Terry Johnson’s wife Ariele holds the bags when he breaks his first sweat before each fight.
His twin sons Terrell and Daniel are following in their dad’s footsteps and getting ready to compete in their first jiu jitsu tournament.
And for Rheagen, Daddy’s welterweight bout with Latral Perdue at V3Fights 65 on Nov. 18 will be the first fight she will see in person.
So, when Johnson tells you that his MMA career is a family affair, he isn’t kidding. Why even four-year-old Cayden has been known to write notes of encouragement and stick them in his gym bag.
“They look up to the LeBron Jameses and the Steph Currys of those sports and whatnot, but when it comes down to combat, Dad is pretty good,” Johnson said. “Dad is probably their favorite fighter. Then you go with the Conor McGregors and the Georges St-Pierres and guys like that. At least in our house, I’m the biggest MMA star in the world.”
The 32-year-old is hoping to win over more fans when he makes his pro debut against Perdue.
Johnson was 5-4 as an amateur, and prior to that, he spent 12 years kickboxing. He says he has been training hard at UFC Gym in Germantown, Tenn.
He has been working on all facets of his fighting with many teachers, including Conrad Polz (former All-American wrestler at the University of Illinois), Torian Whitlow (noted muay thai practitioner), Austin Lyons (bantamweight MMA fighter) and Brian “The Law” Hall (flyweight MMA fighter).
It seems like a lot of work, but it’s nothing compared to the long journey Johnson has taken to be here. Once upon a time, he weighed 315 pounds. He was just out of school, working nights and eating fast food late at night. As he put it, his life had no direction.
When Ariele got pregnant with the twins, Johnson knew he had to make some big changes. He had visions of his kids running around on the playground and not being able to keep up with them.
Coincidentally, a friend invited him to his gym. That’s where he watched some kickboxers spar. It was love at first sight. He started working out, sculpting his body and losing weight. A coach, however, told him he had potential. So, Johnson redoubled his training with the goal of becoming a pro kickboxer.
There were some ups and downs on the way down to 170 pounds. The battle of the bulge was a tough fight to win.
“I went out and started running, started training at the gym twice a day and lost about 80 pounds because my first fight,” Johnson said. “We had to get to at least 210 before we were looking at any type of a fight and I decided to whatever I needed to. I ate grilled chicken and spinach for a year straight to make sure I could lose the weight. I was running twice a day, training twice a day, completely changed my life from the guy who was working at the animal hospital and was up at 3 a.m. eating (at International House of Pancakes).”
He eventually landed at 170 pounds, and he works hard to stay there. He hopes all his determination and sacrifice will serve as a powerful example for his children.
“I want them to see that every cheeseburger that I skipped out on for a piece of chicken breast or every dessert I could have had or every snack cake or cookie I could have had I drank water or ate almonds,” Johnson said. “When I could have been sitting at home, doing nothing playing video games or just laying around just watching TV, I was out with my Nikes or my ASICS or whatever shoe I’m wearing and I was out running to get the sweat off because I knew I had to be a certain weight and I had a job to do at a certain date.”
Johnson said: “I want them to be able to see that the hard work is the only reason my hand is getting raised. I want them to see that with hard work, you’ll get your hand raised in any race or competition.”