As you listen to UFC flyweight John "The Magician" Dodson speak, you can't help but tune in, offering your full attention to every word pouring off the 125-pound spark plug's frenetic tongue.
He's excitable and engaging, traversing a slate of topics from video games to fighting to salsa dancing to the zombie apocalypse with ease, somehow avoiding confusion in the process. With Dodson, the energy is tangible, and every word—off the wall as it may seem—makes sense in the heat of conversation.
Seconds after talking about how he's an opportunist in life, seizing every chance with his full heart and desire, he's now talking about how he wants to die.
And with Dodson, you know there are going to be fireworks for such an occasion.
"When somebody asks, 'How'd you go out?' Well, I got shot, and then all of a sudden I was fighting them with this Desert Eagle, and then all of a sudden this snake came out of nowhere, and I thought it was just a regular snake, but it was an anaconda!" Dodson told Bleacher Report. "And they'd be like, 'What the hell?! That's an amazing story. Did the anaconda kill you?' No. It was a bus that hit me."
It's 100 percent random, and it's 100 percent fitting coming from the ball of excitement that is John Dodson.
If you watch Dodson compete as a professional mixed martial artist in the UFC's flyweight division, this passion and electricity are obvious. He hits harder than anyone in the division, and he's volatile and explosive, ready and willing to deliver the fight-ending knockout blow at any time.
While Dodson failed in his championship bid against Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson at UFC on Fox 6 in January 2013, The Magician stands as the only man to knock the champ down with strikes, and he fully intends to stick to what he knows in his upcoming UFC Fight Night 42 tilt with John Moraga Saturday evening in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
"I'm going to hit him as hard as I can. I know that sounds like the worst game plan, but it's the most honest one I can give you," Dodson said. "I just go out there and swing. I tell everyone exactly what my game plan is: I'm going to go out there and hit you with my left hand, and it's your choice to either try to stand it or fall down from it. I just got that magical touch."
To date, seven opponents have slipped into unconsciousness courtesy of Dodson's hands, including current UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale. While it may seem that Dodson is just a haymaker-tossing slugger looking for the early knockout, that's far from the truth. He's technical and refined in his stand-up attack, and he throws with purpose, always keeping his eyes on the target.
"I don't swing with my eyes closed. I like to see what I'm hitting, because I like to see their facial expressions (laughs)," Dodson said.
Johnson remains the only man to defeat Dodson inside the Octagon, and it's in talking about this loss that Dodson's fun-loving attitude slips away for a moment. He doesn't like to lose. He hates it. After rocking the champ at UFC on Fox 6, Dodson knows he was just moments away from capturing a UFC title and cementing his status as the best flyweight in the world, and the fact that he went home empty-handed gnaws at him on a daily basis.
He's ready to change that and put his burdens behind him.
"Somebody already came up with a game plan (to beat me). Demetrious Johnson stopped it," Dodson said. "If that's the game plan they need to beat me, that's perfectly fine. But I gotta learn my lesson and just start going for the kill and start killing everybody. I gotta have that murderous instinct."
Dodson's hatred of losing extends beyond the cage. When he first started training with Greg Jackson and company in New Mexico some 12 years ago, he was an athletic wrestler with little formal training in the art of grappling.
And he tapped out...a lot. Like the loss to Johnson, this fact tore Dodson apart, and he took drastic measures in seeking payback against his grappling superiors.
"I got tapped left and right. Everybody was catching me with ankle locks, I got choked, I got arm-barred, and I was like, 'What the hell is this?'" Dodson said. "I thought it was like WWE; I was going to come in and just slam everybody and take them out. I was so mad. I got home and started writing a hit list...I have a list of people I have to finish before I can move on. I've never finished that list, so that's why I haven't left the place."
Unfortunately for Dodson, many of the combatants on the hit list have taken on other responsibilities in life, duties away from combat, and he will never see his plan for revenge fully hatch.
"They've all retired (the remaining members of the list)," Dodson said. "They got families now...Me and Keith (Jardine, former UFC light heavyweight, longtime member of Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA), if we go at it, I think he'll still beat me up. That's a long jump (to catch him). I'll tickle him first into submission."
And like that, Dodson is back to his smiling, gigging ways. Three seconds ago, a hint of ferocity flashed across his face, and now it's gone, replaced by the visage of a bubbly flyweight who captured the MMA world's full attention some three years ago when he won Season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Now, Dodson has a rematch with Moraga in his New Mexico hometown of Albuquerque at UFC Fight Night 42, and there's a bit of bad blood between the two 125-pound stars to settle.
In their first fight at a Nemesis Fighting event in the Dominican Republic back in 2010, Dodson took home a unanimous-decision victory, but Moraga's team feels that its fighter won two of the three rounds of combat, something that Dodson has not forgotten.
The Greg Jackson product will take care of that business later, though. Right now, he's somehow locked me into a detailed explanation of his zombie-apocalypse survival plan.
Now, I'm cruising with Dodson and UFC middleweight Tim Kennedy down a dusty road, fighting off the undead, conquering abandoned Costcos and Sam's Clubs and riding zip lines, not questioning for a second how I ended up here.
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