A closer look at ‘The Magician’ – In conversation with John Dodson
There is a preconceived notion that higher the weight class, the harder the fighters hit. The flyweight and bantamweight fighters are well known for their speed, agility, athleticism and crisp technique. There is one anomaly in that aspect – John Dodson comes from a wrestling background, and can drop bombs with his fists. One such fight that immediately pops into your mind is his first fight with the current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.
Dodson has had a stellar career in the UFC so far. After winning The Ultimate Fighter season 14 bantamweight tournament, Dodson challenged for the UFC flyweight title on a couple of occasions. Dodson boasts of an impressive 7 – 2 win – loss record in the company, with the two losses coming at the hands of Mighty Mouse.
However, Dodson almost retired before he was called up for TUF 14, and during a recent interview, John recollected how he came close to ending his career before it ever truly took off. “For me, the thing is, fighting isn’t really the thing I’m passionate about. I’m more passionate about training, and learning about things.
So it’s hard for me to keep on training, if I don’t get the type of income to make sure I keep on doing that. Then I would have a real job, a job from 9 to 5 while working as hard as possible. But, I figured that if I can go in and maintain this career and what I want to be, and train with the people to become what I am now.
What I want to be, what I strive to be is to become a champion. I want to be the best in the world; I want to be the person that’s on the tip of the tongue of everybody. Even those who haven’t seen me fight will remember my name. Most of the people don’t even know – I’ve never seen Muhammad Ali fight, yet everybody knows he’s the greatest.
What he did – people won’t forget it. That’s what I want to be. That’s what kept me motivated – making sure that I can keep this going on. If I want to be the best, I should know how to teach the best. So I’m going out there to train people, making sure they can follow in my footsteps, and that was my motivation, saying, “Hey, I’m not going to let my name get washed away in the sand”. That’s what keeps me driving forward, that one day I will make it.”
Dodson also reflected on how the TUF 14 season changed his professional career, as he was contemplating retirement at that point. “It was the most amazing feeling in my entire life because I had doubts if I’d ever make it that far”, Dodson added. “I was actually on my way to stop and becoming a coach.
I was already thinking of retiring before I even started. And then I got the opportunity to go on The Ultimate Fighter, not only to compete but also to become the first member of the show to become the champion of that first division. Of course on The Ultimate Fighter we had bantamweights and featherweights who put on a showcase. But once I showed myself – not only to me but to the world that I can stick with the best in the world, and said, ‘Hey, there’s a new threat in town and his name is John Dodson.’’”
Dodson defeated former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw in the finals of the bantamweight tournament, and later dropped down to 125 pound division, where he started a heated rivalry with Demetrious Johnson. Dodson looked more comfortable against DJ than any other fighter in the flyweight division, and has showcased his impressive ground game, along with improved striking.
Talking about his wrestling background, and how it benefits wrestlers who are thinking about transitioning to MMA, Dodson said, “Well, that in there I think wrestling is a key extension to fighting. You can dictate the pace, and go in and say, ‘I want to keep the fight standing, or I want to take it to the ground’.
Those who can say that can dictate the fight. So anybody who is a real stand up artist, if they can’t wrestle, they’re going to get taken down while you lay on top of them. And the same thing happens with hands – there are so many who are great at jiu jitsu but they’ve never really learnt how to take somebody down to the ground, and they get beaten on their feet.
So then you go ahead and learn how to destroy their wrestling game. You can do anything you want – you could beat John Dodson or Conor McGregor or Johnny “Bones” Jones. You can make it so unique that every time you step into the Octagon, you impart everybody every step of the way. “
When asked about where his future lied – either in the flyweight division or in the bantamweight division, Dodson was quick to respond in his trademark fashion. “Well I’m going to keep going to the weight class they allow me to go to. It doesn’t really matter if its 125 or 135 – if they allow me to fight at heavyweight, I’m going to knock out Brock Lesnar too.”
When asked about his thoughts on coming to India, Dodson immediately pounced on the idea, and said he was always open to teaching aspiring fighters.
“I have not (come to India). I don’t get to travel around much, as I fight mostly in the United States and UFC keeps me there. The place UFC sends me to fight all the time is Vegas.
I would be willing to do it (come to India for a seminar). There are specific situations that I need – first one, I need hungry people who want to learn and become better. Not better there and then, but are willing to step on to the mat with me.
Second thing, make sure you give me four flights – one for me, one for my fiancé and two for my kids, so that we can come down there and have a good time while you guys learn. We want to enjoy Indian culture; I’m a family man. I want to make sure I spend as much time as possible (with them).”