“Most people don’t know what it takes to be successful in these types of sports,” Johnson said. “They don’t see the chess game — the strategy. They don’t think about the training and sacrifice that goes into it.”
Johnson added that he is preparing to make the leap into mixed martial arts.
It’s the seemingly natural progression for the 2012 graduate of Orestimba High School, whose amateur debut comes May 10 against an opponent yet to be determined in the United Fighting Organization’s Tournament of Champions, an MMA event, at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
So far, the 18-year-old has dominated every discipline he’s tried, from wrestling to Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
In 2011, Johnson took first place in the Gracie Pro-Am Circuit California Championships in Fresno, grabbed gold in the Grappling X Tournament of Champions in Long Beach, and finished atop the lists in the NorCal Champions of Jiu-Jitsu in Sonora.
In 2012, the 145-pounder added top honors in the America’s Cup Jiu-Jitsu Invitational at San Jose State University and was a state qualifier in the 2013 California Community Wrestling State Championships, where he represented West Hills Junior College of Lemoore.
“Like a lot of people, I needed a focus, something to help me stay balanced,” Johnson said. “I’ve been trying to perfect so many different skill levels in different areas. I think I’m ready for that next challenge.”
Johnson’s coaches at Crispim Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Pleasanton — instructor Alexander Crispim, boxing coach James Buggs and strength and conditioning coach Robert McMullin — also feel he’s ready for a foray into the spotlight and center octagon.
“Dakota was born ready for this opportunity. We believe he can be a monster at the amateur level,” Crispim said. “He has so much talent, and he can do so many things well. He puts in his time (in the gym), and he’s not letting anything become a distraction.”
Johnson was 15 when he took up combative sports at Patterson Kickboxing Academy under the tutelage of instructor Mitch Heramia. From there, he trained in additional martial arts disciplines to release energy.
Johnson credits his present team of trainers for building his drive and determination to succeed. Winning tournaments, traveling the state and meeting like-minded competitors all help keep him going, he added.
“I was getting into trouble as a kid,” Johnson said. “Fighting, in a way, taught me to be more disciplined and more in control of my actions. It taught me to be a better person.”
Johnson’s regimen consists of two-hour morning training sessions five days a week.
Assessing Johnson’s natural ability, commitment, toughness and speed, Crispim is sure he has a talented fighter in the making.
“He is young, but he is always responsible,” Crispim said. “I am so grateful to have a fighter like him, who leads by example and grows more confident each day.”
The former two-sport athlete at Orestimba High explained that the purpose of the amateur ranks is to hone a fighter, to give him a taste of combat and to prepare him for the next step.
Johnson said a person has to take some punishment before doling some out, and his motivation to fight comes from within.
“There is nothing like it,” Johnson said. “It’s not the brutality that gets you. It’s finding your strength, realizing that you did this even though the other person was trying to do it to you.”
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.