Demetrious Johnson used ‘zombie training’ to come back to life

Demetrious Johnson (31-4-1) is back on top after avenging his loss to Adriano Moraes in April to win the ONE Flyweight Championship in August. At 36, ‘Mighty Mouse’, who was the UFC’s first-ever flyweight champion and is one of the most exciting fighters on the circuit, had everything to prove when a thunderous knee to the face marked the end during his initial challenge. against Moraes. The rematch would take the form of poetic justice, however, with Demetrious Johnson delivering his own big knee to kickstart his career and add another chapter to his stellar career.

M&F sat down with the lightning-fast fighter to learn more about his athletic journey, his attitudes towards nutrition and the “zombie” training that rekindled his championship hopes.

MMA fighter Demetrious Johnson kicks his opponent
A championship

You are so fast in the cage. You ran on the track and did a lot of sports growing up. Do you think it helped with your explosive power?

When I was in high school, I practiced all kinds of sports. I did football, cross country, athletics, I even played basketball when I was in college. The biggest was wrestling. With the track, I did long distance; I’ve done 1,600m and I’ve done 3,200m, so I think that’s what equates to my cardio being so good. My fastest mile was 4 minutes and 32 seconds when I was in high school, so I’m able to pick up the pace so I can still be explosive even after 3 or 4 rounds of fighting.

Fighters take many different approaches to nutrition. What are your preferences ?

I am my wife. It’s called eating the rainbow (laughs). What this means is that with every meal I have, I always try to have a fruit, a protein, a green, and also a carb. So in the morning I usually don’t eat greens because I’m not a fan of eating salad in the morning, but I’ll have gluten-free oatmeal with almonds in it, then I’ll have eggs with a bit of cheese and then I’ll have chicken sausages so I get that wide range. I will also have yogurt. For the next meal, I will try to do the same, except for the yogurt. The next carb will usually be brown rice or quinoa or sweet potato, then you have your sautéed spinach. Spinach is the only type of green that I really like to eat. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and all that stuff makes me bloated. My form of protein will be chicken, steak, game meat. I have tried to stay on this cycle throughout my adult athletic career and it has helped me, without losing any weight at all.

Sounds like a much more sustainable plan than going on a crash diet!

Yeah, a thousand percent I think a lot of people follow these fads when it’s all about lifestyle. At the start of the year, gym memberships go up, then after 2 months they go down again, so for me, I think the way I eat is a way of life. Obviously I’m splurging, last night I had lasagna so when I look at a lasagna I don’t see it as fattening, I see it as my carbs, I got my protein from the beef, I I have vegetables and so on, and I’m a very active person, so it works well for me. Sometimes I do intermittent fasting for 12 hours, which seems like a natural way to fast.

What are the places where you like to train?

I see my main trainer, Matt Hume for all my disciplines, but with Matt for so many years, now we’re just trying to execute what we need to do to get the job done in the fight. With me joining the GRPL club, with Professor Yan (McCane), it’s for all Brazilian Jiu Jitsu grappling. I have 2 hours of guided and instructive grappling. That’s how it was when I started training at AMC [Kickboxing and Pankration]. Plus you have your normal gym and when I’m in Arizona I go to Arizona Combat Sports.

You held part of your fight camp in Arizona before facing Adriano Moraes. How was it?

I spent two weeks there in Arizona just to get away from it all and break the monotony of staying home and doing boot camp. You know, I’m 36 now. I feel like I’m pretty responsible. When I prepare for these fights, if I don’t do the job that I have to do, I’m just fooling myself, because at the end of the day, I have to get in the cage and fight, not my coaches.

An important aspect of your training this time was to keep moving while taking pictures. You called it “Zombie Training”. In the first fight against Moraes, you were stopped with a brutal knee. Was this training method a way to prepare you for this? both physically and mentally?

Yeah, a thousand percent. We sat down and watched him, and we decided that we still thought the best way to beat Adriano was to just move on, fight. And I feel like in all my fights, I just come forward and try to pressure somebody, try to squeeze somebody, struggle a little bit, and that’s what we tried to implement in this fight against Adriano. It’s the same thing we did in the first fight, we just fixed a few things. So for me, I just named it “zombie”. You know, the ‘Korean zombie’, Chan Sung Jung, he did it really well, he was just walking ahead and taking so many pictures and I was ready to take a lot of pictures this time.

There seems to be a lot of momentum behind ONE Championship thanks to the new deal with Amazon Prime Video. What do you think about this?

With ONE Championship on Amazon Prime Video, it’s just another way for fans in the United States to get to grips with the beautiful art happening in Asia, so fingers crossed they come to Europe, and cross fingers for them to come to America, and we’re going to keep having great fights.

In terms of big fights, when might we see you back in action?

2023. Hopefully the first quarter. That’s my goal, obviously I’m still healing. I think I’m almost a hundred percent healed, and I’m going to start training next Monday, get my body back into it, and start lifting and getting the cardio where it needs to be, and we’ll see what happens . We’ll see what One Championship brings us.

ONE returns to Prime Video with a huge main event as Angela Lee takes on Xiong Jing Nan for the women’s strawweight title, streaming live in the US and Canada on Friday, September 30 at 8 PM ET. For more information, click here!

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