If anything will boost Johnson’s career it could be the American produced show The Ultimate Fighter, reality TV that follows professional MMA fighters as they train and compete.
“I wanted to be a ninja my whole life,” he laughed. “Or like the Karate Kid watching Bruce Lee movies, it really appeals to my inner child” said Johnson, who is getting fairly close to being a real life ninja.
The 29-year-old welterweight fighter grew up in Burns Lake, B.C..
“I got kicked out of LDSS [Lakes District Secondary School] when I was like 14...they made it a bigger deal than they needed to. I kind of bumped the shoulder of a staff member...so I moved to Prince George, ” said Johnson.
After that he channelled his energy into skateboarding and break dancing.
He found his passion when he followed a high school friend into a Prince George B.C. gym, called The Fight Club.
His debut fight
His first fight came less than two months later at age 17. He finished a 24-year-old in that bout.
“We didn’t really know that much, and we’d go compete with people in other towns, Vancouver... it was a fun time for me,” said Johnson who studied martial arts like jiujitsu and muaythai, boxing and wrestling through the Club.
Johnson packed up and moved to Vancouver to take his fighting to the next level.
“I never thought it was going to be a career, I thought 'OK, I just want to do this because its fun a big adrenaline rush, I’m an adrenaline junky, I loved it' ”, says Johnson who at the time saw a fighting career only as a ”vague possibility”.
But Johnson kept going hard until he had his first major injury in 2005. During a fight in Lethbridge, Alberta, he suffered a tripod orbital fracture, where his eye broke in three places. He also broke his nose in several places.
Despite these injuries, Johnson kept on.
Keeping his focus
“I like the competition, I like the mental test that you have put yourself through, I really like the lifestyle, I like to learn things, to move with my body," explained Johnson. "I’ve always been good at movement and you really need a lot of coordination for this sport."
MMA taught Johnson was focus and discipline.
“I was a little bit crazy at this point. I would head stake my opponent, get in their face and it was a way of dealing with my own fears, so people nick-named me “Ragin Kajan”, and the nickname stuck,"said Johnson who was 17 at the time.
As a nod to his aboriginal heritage, Johnson has a bear paw tattoo across his heart to represent protection.
Standing at 5’11, his normal weight is 180 pounds. Johnson diets to about 165 pounds, and then he cuts water by sitting in a hot bath and sweating until his weight drops to its lowest at 155.
The only part about MMA that Johnson doesn’t like is dropping weight, with a diet that restricts carbs and consists of mostly salads.
The rising MMA now fights out of Montreal and keeps in touch with family and friends from back home.
“I’m glad I can be a motivator for some people, a beacon of hope for others,"says Johnson.
He's already won his first match on The Ultimate Fighter. He's got his eye on the prize — a contract with the UFC.
With files from CBC's Daybreak NorthSuggest a correction