WEC newcomer Demetrious Johnson will battle Brad Pickett at WEC 48 on April 24 from Arco Arena in Sacramento. Heavy MMA talked with Johnson about his debut with the promotion and what he’s looking to show the fans.
Heavy MMA: You went right into MMA after watching the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. What kind of effect did that show have on you?
Demetrious Johnson: It just showed me that guys who were high school wrestlers or high school athletes had an avenue to do something more with our skills. I watched the guys on the show and I thought I would like to give it a try and here I am today.
Heavy MMA: You mentioned you wrestled in high school. Do you feel having that athletic background helped you make a smooth transition into a new sport like MMA?
Demetrious Johnson: Yeah I wrestled in high school and then I went right into lifting weights and hitting the bag. I think my wrestling definitely helped. When I first started fighting, my wrestling allowed me to be comfortable on the ground and then after that we were like, “Ok, we know you can take somebody down, now we need to work on your kick boxing and your Muay Thai.” So my wrestling helped me take people down then I had to work on my stand up and Jiu Jitsu.
Heavy MMA: What made you take up wrestling in the first place?
Demetrious Johnson: I started wrestling in eighth grade and I did very well. I only lost one match the whole season and then I took first in districts. After that I went to high school and my freshman year, I got beat up pretty good by the other guys. And it was because I weighed 109 pounds and I was wrestling at 118. So I wrestled my whole high school freshman year at 118 and got beat up. My sophomore year I started to improve and I took fifth place in states. My junior year I pretty much dominated and took second in states. And my senior year I went undefeated throughout the whole tournament season and then I lost in the semifinals. I told myself from there on that I will do anything in my power not to lose again.
Heavy MMA: How has it been working with Matt Hume at AMC?
Demetrious Johnson: It’s been wonderful. I have been working with Matt from the beginning. I’m still learning and I’m still getting beat up all the time in training, so that’s always a good thing. Being at AMC has definitely made me a much better fighter.
Heavy MMA: Where did you get the nickname “Mighty Mouse?”
Demetrious Johnson: That came from Steve Skidds because I am always the smallest guy in the gym. I’m small but I bring the fight. I’m always going to be standing right in front of you bringing the fight to you. Also because I have big ears and a small body so I look like a mouse. The name just fits I guess.
Heavy MMA: You have had the good fortune to train with guys like Rich Franklin, Jens Pulver and Chris Leben. How do you feel training with guys of that level has helped your career?
Demetrious Johnson: It’s helped my career a lot. Working with Rich, Chris Leben and Jens only makes you a better fighter. Those are some of the top guys in the sport. Training with guys like that and holding my own makes me believe I have a bright future in Mixed Martial Arts.
Heavy MMA: You have said in the past that you don’t believe in heavy sparring before a fight because of the possibility of injury. Can you talk about that and the general approach you take when preparing for a fight?
Demetrious Johnson: I do some sparring before a fight but I basically try and do more cardio. Those gym wars that you have, when you are fighting with someone from your gym, it’s just like a fight. You don’t want to go too hard on your body because a broken orbital bone or a broken nose and then you’re out. Then you don’t get paid and you have a big challenge coming back. Don’t get me wrong, I train hard, but I go in there and make sure no one is going to take advantage of me or break my jaw or something like that. The closer I get to a fight the more emphasis I put on cardio.
Heavy MMA: You are a perfect 5-0 with five first round stoppages. You talked about your cardio and how much you work on it. How do you think you will respond if your fight with Brad Pickett goes the distance?
Demetrious Johnson: Brad Pickett says I have never been out of the first round, but I have had amateur fights that have gone the distance and I came out on top in those. I think my cardio will be there when I need it. That’s the way I train. Cardio is No. 1. I don’t need to go out there and hit hard. I know I can hit somebody hard. I have to make sure that my cardio is going to be there for 15 minutes, so that’s how I train. I think people are going to be surprised at someone like me that hasn’t fought in a big show yet.
Heavy MMA: Two of your favorite fighters are Thiago Alves and Rampage Jackson, two very aggressive guys. Is there anything you have taken from them and incorporated into your own style?
Demetrious Johnson: With Rampage I like how he moves his head, he uses strong hooks and he’s just really accurate with the punches he throws. He’s just a brute. Another one of my favorite fighters coming up is Jose Also. I like the way he throws those knees all the time so I have been trying to incorporate that into my style. I look at their games and try to make it my own.
Heavy MMA: So what can we expect at WEC 48 when Demetrious Johnson takes on Brad Pickett?
Demetrious Johnson: You are going to see a lot of good stand up, good transition and a lot of good Jiu Jitsu. I’m going to showcase my skills to the world. It’s going to be a war. It’s going to be fireworks and I’m going to keep fighting until my heart stops or I pass out, so don’t miss it.