Any fighter that steps inside the cage to fight has to overcome adversity at some point in their life.
But no fighter has gone through quite what Strikeforce heavyweight, Lavar "Big" Johnson has in order to return to the cage on March 26.
When Johnson steps into the cage that night, it will be his first fight since an 18 second knockout of Carl Seumanutafa on May 15, 2009. Johnson seemed destined to become a household name and a regular on the Strikeforce cards.
All that changed after a family reunion last July 4.
Johnson's cousin was shot and died from his wounds. Such a tragedy would be tough for any person to overcome, but Johnson also had injuries of his own he was forced to deal with.
Johnson was shot twice in the abdomen, landing him in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
He recovered from the shooting, worked through a long road of recovery, and will face Lolohea Mahe this coming Friday. Johnson recently spoke with Bleacher Report about his comeback and his upcoming fight.
"It's just sad. He (Anthony) was a family guy, with three kids and they're left without a dad. I have two kids myself, so I'm just thankful just to be here and be here with my kids. I take every day a bit more seriously," Johnson told Bleacher Report exclusively when asked about the situation. "Being with my kids and focusing on my career is most important to me."
Coming back from one tragedy is miraculous, but making it back from two is seemingly impossible. Johnson doesn't want to just be known as a victim however. He's got bigger plans than that for himself.
"I want to be known for more than the guy who got shot. I've taken my training and preparation a lot more seriously, and I'm ready to take the next step in MMA. I plan on winning this fight and making my way to a major Strikeforce event."
Johnson will get to prove his worth in front of his hometown against Mahe. He expects nothing less than a stand up war for as long as the fight lasts.
"We are going to stand and trade shots all night long. I don't expect the fight to go to the ground and that's fine with me. I wanna throw punches and expect to win with a knockout."
Although the crowd will undoubtedly be in Johnson's corner, come fight night his focus won't be on his cousin or his own injuries.
"I'll walk into the cage completely ready to fight. It'll be cool to have the crowd on my side and fight in my backyard, but it doesn't mean a thing if I lose. Everything I've worked for the past few months is about going in and winning this fight. Other than my kids, it's the number one focus in my life right now."
Johnson has won his last five fights with none lasting longer than three minutes. Some fighters with such spectacular results might be more resentful for not having already fought on bigger cards, but he's not one of them.
"My management takes care of me, and I trust them. I'm right where I need to be. After this fight, we'll look to take the next step, but I have to do my job first for that to happen."
There's no chance Johnson walks into the cage on Friday night looking past his opponent. Win or lose, he's already overcome greater odds outside the cage than anything he'll ever witness inside it.
MMA seems to constantly find new guys to cheer for. Lavar Johnson is only the latest in a long line of fighters to get behind. His story has seen its share of ups and downs, it now is just waiting for the happy ending to top it off. Look for "Big" to provide that in spectacular fashion later this week.
To read more by Jesse Motiff, click here .
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