UFC fighter “Ragin’” Kajan Johnson (22-12-1) is memorable, not only for his performances in the cage, but also his conviction outside the Octagon. The lightweight is 3-1 in his four UFC performances with one Fight of the Night award.
Johnson is also known for his outspoken ability to bring attention to issues that are considered taboo. One of his first stances against the authorities was at the 2017 UFC athlete retreat, where he famously stood up to Reebok representatives during a presentation, to address the negative impact the partnership has had on sponsorship revenue for fighters. Johnson has also been a proponent for the application of the Muhammad Ali Act to mixed martial arts and formation of a fighter’s union. Most recently he has been vocal about lack of compensation for UFC fighters appearing in the EA video game UFC 3.
You certainly didn’t take the fast track to the UFC. How did you get to where you are?
“I have 35 fights, plus there are a couple from before Sherdog started counting, so it’s probably closer to 38 or 39 fights.
I started in 2002 and I knew I was passionate right away. The thought of doing boxing or kickboxing or something had been on my mind. I was in high school at the time. One of my friends asked if I wanted to come train no holds barred. These guys would fight in bars and it was all legal. Sounds wicked! So, I did it.”
Kajan Johnson was introduced to the UFC Octagon in 2014 as a cast member on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Nations, where Canadian fighters were pitted against those from Australia. Johnson made it to the semi-final round and made his promotional debut later that year.
When did you realize that this MMA thing was something serious for you?
“I ended up getting into a really crazy fight in 2005,” Johnson said without hesitation.
Kajan Johnson fought an amateur bout against Jesse “Water” Bongfeldt, who normally competes at 185 pounds. The two met at welterweight. Bongfeldt, who later went on to also compete in the UFC, put Johnson through a fight that he won’t forget.
“He kneed me in the face in the first round. Then he hit me with a solid right hand and ground and pound at the end of the second round. My face broke in five places. That’s when I had to make a decision. This isn’t a hobby. It’s too dangerous for that. Either I’m all in or I need to quit and figure out something else to do with my life. That was the turning point.”
A lot of fighters have backgrounds in other sports such as wrestling or boxing. You grew up skateboarding. Do you feel that is where you got some of your style and athleticism?
“I think the balance and foot to eye coordination are very beneficial. I started skating switch. Now I fight in both stances. The neuro-pathways were already clear to help me switch stances. I think movement is movement. Anything can translate weather it is dance, hockey, football . . . martial arts is all-encompassing.
After your last fight, you said you wanted to take some time to recover. Do you feel like you had enough time?
“Definitely. After the fight (KO win at UFC 215) my cheek was in pain every time I bit down. I had pain above my teeth for about a month and a half just from one hit. People take injuries too lightly. I don’t think most people are recovering sufficiently. It is important to me that I make sure I am healthy before starting a fight camp. I want to take time to heal my brain”.
You have been vocal about brain damage as a real concern. Aside from the time off, what are you doing to take care of those brain cells?
“I recently started working with Receptra, which is a great CBD company. CBD oil has huge impacts on regenerating the brain and healing it properly. I take a lot of CBD. All day every day.”
An advocate for the beneficial properties of CBD, Kajan Johnson takes Receptra CBD Oil orally two to three times a day for general maintenance or when he needs an extra boost. He also applies Receptra Targeted Topical two to three times a day as needed for the bumps and bruises associated with training.
In conjunction with CBD use, Johnson is also adamant about keeping adequate levels of hydration and consuming healthy fats such as coconut oil and avocados.
A less-mainstream addition to his brain-care regimen is the use of “magic mushrooms.” Psilocybin is the active compound in specific mushrooms, that provides healing properties.
“There is evidence that it can help regrow damaged tissue back to a more pristine state. There are a huge amount of benefits. Most people have been introduced in a non-holistic way. That is not for me. I take very small doses intermittently. I will take it every day, but only in micro doses. The recommended amount is 0.3 to 0.5 grams, which is supposed to not produce a psychogenic effect. I take even less. It is just another way to combat brain damage. It is even legal under USADA. I was a little worried so I checked before my fight. It is not even a banned substance. Apparently, you can be high and “tripping” in the cage and it is completely legal. I don’t recommend that, but it is a really good tool to use right up to the fight.”
Brain trauma isn’t the only touchy subject you have been vocal about. What inspires you to think about more than the battle in the cage?
“I grew up in a revolutionary type of family. My dad was drafted in the Vietnam War. When he returned he became involved in a militant offshoot of the Black Panthers. He and my mom divorced and she married a man who was involved in First Nations. We were constantly dealing with oppression, always fighting against someone or something. I was aware of social injustice at a young age.
The first time I talked to my coach about it was 2004 or 2005. I could see the issues in the MMA world and knew I wanted to be one of the guys to help change things. I wanted to be one of the people pushing that forward.”
You seem like you have some things you want to accomplish with the platform you have. Why do you fight?
“There have been different reasons over the years. In the beginning, it was for the glory, to feed my ego. Later on, I realized the benefits of fighting as a useful tool for spiritual development. A way to know myself, and my true nature. Now coming to 2018 I’ve found other ways to learn about spirituality. Mainly my reason now is to evolve the world and my own knowledge of martial arts. I want to make an impact in the world of martial arts.”
One of the things that Kajan Johnson would like to accomplish is the incorporation and utilization of other traditional martial arts in combatives. Arts such as Wing Chun or Kung Fu have not been left out completely, but those who use them exclusively have not marked success, but Johnson believes that they do have their place in conjunction with a firm foundation in arts such as boxing, Muay Thai, and Jiu-Jitsu that provide a clear understanding of range and application.
“There are truths in those arts that people don’t see. As long as you understand the principles of where the art can be applied, the options are limitless on what is available.
I enjoy creating my own stuff that comes out of me. But I would like to make a foray into Capoeira. A lot of people have limited success, but moves like placing the hands on the ground could be useful for leg lock attacks. Often people say to stay away from leg attacks in MMA, but I think they are useful.
I think some movements are more difficult to develop. The stances are different but similar. Striking to me is pattern recognition. I find different patterns that are hard for people to figure out. My goal is to figure out someone else’s pattern before they figure out mine. I wouldn’t tell a white belt to go learn Capoeira right away. The fundamentals come first.”
How is life, coaching at Tristar Vancouver?
“It is a difficult undertaking. The gym business, in general, is not the easiest business, but it is so much fun and I’m so passionate about it.”
Kajan Johnson is one of the co-owners of Tristar Vancouver, which is a sister gym for the famous Tristar facility in Montreal. The gym opened in 2016 and has been a great experience for Johnson.
I was lucky enough that my friend Rochelle Okoye wanted to do this as well. She funded the venture. At the time I was out with a shoulder injury and couldn’t make money. The UFC will pay for your surgery but you still have to eat. Rochelle works in film and they have a strong union. It is an amazing partnership and amazing undertaking.”
What can we expect from Kajan Johnson this year?
That is up to my guys and my creator. There are great things coming. I’m just working on finding the magic. And I am getting more and more magical every day.