too.’ So, I went with everything. I’d rather hit than get beaten twice.”
‘It Became My Dream’
Equal parts restless energy and fearlessness, the youngster showed a clear talent for hand-to-hand combat.
But it wasn’t until he learned about a legendary World Champion Brazilian boxer that he considered a career in fighting.
“When I was 12 years old, I saw an article with Acelino ‘Popó’ Freitas where they told his life story. That’s when the dream of becoming a fighter arose.”
After reading about the two-division World Champion, Lineker realized that he’d found his calling and immediately started learning the finer points of fisticuffs.
“That impacted me. It generated a fire in my heart, something very strong. And that ended up becoming my wish, it became my dream. I already liked to fight, so having martial arts as a lifestyle to support my family was something that really moved me. I started practicing boxing soon after I read this article.”
Throughout his teenage years, “Hands of Stone” not only practiced boxing and martial arts but also worked in a job that would help him develop his legendary punching power.
Ultimately, that power earned him the ONE Bantamweight World Title in spectacular fashion in March 2022.
“I worked a lot as a bricklayer’s helper, so I hit a lot of dough and carried a lot of weight. I think this strength has been developing since I was a kid.”
Still Inspired By His Father
Once a youngster playing in the streets and facing down bullies without hesitation, Lineker is now an elite mixed martial artist and a devastating knockout artist.
The American Top Team representative has certainly put in the work to reach this pinnacle of his career in ONE Championship, earning 35 professional victories while fighting elite competition across the globe.
Through it all, Lineker has drawn inspiration from his dad – someone he believes always set an example for working hard each and every day:
“My father was my greatest inspiration, my model of effort, a person who always struggled to bring sustenance into the house and not let the family lack anything. My dad wasn’t much for saying ‘I love you,’ but his actions showed us how much he loved us and how much he wanted to take care of us. That’s why he is my biggest inspiration and my role model.”
Even now, the bantamweight superstar becomes emotional speaking about his father, grateful to be molded after a man who knows the value of effort and integrity.
“Today, I am that person thanks to my father, who has a huge heart, has a great character, and is a good and honest person. And, thank God, I followed the same path.”