Timothy Johnson Fought In Iraq. Now He Brings The Heat In The MMA Cage

Entertainment

MMA and Army veteran Timothy Johnson is a 6’ 3”, 280-lb. force of pure, unadulterated sweetness. The southern Minnesota native, who has been residing in Fargo, North Dakota, since he went up there to wrestle and play college football 11 years ago, epitomizes the term “Minnesota nice.”


Raised on a farm in Lamberton, Johnson had an unconventional journey into professional fighting. After becoming a two-time wrestling All-American at Division II Minnesota State University-Moorhead, he dropped out of school and worked construction for years before being drawn back into competitive combat. His entry into professional mixed martial arts came right around the time he was deploying to Iraq as a part of the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division, known as the Red Bulls.

After his return from Iraq, Johnson picked up where he left off and eventually signed a contract with the UFC in 2014, winning his first fight via TKO in the first round. After amassing a 12-4 record in regional leagues and the UFC, Johnson recently signed a multi-fight with Bellator MMA beginning this summer.

Tim Johnson, MMA fighter and Iraq veteran.Jack Mandaville

Known for his signature fight mustache and large, corn-fed build, his modest nature and soft-spoken Midwestern tone would make you think you’re talking to a kindergarten teacher rather than a man who makes his living punching people in the face.

I sat down with Johnson a few miles away from his home gym, Academy of Combat Arts in Fargo, at an eatery fitting to the area: a German sausage restaurant.

Jack Mandaville: You were an All-American wrestler in college. What made you want to go into the Guard?

Timothy Johnson: After my two years in college, I didn’t want to keep going to school. I was working construction and basically drank away my savings, so I said, “Let’s join the Army and see what happens.”

Did you ever have to put an NCO or officer you didn’t like in his place during grappling?

I had more than one NCO I was happy to submit.

Did you ever deploy?

Yes. 2010 to 2011. Or 2012. It’s weird I don’t remember. It was during the pullout of Iraq. Whenever that time frame was.

Is the reason you don’t remember specific dates because you’ve been punched a lot?

Definitely. That’s why I went back to college. I needed to remember my name again.

Did you ever get the chance to wrestle the Iron Sheik over there?

Nope. He wasn’t around by the time I got there. Already a legend in America.

So when did you transition into MMA?

2010, right before I deployed.

And when did you start fighting professionally?

I took my first professional fight 6 weeks after I started training. I got my first two in before I deployed.

You’ve fought a lot of Russians and people from old Soviet bloc countries. Don’t you wish you could just punch a fellow American in the face?

Every day I’m at work.

Why’s that?

We don’t always have the nicest clientele that walks through the strip club door.

That’s right, you bounce at a strip club from time to time. Have you ever gotten to Roadhouse someone with your MMA skills?

I’ve worked there for four years. It’s typically a 50/50 when I kick someone out whether they’re going to try something or not.

So do you prefer your wrestling background in dealing with rowdy customers or do you go right into the striking?

Just wrestling. Every security guy knows it’s bad for business if you’re hitting people. Most of the time you don’t need to because you’re just pushing over a drunk guy.

With your wrestling background, you’ve actually been known to get into some big slugfests during your MMA career. Is that by choice or is that how the fights end up?

That’s just how they end up. I don’t try pressuring a fight, I just have to be ready for how it naturally develops.

There are a lot of other fighters who are military veterans. If you could fight anyone from any period, who would it be?

Randy Couture. He’s a former champion and you want to fight the best. And he’s in my weight class.

Who’s a better Minnesotan? You or Brock Lesnar?

That’s easy. Me. I was born and raised here. He’s just an import.

Hey, I’m technically an import too.

Well, you asked.

(U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland)

GREENBELT, Md. (Reuters) - A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of amassing a cache of weapons and plotting to attack Democratic politicians and journalists was ordered held for two weeks on Thursday while federal prosecutors consider charging him with more crimes.

Read More Show Less
An undated image of Hoda Muthana provided by her attorney, Hassan Shibly. (Associated Press)

Attorneys for the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump asking the court to recognize the citizenship of an Alabama woman who left the U.S. to join ISIS and allow she and her young son to return to the United States.

Read More Show Less
U.S. soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018. Picture taken November 1, 2018. (U.S. Army/Zoe Garbarino/Handout via Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will leave "a small peacekeeping group" of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a U.S. pullout, the White House said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump pulled back from a complete withdrawal.

Read More Show Less
Construction crews staged material needed for the Santa Teresa Border Wall Replacement project near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry. (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol/Mani Albrecht)

With a legal fight challenge mounting from state governments over the Trump administration's use of a national emergency to construct at the U.S.-Mexico border, the president has kicked his push for the barrier into high gear.

On Wednesday, President Trump tweeted a time-lapse video of wall construction in New Mexico; the next day, he proclaimed that "THE WALL IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION RIGHT NOW"

But there's a big problem: The footage, which was filmed more than five months ago on Sep. 18, 2018, isn't really new wall construction at all, and certainly not part of the ongoing construction of "the wall" that Trump has been haggling with Congress over.

Read More Show Less
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton

A group comprised of former U.S. military veterans and security contractors who were detained in Haiti on weapons charges has been brought back to the United States and arrested upon landing, The Miami-Herald reported.

The men — five Americans, two Serbs, and one Haitian — were stopped at a Port-au-Prince police checkpoint on Sunday while riding in two vehicles without license plates, according to police. When questioned, the heavily-armed men allegedly told police they were on a "government mission" before being taken into custody.

Read More Show Less