The two participants in the first flyweight championship fight in UFC history share more in common than weight. In many ways, their journeys to the top of mixed martial arts parallel. In other ways, the contrast between the two 125-pounders is stark.
Benavidez, 28, and Johnson, 26, recently joined host Jack Encarnacao on The Sherdog Radio Network “Rewind” to discuss their long and winding roads to an historic opportunity at UFC 152 this Saturday in Toronto.
Listen to the full interview with Benavidez here and with Johnson here. Follow the show on Twitter @SherdogRewind.
“I grew up (with a) single parent, mom. That’s why she’s one of my heroes. She just worked so hard.
When I was young and living in San Antonio, at the age of 6, I believe, we moved to New Mexico. My dad actually went to prison when I was 6 years old for drug-related reasons. That forced us to kind of just ship out and go to New Mexico. My grandma lived there, my mom’s mom, and we just kind of surprised her … I just remember moving from San Antonio to New Mexico like, ‘Where the heck are we going? Why are we just in the car? Like, what about all our stuff?” All we really had when we got there was what was in our car. But when you’re that young, you’re just kind of living, you don’t really think of all the big things like ‘Why are we here?’ or ‘Why do these other people have a nicer car or their own rooms?’
I didn’t really understand until my dad got out of prison when I was in my teens. And then I realized kind of where he had been my whole life, and why he hadn’t been around. At that point I knew what jail, what prison, what drugs, and everything was, and that it was bad. (I) kind of tried to at that point rekindle a relationship, and went and spent a few summers (with him), but it just never grew into to a full-blown relationship. And even still, we’ll talk here and there, but yeah. That’s just how it was when you were a kid.”
“All I know (about my father) is his name is Michael Allen Johnson, that’s all I know. And I know that he had a set of kids with somebody else, which is who he’s married to now, I believe. And they’re twins, and I think they’re boys. I think I have stepbrothers, but I don’t consider them brothers because I haven’t seen them before.
There was just no father figure ever there at the household, so my mom had to do both roles. I just roll with the punches and go with the flow. My friends, when I’d go over to their house and I’d see their dad and mom, I would listen to what his dad says to him, and I would see how his father treats his mother, and I picked up tips from there. But other than that, there was nobody at home telling me, ‘You need to do this, do this,’ as a father figure. It was always my mom telling me what I need to do in school. And even when I did sports, she goes, you know, you want to do anything, you go do it. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.
She’s legally deaf, and I didn’t know she was deaf until I got a lot older. Just the way she raised us was, each time you talk to somebody, you looked them in the eyes. She could read our lips, and when we were in different rooms, she would always pound the ground or the wall and I’d come in. She just made it work for her. We’re living in her world … Even now, my wife, if she’s in the shower and if she starts banging on something to get like lotion out or something, I’ll come running to her because I’m so used to it with my mom.”
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