Jordan Johnson, a 1999 West Point High School graduate, is shown in the cage during a mixed martial arts match. A Christian and a teacher, Johnson has worked to teach youths how to play sports God’s way.
Jordan Johnson has fought the good fight of faith.
As a mixed martial arts fighter, the former Oakland resident battled opponents for five years. Johnson believes the sport has allowed him to use a God-given gift and provided the opportunity to teach youths how to play sports in a God-honoring way.
Recently, Johnson retired from mixed martial arts, but the teacher and coach still carries lessons of courage and trust he learned from the cage fights.
Johnson, a 1999 West Point High School graduate, attended Chadron State College. He graduated with a degree in physical education and health from Wayne State College in 2006.
He became a high school PE teacher and wrestling coach in Lexington.
Johnson and his wife, Lacey, weren’t in Lexington very long before another assistant coach, Josh Erickson, invited them to a couples’ Bible study. It would prove life-changing.
“The guy made me look at myself and I realized that a lot of things I was doing was contradictory to what I said I believed in,” he said, adding. “We were like a lot of people, who go to church on Sunday and then forget about God for the next six days.”
Now, their lifestyle would change. Johnson would drop old habits, like cussing. He continues to grow in faith.
“God is changing my heart,” he said.
While in Lexington, Johnson began helping with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
In 2008, a fellow West Point graduate asked Johnson to participate in a small MMA event.
“I told him I’d pray about it,” Johnson said.
Knowing there were a couple of gangs in Lexington, he thought MMA would be a good platform from which to speak to the youths.
Johnson decided to pursue the offer.
“It’s very much a sport,” he said, adding, “It’s safer than boxing, because when you’re boxing – if you get hit hard — they give you eight seconds to get your wits and then you get hit. In MMA, if you get rocked or dazed, it’s stopped. And once it’s stopped, it’s stopped. There’s more cuts and things like that, but I believe the brain takes a lot less damage.”
Johnson won his first fight. He would have a dozen amateur fights with an 11-1 record and 10 pro fights with a 6-4 record.
Throughout it all, he practiced his faith. He was careful about who he chose as sponsors.
“I wasn’t going to compromise the things I believed in for money,” he said.
He prayed before fights.
Sometimes students asked Johnson about his motivation or if anger played a part in his fighting.
He never went into the cage angry.
“I tried to explain that fighting, to me, wasn’t the kind on the streets where you’re mad at someone. It’s just a sport. … I like competing and testing myself,” he said.
He learned about trusting God to keep him from becoming hurt badly. He learned about being courageous.
A youth pastor, who served as his trainer and mentor, also shared a Bible verse. It is Judges 6:12, which in part says: “…The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
“That’s kind of the theme I’ve carried throughout fighting – is the mighty warrior theme – just realizing and trying to get that into every part of my life, where God is first and God is there and that’s who I’m doing it for,” Johnson said in a YouTube video.
In the video, he also talks about the importance of being strong in Christ and of trusting God in all areas of life.
After five years of fighting, Johnson retired in April. Johnson, who now lives in Stromsburg, said it was getting expensive to travel. Even going to the nearest gym where he trained was 50 miles away.
It also took time.
“I’d be gone three or four nights a week for about four hours,” he said.
Johnson wanted to spend more time with family. He and Lacey have two children, Merrick, 5, and Aubrey, 3. He has two children from a previous marriage, Emma, 15, and Jacob, 12.
“I do miss it (fighting),” he said. “It was something I really enjoyed, but I’m enjoying time with my family a lot more.”
He has good memories of people he met through MMA.
“Over half of the guys I fought, I’m friends with on Facebook – and some even on a greater level,” he said.
In 2011, Johnson became an elementary and high school physical education teacher and head wrestling coach for the Cross County Community School District. He runs the high school’s weight room.
He plans to continue teaching and coaching. He is an MMA referee.
“I can still be around the sport,” he said.
And he can still influence youths, teaching them to respect the sport and to participate in a God-honoring way.