Johnnie Morton and Mighty Mo will be featured performers on âSoftbank presents Dynamite!! USA in association with ProEliteâ on Saturday, June 2, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Morton, who will make his MMA debut against Bernard Ackah, and Mo, who meets Mu Bae Choi,
Johnnie Morton and Mighty Mo will be featured performers on âSoftbank presents Dynamite!! USA in association with ProEliteâ on Saturday, June 2, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Morton, who will make his MMA debut against Bernard Ackah, and Mo, who meets Mu Bae Choi, will fight in two of the fights that will be produced and distributed live by SHOWTIMEÂ® Pay-Per-View (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT). The SHOWTIMEÂ® PPV fights will be preceded by a one-hour telecast on SHOWTIMEÂ® (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) that will feature some of ProEliteâs EliteXC top performers such as Antonio âBig Footâ Silva and Jake Shields. Tickets, priced from $10 to $1000, are on sale via Ticketmaster locations, www.ticketmaster.com and the L.A. Coliseum box office. Contact your pay-per-view provider to order âDynamite!! USA.ââ
Question: Johnnie, how is training going and are you looking forward to your MMA debut?
Morton: Training is going really well. I am really excited. I am at a point right now where I probably have learned as much as I am going to learn in two months. So I am trying to heal up and recover and just get mentally ready and focused for the fight.
Question: Johnnie, you are a top athlete. What have been some of the biggest adjustments you have had to make for MMA?
Morton: I would say the full gamut as far as cardio, the endurance and stamina is a lot different from football. Football, you explode on plays and you have time to recover in between, whereas Mixed Martial Arts, you have to be focused for 15 minutes straight and be able to explode with endurance. So you cannot take time off and you cannot take a deep breath and get yourself back together. You have to be focused 100 percent of the time.
Question: Since getting into MMA, is it what you expected as far as conditioning and training? Has anything caught you by surprise as you continue to learn on the job?
Morton: I would say it is a lot different than I expected. The cardio â and when I say cardio, I mean as far as the endurance and being able to keep going minute after minute â that is a 100 times harder than football. And also learning different moves and learning how to punch and defend yourself. I learn something every day. The hardest part is most football players, when we are in a game or practicing, we use a lot of physical exertion, where in MMA a lot of it is relaxation and technique. That will get you further. For instance, if you are on the bottom and someone is on top of you, it is better to technique your way out than to try to use muscle because you exhaust yourself. So I am learning everyday, every minute.
Question: Do you know anything about your opponent or how he was chosen?
Morton: I am not sure how he was chosen, but I know his specialty is Tai Kwon Do. He is probably a little bit taller than me, maybe not as big, and he has a got a plethora of strikes and kicks he will be using. So I am working a lot on defending that.
Question: As a football player, a person who really plays in a skilled position, how do you think having your athletic skills would be an advantage for you in Mixed Martial Arts?
Morton: I think by playing wide receiver in the NFL, because I had to learn so many techniques physically and mentally, it allows you to pick up a little bit more than I think the average football player because while you are learning MMA, there are so many different entities you have to learn from -- ground, stand up, defense, offense. So I am constantly learning. Because I am used to that, I think it accelerates my learning process a little bit. Even though it has only been two months, I feel like I am a little bit ahead of the curve.
Question: Is this your first foray into combat sport?
Question: So you have not fought in amateurs, like Golden Gloves or anything like that?
Morton: No. I am 0-0, and underground, amateur and pro. Zero experience.
Question: In football, there is time out, a huddle, half time. (In MMA), you can be in there for 15 minutes with a guy who is constantly on the attack. Have you prepared yourself for that, or are you going into the great unknown right now?
Morton: No, I have prepared myself for that. In football, sometimes I play games for three hours and I am not tired afterwards. But in MMA, to prepare for the 15 minutes of combat, I have had guys come at me, fresh guys who I will wrestle. (Then, I will) spar with somebody, and wrestle the fresh guys back to back to back. So they are constantly putting pressure and taxing my endurance.
Question: Why are you doing this?
Morton: That is the No. 1 question.
Question: Why not blend in with the stars?
Morton: It is just I want to live life in a way. I know there are other things to do like maybe surf, golf and do things on TV, which I probably will in the future. But right now, because I am still athletic and I am still young enough to do this, this is just something I want to try in life and explore and experience. It is something I have always been interested in. At least, when I am old, I can say I tried or I did it. It is just something I have wanted to do for a long time.
Question: You are probably the biggest name from the NFL to come into MMA. Do you see anyone else maybe coming over, or maybe MMA becoming a sport where it could possibly be an alternative for athletes who might have otherwise gone into football?
Morton: I think it definitely will: one, because the market is growing. It is becoming a sport where the fighters are going to constantly get paid more and more because it is growing. I see the money rising there. Also, the NFL, the career has just jumped to a three-year career average, which means a lot of guys will be done and retire with the NFL at age 25 and 26. So they will still be young and athletic and I think many of the players will be able to transition into MMA as long as they have the desire and the discipline because the training is a lot harder. It is something that I might have second guessed knowing the training was going to be this hard.
Question: Who are some of the other fighters that you are training with and what has been the toughest aspect of MMA to pick up on?
Morton: For me, I train with Mike Diamond, aka Joker. That is why I am training at Jokerâs Wild (Fighting Academy in Lake Forest, Calif.). I am also training with an Australian Muay Thai kickboxer, Tony Bonello. I would say the hardest aspect of MMA for me personally is, I thought my striking would be a little bit more advanced than my ground work, but for me ground work is a little bit easier. Then striking is a little bit harder to pick up because of the hand speed. You punch â most people think they punch and strike an object or a target. But you have to bring your hands back just as fast. And I also think the endurance aspect, being able to go punch after punch, kick after kick, go on the ground and get back up. It taxes you. It just wears you out.
Question: You are within the Japanese American community (where) martial arts is taken pretty seriously. How can you justify or explain your decision to go into something like this, which is sport, but has a certain degree of show business to it as well, as opposed to some of the pure traditional martial arts?
Morton: It does. It is revered in Japan, where in the United States; it is looked upon a little bit differently. I have had a wonderful opportunity to play the No. 1 American sport which is the NFL, and now I have a chance to go into the No. 1 Japanese sport, which is MMA. So it is kind of a chance to explore and experience different parts of my heritage.
Question: You mentioned you will be in there for 15 minutes. There is certainly going to be a certain pain threshold as opposed to downs that are separated by breaks when you are playing football. What have you done specifically as far as endurance training?
Morton: Well, I stay in good cardio shape regardless if I am playing sports or not. But this is a whole other world because you do not get any breaks. Like you said, 15 minutes straight of aggression is really hard to deal with. So I usually just do a lot of cardio, a lot of drills and then train with guys one after another when they are fresh and I am tired. That really pushes you to build your endurance.
Question: What is it like making the crossover to something like this?
Morton: It is hard because, for one thing, the biggest change was trying not to muscle everything and learn technique. But I have been playing football for so long that naturally I want to muscle people over or do things to them without technique. So the hardest thing is to relax and use a technique and train your body to do that.
Question: What is the difference between MMA peak conditioning and football peak conditioning?
Morton: For instance, in the NFL, one time I missed about 90 percent of the training camp. I practiced for a week and I started and played the whole game at Denver in the altitude. (In) MMA, I do not know if you ever get in shape because it is just like you are put in this pit where your endurance is constantly being tested and you feel like you can never be in good enough shape to survive.
Question: Comparing the two sports, how would you compare getting hit in football and taking a real shot to the face? Also, how do you compare playing a real team sport (as opposed to) an individual sport like this?
Morton: As far