If one sits down and thinks about top ranked Canadian mixed martial artists, names like Georges St-Pierre, Rory MacDonald, Mark Bocek and Sam Stout all come to mind. Many don't think of top ranked Canadian lightweight Kajan "Ragin" Johnson, but with a 12-2-1 record over his last 14 fights, fans maybe on the cusp of hearing about this young man more often than not.
Kajan is set to faceoff against (11-1) Richie Whitson at MFC 31 this Friday on HDnet at 10:00 p.m. A win over Whitson will get him that much closer to his ultimate goal, a goal that is common to most mixed martial artists, which is to get that call from the UFC.
For an up and coming fighter like Kajan, winning the next fight helps a fighter to reach their shorter term goals and this is certainly the case for Kajan.
"All I care about right now is stacking up wins, increasing my stock as a fighter and making money dude, that’s all I really care about in the here and now," Kajan told Bleacher Report's Leon Horne.
Kajan brings forth a truth about the life of professional fighters that not everybody realises or thinks about. Before becoming the next Georges St-Pierre or Anderson Silva, fighters have to make great sacrifices and put a lot on the line to achieve their goals. The life of riches and superstardom is preceded by a life of trying to get by financially and believing in yourself when many people have their doubts.
After only going 6-8 in the first half of his career and sustaining a bad injury, Kajan decided that it was time to treat fighting as if it were a profession, not a hobby anymore.
"I just realised that while it [fighting] is fun, it’s not all fun and games. Every fight really can be your last fight, so you have got to take it seriously and do everything you can do to prepare yourself the best way that you can."
After going 12-2-1 Kajan has decided to take his training up a level yet again as he has been invited to be a part of Tri Star gym in Montreal where UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and UFC welterweight up-and-comer Rory MacDonald call home.
"Tri star, that’s my new home. I’m moving there after this fight, they officially made me part of their team, I am thoroughly impressed," Kajan said. "I’ve trained in a lot of places and I’ve never trained anywhere better than that," he continued. "Hands down, the best gym I’ve ever been to, hands down."
Before joining Macdonald's new team in Montreal, Kajan faced off against him for King of the Cage in 2007. Unfortunately for Kajan the outcome of the fight wasn't the one he wanted, but it confirmed to him that MacDonald really had what it takes to make it in the big leagues.
"I knew right away, I knew even before that fight that he had what it took to be where he is now, but after that fight, during the fight I really realised he had what it took. Not really in the technical game, I knew he had very good technique, but it was the mental game and the energy aspect of his fight game that I was so impressed by," Kajan said. "I actually learned a lot from him in that fight."
MacDonald has been putting on impressive performances since his UFC debut in early 2010, so impressive, that many fans and media alike are drawing comparisons between him and fellow teammate St-Pierre. Having worked with MacDonald and watched both fighters' careers, Kajan doesn't think there is much to compare between the two.
"No man he’s the Rory MacDonald, he’s completely different than Georges St-Pierre. Like 100 percent different," Kajan said about MacDonald.
"I understand they are trying to compare him like he is on that same level, that he will be able to dominate like him, but I think that Rory will actually do more in the sport than Georges St-Pierre," Kajan said. "Me and him spent some time in Montreal when I was there, I was staying at his house and he told me some of his long term goals and I really believe that he can achieve them and when he does achieve them people are going to be saying a lot more about him than they ever said about Georges St-Pierre. Not to knock Georges in anyway, he is an amazing fighter and he has done amazing things."
Pretty bold predictions from this young lightweight, but Kajan is certainly not the only one who believes that MacDonald may have the potential to be the best in the world UFC President Dana White has given his fair share of praise to the young Canadian as well.
Kajan himself has set his sights high and when looking inside of himself he sees just as much potential and just as bright a future for himself as any of the best fighters in the world right now.
"I’ve always known that I can go very far in this sport. I’m the type of guy that if you show me something I can do it. If somebody does a technique in front of me I can do it, if I see something on TV I can do it. That is part of what sets me apart from the pack," Kajan said.
In the world of fighting, Kajan feels there are different types of fighters, in fact he broke them in to three categories. One the pressure fighters who like to be aggressive and push the pace, but may lack some of the technical finesse. Guys like Wanderlei Silva or Chris Leben came to my mind when Kajan brought this up. The second group of fighters are the guys that are super skilled, but lack the required dedication and work ethic, a fighter like BJ Penn was Kajan's example. The third group Kajan defined as the kind of fighter he is.
"I think I have the ability to be everything. I have the ability to be the pressure fighter, the skilled guy, the tough guy, I’ve got a crazy chin, I have good athleticism and I’ve got a really really hard work ethic," Kajan said. "I think I have all of the tools and as long as I’m willing to go through hell and to put myself through what other people aren’t willing to put themselves through and do everything in my power possible to be the best I can be, I believe I can be better than everybody."
Confidence isn't lacking for Kajan and in a business where you live and die by your own individual performances, being confident is key.
In the past every fighter has been defined by a style, whether it be striking, wrestling or Jiu-Jitsu everyone had their bread and butter and despite being really good in that particular style, often times they lacked the technical skill and confidence in the other disciplines.
"I do whatever I want, whenever I want, that’s my style," Kajan told Bleacher Report.
Kajan didn't grow up learning one style, he started off learning MMA right from the get go, which has allowed him to be confident in his abilities no matter where the fight goes. He represents the new crop of up and coming mixed martial artists.
"I am the MMA guy, I’m part of the new breed, Rory MacDonald is also part of the new breed. We started in MMA, we didn’t start in Karate, Muay Thai, Wrestling or Jiu-Jitsu, we didn’t start in that we started in MMA." Kajan said.
Being so well rounded certainly gives any fighter a leg up on a good part of the competition. When a fighter isn't afraid and is skilled enough to fight anywhere the fight goes it makes it hard for an opponent to create a game-plan.
"I don’t want people thinking that I’m a striker, that I’m a wrestler or whatever, I don’t want people to have a game plan against me," Kajan said. "Every single fight I want to scare people. I want everyone to fear me, but love me at the same time [laughs]."
Having a well rounded skill-set and being mentally tough are two major components in determining the success a fighter will have inside the ring. However, you see many fighters thanking God or saying a prayer prior to or after their fights. Spirituality for some appears to be as equally important to some fighters' success as the mental and physical aspects.
Having grown up on a First Nation's reserve in Canada with a Native America stepfather who was also a Chief and medicine man, Kajan believes that the culture and spirituality he developed while growing up on the reserve in Burns Lake, British Columbia plays a big role in his success as a fighter.
"It’s [spirituality] is a huge part of my fight game as well," Kajan said. "I use that spirituality when I fight because if you don’t have all three parts: mental, physical or spiritual, If you are not actively cultivating all three parts of yourself then you’re gonna be lacking in that ring and it’s gonna show."
Kajan is going to bring together all three aspects of his fight game for his showdown with Whitson come Friday night and he is hoping to add another win to the win column and fight again as soon as possible, because a fighter in this stage of their career needs just that, wins, and a lot of them.
"Really I think the best thing for me is just to focus on this fight, winning this fight and then fight again immediately, as soon as possible," Kajan said. "I’m just trying to fight as much as I can, make as much money as I can and increase my stock as fighter, that’s all I want to do."
For fans who want to see Kajan fight, they can go to Forum Sports Bar if they are in the Vancouver area, if not, tune in to the MFC 31 event which is headlined by Rameau Thierry Sokodjou vs. Ryan Jimmo on HDnet. Kajan can be followed on Twitter @iamragin
Leon Horne is a writer for Bleacher Report and is part of the BR MMA Interview team, Follow @Leon_Horne