On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore the routines, schedules, habits and typical day in their life.
During the early days of Demetrious Johnson’s mixed martials arts career, when he was racking up wins against the likes of Miguel Torres, Damacio Page and Norifumi Yamamoto, the former UFC Flyweight Champion was still working full-time as a manual labourer. Most days, he’d put in 10 to 12-hour shifts at the factory then head to the gym for a training session.
“If you look at the end of a roll of toilet paper, like the brown paper tube, I basically worked in a factory that made humongous ones like that — for concrete or anything you wanted to put in there,” Johnson said in an interview with Las Vegas Sun. “I was the guy who chopped those up into smaller pieces, put them in a box, throw it in a pallet, wrap it up, jump in a forklift and put it on a truck. There were so many roles, and I basically did all of them except operate the big machines.”
In between factory work and MMA training, Johnson was also supporting his mother, who was undergoing chemotherapy for bone cancer. “A typical day would entail heading to work, returning home to pick up his mom, transporting her to the hospital, taking her home, going back to work, driving to the gym to train and then returning home for the night,” according to a Sherdog profile.
Up until he defeated Torres at UFC 130, Johnson was training less than 10 hours a week. He then made the switch to a full-time career in mixed martial arts, dedicating close to 30 hours a week to prepare for his title shot against UFC Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
Now that he’s able to train full-time, the sky’s the limit for him. He’s finally able to dedicate himself to the sport and not have to go back and forth between doing other stuff; he’s going to have a real opportunity to really start to train and make a difference.No Stranger to Adversity – Mighty Mouse | Sherdog
Johnson ultimately lost his title shot against the larger and more experienced Cruz, who used his superior size and wrestling to win a unanimous decision. The loss also marked the end of Johnson’s career at bantamweight and the start of his legendary run at flyweight, where he would capture the inaugural championship at UFC 152 and defend it a record-breaking 11 times.
After dropping the title to Henry Cejudo at UFC 227 in a close, split decision loss, Johnson was traded from the UFC to ONE Championship, where he quickly notched up three wins in one year and is currently the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Champion.
Demetrious Johnson’s training routine & diet
With a nickname like Mighty Mouse and standing at 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m), it’s no surprise that Johnson doesn’t struggle too much with his diet. Even with his regular cheat meals — stuffed-crust pizzas, oreos, fried chicken, waffles, and lots of beer (“That’s one thing, I just love beer. And I like dark beers.”), Johnson has no problem making weight every time.
“Last night I had two beers and four slices of pizza and five apple empanadas and I woke up at 143 pounds,” Johnson told GQ in a 2017 profile. “I can eat whatever I want and I don’t get over 145 pounds.”
Later in the interview, he broke down an example daily meal plan:
In the morning I’ll have some type of toast. Ezekiel bread, so it’s all whole grain. Then for the rest of the day I won’t have any sweets, no beer, nothing bad for me. My wife will come home and cook my meals during training camp. She’ll be like, “What do you want for dinner?” and I’ll say, “Chicken and greens.” It’s that simple. She just throws some chicken in the oven and steams some broccoli or spinach or asparagus. It’s super easy. Then I’ll have some type of good carb, like a sweet potato or brown rice.The Real-Life Diet of UFC’s Demetrious Johnson, Who Loves Juicing and Beer | GQ
Over the years, after noticing that his body isn’t recovering like the early days, Johnson has also started to use more supplements on a daily basis. He described his supplement routine in an interview with Onnit:
I use MCT oil a lot. I put it into my yogurt, and I’ll make a concoction of coconut water and Mineral Electrolytes, like a Gatorade thing, and add MCT oil to that. I’m really conscious of hydration, because I train so much and I don’t want to cramp or tear a muscle because I’m dehydrated. Breakfast might be eggs and oatmeal, and I’ll take krill oil with that, and spirulina. I take Total Strength and Performance before workouts, and I just discovered Onnit’s Elk Bar, and I love it. I eat that between training sessions. When I get home, I take the Key Minerals. The magnesium helps me relax at night.Q&A With “Mighty Mouse” Demetrious Johnson | Onnit Academy
When it comes to his daily training routine, Johnson is a multi-tasker, juggling strength & conditioning and sparring sessions with cooking breakfast for his family and school pickup duties.
“I’ll get up around 8:00 am, and the first thing I do is cook breakfast for the whole family,” Johnson said, describing an example Tuesday during fight camp. “The kids would usually have to be at school by 9:00 am, so I get them to school, and then it’s on to my first session of the day.”
Johnson likes to kick off his training day with a morning swim at his local pool. “I like to go swimming to get my morning cardio in. It gets the blood and oxygen moving through the body and muscles,” he explains.
After the swim, he’ll head home for a snack (“apples and peanut butter”) and some lunch (“salmon with sautéed spinach and brown rice”), then he’s off to pick up the kids from school.
“I’ll go and pick up one of the kids, and we can play for a little bit before I have to get back on the road for the next session,” he says. “At 5:00 pm, we will start training, and we don’t stop until 7:00 pm, so two-hour sessions.”
These night-time training sessions usually include specific preparations for his opponent; Johnson will work on wrestling mat drills, grappling, pad work, Muay Thai sparring, as well as video study. He’ll also work on his strength and conditioning.
“I’ll do circuit training with exercises like jump squats, sprints, pushups on a med ball, pullups, and wall climbs,” he described to Onnit. “Do all that to jack my heart rate up, and then rest down until my heart is at 120 beats again.”
To unwind from his day, Johnson likes to hang out with his wife, Destiny, and then head off to sleep. “I’ll go to bed around 10:30-11:00 pm, and get ready to do it all again!”
For me, it’s about being consistent, day in and day out. Some athletes today are burning their bodies up, and that makes them unable to keep on going to have a long and successful career.Train Like An Athlete: Demetrious Johnson | ONE Championship
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