"Once we get in there to have a fist fight, I'm going to bring it and I'm either going to get finished or finish someone else." - DaMarques Johnson
If The Ultimate Fighter season 9 finalist DaMarques “Darkness” Johnson is ever in need of a new nickname, he might want to consider “The Anti-Decision”. Over three years and seven fights inside the Octagon, Johnson has yet to hear a judge’s score card read to choose a victor in one of his clashes. Even more incredible, the 18-9 welterweight has only seen a third round once in his action-packed UFC career. In the never ending debate about how to properly score an MMA fight, Johnson has proven time and time again that the winners and losers in his bouts will solely be decided by him and his opponent.
“Once we get in there to have a fist fight, I'm going to bring it and I'm either going to get finished or finish someone else,” asserts Johnson. “I don't like going to decisions. It takes too long. It takes forever. If you see DaMarques Johnson's name on a card, you know fists will be flying and people will be taking naps. That's it. Whether it's me or another dude taking a nap, I'm a realist that way - whatever happens happens. People will be entertained.”
At 29 years old, the Utah native is arguably the unsung hero of fan friendly fisticuffs in the UFC. All seven of Johnson’s Octagon appearances have followed a similar script of the clock starting, him meeting whichever opponent in the center of the cage, and trading punches, kicks, elbows, chokes, and takedowns until the ref stops it. Plenty of fighters, from first-time curtain jerkers to long-standing champions have been criticized about boring styles or trying to win on points, but not Johnson, as each one of his performances has been about testing chins and submission defenses. And it all starts with Johnson’s unabashed love for fighting.
“My job is the best job in the world,” states Johnson. “There is no feeling like hearing Burt Watson saying, ‘You've got five minutes, baby!’ It's the craziest drug high in the world. Whether I'm fighting on the undercard or fighting on TV, it's the coolest feeling ever and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Everyone should experience that feeling in whatever they are doing.”
This pedal to the metal, a fighter comes to fight style netted him a 2-1 record last year. The first quarter of 2011 saw Johnson winning by a rare body-triangle sub over Mike Guymon followed by a frantically paced slugfest loss to TUF 7 winner Amir Sadollah. Johnson was originally set to tangle with Georgia striker Clay “Heavy Metal” Harvison in September, but a nagging back injury forced him to re-schedule for November on the undercard of UFC on FOX 1.
“I was excited to fight Clay,” tells Johnson. “He's a tough guy and you know he's going to come and fight. He’s a scrappy guy who is skilled. No one is in the UFC because they suck. He's a tough opponent. Like it or not, no matter what the internet says, no matter what the fans think - everybody in the UFC is 100% legit. You have to take everybody seriously.”
With four decisions over their combined nearly 40 fights, it was a no brainer that these two should create fireworks in the cage and they did. It took 94 seconds, half a dozen punches, and one solid uppercut for Johnson to knock Harvison out in the first round. If later that card, Junior dos Santos didn’t KO Cain Velasquez with one punch to win the UFC heavyweight championship, then Johnson would have been a shoo-in for “Knockout of the Night” honors. Previously, he earned back-to-back bonuses with a “Submission of the Night” at 107 and a “Knockout of the Night” at UFC 112.
“It was good and I enjoyed it,” remarks Johnson of his win over Harvison. “I still don't feel like I've shown everything I’ve got and that's why I think I'm still under the radar, so to speak. I'm okay with being under the radar. I still really need to work on a lot of my game. I can be better equipped with my skills to be ready for any position I could be in in there. I'm not satisfied with a knockout; I'm not satisfied with a submission. I want to perfect my skills. I want to master as many of the disciplines of MMA as I can. I think I'm progressing, but I'm nowhere near where I want to be. I'm getting there. It's all about steady progress. 'Slow is smooth, smooth is fast' kind of deal.”
Up next is a return to how most UFC fans were introduced to Johnson: fighting the English. On April 14th at UFC on Fuel TV 2 for an Octagon first in Stockholm, Sweden, the Utah native will meet British submission specialist John “The One” Maguire. The 17-3 Maguire made his organizational debut in a grappling heavy decision victory over Justin Edwards at UFC 138 in Birmingham, England. Although he didn’t know much about his foe when he signed the contract, Johnson is expecting Maguire to be at his best come fight night and is planning the same from himself.
“John Maguire is a tough guy out of Europe - that's what I knew,” reveals Johnson. “A lot of people think they know a lot about me from my time on the TV show, but you'll never really know until you get in there. You have to keep an open mind in your approach to the fight and go from there and take it as it comes. I'm not a big fight watcher of the guys I'm going to fight. It's not about what he's going to do to me; it's about what I'm going to do to him. I would rather focus on me getting better than focus on John Maguire. As long as I do the things that I need to do, the fight will take care of itself. Whether I go in there and knock him out like my last fight or I go in there and get knocked out, that's going to happen regardless of whatever. Honestly, it's just a fist fight. It's a tough guy who is going to punch me in the face and I'm going to punch him in the face.”
In preparation for Maguire, Johnson is training with his normal crew at Elite Performance in his hometown of West Jordan. The two veteran minds that have shaped Johnson as a fighter from the very beginning are still working with him to this day: MMA ironman Jeremy Horn and highly-regarded boxing coach Matt Pena. Besides helping Johnson polish his pre-existing skills, Pena and Horn are also more than capable of working with him to add new weapons to his arsenal from any number of martial arts. Even if it’s something that Johnson’s only just seen online.
“I'm a Youtube researcher,” discloses Johnson. “Honestly, I love fighting. I love all the different disciplines of it. I love grappling. I love boxing. At first, I was watching a lot of Marvin Haggler. I was watching all the Marvin Haggler I could handle. Then I was watching Robson Moura, Jeff Glover and Marcelo Garcia. I've been watching a lot of wrestling online. I've been lucky enough to have worked with a lot of wrestlers like Dan Henderson, Matt Hughes, Robbie Lawler, Ryan Bader, and a lot of solid wrestlers. All the lessons I've learned from those guys get brought up and refreshed. I was watching a bunch of kickboxing too of Ernesto Hoost and Andy Hug. I just love everything about it. From old school boxing to the boxing match the other weekend between Juan Manuel Lopez and Orlando Salido. I'll go research something and if it is applicable to MMA fighting I'll go in and drill it and drill it and once it gets to the point where I can hit it and guys are getting mad at me for doing it over and over then I just abandon it and go on and try to learn something new. It's not really work if you have fun doing it.”
The event in the Swedish capital will be a first time visit for both the UFC and Johnson, but the travel doesn’t bother him as he fought once before overseas. “I felt fine,” deadpans Johnson, who scored a TKO via body kick and punches in his one international UFC bout against Brad Blackburn back in April 2010 in Abu Dhabi. “At the end of the day, it is still punching a dude's face. You could fight at 100% or you could fight at 70%, but you're still fighting. It's just a fist fight.”
On April 14th, his make or break cagefighting budo will be trained on England’s Maguire. “He's a tough guy and he's going to come try and whip my ass,” announces Johnson, who has keenly developed the answer for this specific dilemma. “I'm going to have to defend myself and whip his ass first or better. That's about as simple as it gets.”
And that’s all UFC fans want to see, especially if it doesn’t go to a decision.