The UFC's own Kardiac Kid, John "Doomsday" Howard, is never out of a fight, and he's carried that determination to four straight wins in the Octagon. Sunday, he looks to make it 5-0 against Jake Ellenberger.
One of the great aspects of mixed martial arts is that a fight is never truly over until the final bell rings. It’s a claim that few sports can make, as there are no 20-point touchdowns in football, a nine point shot in basketball, or a goal in hockey or soccer that awards five points. In other words, when it gets to a certain point, it’s time to pack it in and accept your defeat.
This isn’t the case in a fight, and that’s a good thing for welterweight up and comer John “Doomsday” Howard, who has parlayed an unyielding will to win into 14 pro victories, including several of the ‘come from behind’ variety that has now become his trademark.
“It comes from the way I grew up,” said Howard. “I never say die, and if you’re gonna die, at least go out on your shield. That’s what it is. I just try to be strong-minded, and if there’s a will, there definitely is a way. If I’m still breathing, I’m still moving, and I can still move my limbs, there’s still a way I can win and I’m definitely gonna try at least. That’s the way I think.”
Unbeaten in four fights in the UFC, the 27-year old Boston native has earned each of his Octagon wins. After gutting out split decision victories over Chris Wilson and Tamdan McCrory, Howard was pitted against veteran Dennis Hallman last December, and was one step behind all night, falling hopelessly behind on the scorecards entering the final round. But in that last stanza, Howard came alive, dropping Hallman with a left hook before finishing matters with five seconds left in the fight.
Three months later, debuting Daniel Roberts was Howard’s foil, and “Ninja” jumped out to an early lead.
“The only thing I didn’t like about Roberts is that he didn’t shake my hand when we started fighting,” recalled Howard. “He just came at me throwing punches. But he was doing good. He did take me down and did have a bit of control. Some people think he was dominating, but I don’t think so.”
Then suddenly, just when it looked like Roberts was going to move in for the finish, it was Howard again rising from the dead to finish off his foe with a devastating assault that earned him Knockout of the Night honors.
“I came back, I slammed him down, he went for the Omaplata, I got up, and I knocked him out,” he said matter-of-factly. “Some people may call it lucky, but I think it was good accuracy.”
That and a helluva big heart.
“That’s a big tool in my arsenal,” he admits. “Even if you’re beating me in a fight, I still have that chance to come back and get you. My attitude is, if you’re beating me, all right, but I’m gonna take something with me. They’re gonna remember me.”
And UFC fans are starting to remember that when Howard is on the bill, it’s a good idea to either get to the arena or in front of the television set. And though it seems like yesterday since his Octagon debut against Wilson in January of 2009, this New Englander isn’t complaining.
“I’m not disappointed,” he said. “I’m undefeated in the UFC and I really can’t complain about that. I’m making excellent money right now, I have a great coaching staff, and everything’s falling into place perfectly. I have nothing to really complain about and the only thing I don’t like doing is cutting weight. (Laughs) There’s no secret that I’m a big weight cutter, but besides that, I’m loving it.”
He’s definitely not loving things now as he begins the final stages of a weight cut that began weeks ago at 205 pounds. But as he sweats down to the 170 pound limit for his Sunday bout with Jake Ellenberger in San Diego, what keeps him motivated is the thought of his three biggest fans – his three daughters, aged two, seven, and eight.
“If I get discouraged, I think about why I’m doing this, and the main reason I’m doing this is to take care of my family and my kids,” he said. “That gives me the boost back that I need.”
His daughters aren’t allowed to watch Daddy fight live, but as Howard’s profile has grown bigger, so has his TV time thanks to re-runs of his fights on Spike TV, so at times, it becomes hard to keep them away from seeing the man of the house punch the time clock (and his opponents).
“What can you do?” he laughs, admitting that his two oldest daughters “love it, and they love play fighting with me.”
There will be no play fighting in California this weekend though, as Howard collides with the equally aggressive Ellenberger. On paper, this is a Fight of the Night in the making, and Howard eagerly agrees.
“I think its fight of the night,” he said. “Our styles mesh together, we’re two aggressive guys with a lot of power and explosiveness, and there’s gonna be fireworks. I always want to give the fans a great show and you always want to be in a fight with good fireworks. A slow, boring fight is heartbreaking to watch, especially when it’s with two good fighters, so I like to be exciting, and I’m excited about this fight – I can’t wait.”
The idea of 15 minutes of hand-to-hand combat with an opponent trained to take you out isn’t most people’s idea of a good time, but guys like Howard aren’t most people. He enjoys the battle as much as the victory, and even though the victories have been coming more and more frequently, with his last loss (to current UFC middleweight Dan Miller) taking place nearly three years ago, Howard doesn’t believe that he’s stumbled on a magic winning formula; he’s just happy he’s doing well.
“This is actually the longest win streak I’ve had in my career, and I’m just happy,” he said. “I want to keep riding the wave until it runs out. The reality is, people get older and slower and new talent always comes to the game, so you’re gonna eventually lose, but right now, I’m on a good win streak and if I can ride it out and get it to eight straight wins, that would be awesome too.”
And if he can get to eight with a win over Ellenberger, why not nine, then ten, and then, well, you can figure out the rest. John Howard, not yet a household name but on the right track to that lofty status, has already done the math.
“Everything comes with time and you’ve got to be patient,” said Howard. “I’m not gonna force anything. If I stay undefeated and nobody knows about it, and then I get a title shot and people recognize me then, so be it.”