It’s been a painfully long wait for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fans in Singapore, but earlier this week, the UFC announced that the first live event in Asia for the 2017 calendar year will take place in our very own backyard. UFC Fight Night Singapore, slated to happen on 17 June, will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

The fights for the card still have not been made known, but we’re going to have to manage our expectations, considering it’s a Fight Night event, and not a title one. So there’s no hope for a Conor McGregor or Amanda Nunes fight, but we’ll still get to watch a bunch of elite fighters beat the c*** out of each other. Be sure to register your interest for the event on www.ufc.com/singapore so you don’t miss out on any updates. In the meantime, check out an interview we did with UFC Bantamweight/Flyweight John “The Magician” Dodson, who will be fighting Eddie Wineland on April 22nd in Nashville, TN.

Sleight of Fist: Five Minutes with UFC Fighter John “The Magician” Dodson

FIGHTING PROFESSIONALLY wasn’t the career John Dodson had in mind when he was growing up. Instead, he’d envisioned himself sitting at a desk, coming up with new architecture for motherboards that would make computers more efficient, powerful and awesome. It probably stemmed from his obsession with video games.

Dodson was also an athletic star in school, competing in track, football and wrestling. Quite the irony when you consider that he was constantly bullied by his classmates at a young age. “I showed them that even though they were bigger than me, they were not stronger,” he shared.

His athleticism and natural flair for wrestling caught the eye of famous coach Greg Jackson, who invited Dodson to his mixed martial arts gym. It was love at first grapple for Dodson and he began coming to train daily.

THE CHILD BECOMES A MAN

Dodson rapidly rose through the ranks, winning fights through a combination of determination and skill. He attributes his headstrong spirit to his Filipino mother, who worked multiple jobs to ensure her two sons had a roof over their heads, even if all she could afford was a pigeonhole in a rough neighbourhood. Here was where the southpaw and his brother developed a tight bond. “We made sure the house was clean and all our schoolwork was done. We kept to ourselves just to stay safe,” he said.

The other influence Dodson had while growing up was Donatello. Not the Renaissance sculptor, but the geeky character from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “I aspired to be like him because I wanted be more than human. I wanted my name to be written in the stars and not washed away in the sands,” he said. Before long the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) top brass took notice of his talents and invited him to join The Ultimate Fighter 14, a reality television series and mixed martial arts competition that pits different fighters together. Dodson ploughed through a murderer’s row to emerge champion.

Despite his success, the man remains humble. “Nah, I actually don’t even think I’m that good,” he said. Dodson thinks that although he understands the techniques from many martial arts, he finds there is always a new aspect of the sport to learn every time he steps into the gym. “I’m still a toddler trying to come into the game, running with Olympians.”

THE LIFE OF A FIGHTER

He has come close to the UFC Flyweight title twice in his career. In both championship bouts, Dodson went the distance with the champ Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson but lost by way of unanimous decision.

“I still haven’t figured out that riddle yet. He’s a tough puzzle to solve and it bothers me because I know I am better,” he explained. “I am the fighter that everybody wants to see. I am the champion they would rather have, not someone who’s monotonous. If you want controversy, that’s me.” 

While it sounds a tad conceited, Dodson made sense. “We can’t only be great fighters. We have to be able to do the very thing anyone is put on TV for: entertain. If you aren’t even an entertaining person, then why are you even in this business?” he said, a wry smile on his face.

If given the opportunity, would he fight Johnson again? “In a heartbeat. I would do everything in my power to make that weight and beat him.”

While Dodson remains enthusiastic about getting a chance to rain punches on Johnson again, he admits that the build-up to a fight is no fun. This would be the gruelling process known as “training camp” where for six to eight weeks fighters live and breathe their upcoming fight, training day in, day out. Apart from conditioning their bodies, fighters also do extensive research on their opponents. “By the end of camp, I should know him better than I know myself. What are his fears? What are his weaknesses? Where’s he most likely to go wrong? All these questions must be answered before I step into that ring,” Dodson explained.

But what then? What goes through his head as he steps out of the locker room and makes his way to the octagonal ring?

Dodson laughed and said, “I’d probably be thinking: please don’t let me fall on my way to the ring. I did not do all this work just to trip and fall, and smash my face on the ground. Trust me, I’ve seen fights get stopped even before they happen because of some stupid thing like a fighter suffering a gash from running into the cage door.”

In case anyone is wondering if John “The Magician” Dodson actually knows any magic tricks, the fighter admits he’s mastered one. “Well, I don’t want to brag but I’ve got pretty good at putting people to sleep.”

This article was first published in the August 2016 issue of AUGUSTMAN.

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