One of MMA’s greatest success stories: Fighter and Promoter Johnathan Ivey

When you talk about long shots, when you talk about what could have been had you gone down a different path, made a different choice, you might think of John Ivey, the old school heavyweight who’s fought more men inside a cage than probably should be legal. But society needs an arena for fighters, men and women who need a competitive outlet for aggression, for the animal nature that is in our DNA that gets suffocated sitting at a desk or working a 9-to-5 stocking groceries. No longer a hunting and gathering community, people tend to lose a certain part of their makeup amongst the shackles that society often stuffs us in.

“I’ve sold every belt and trophy I’ve ever won, I don’t have any of that stuff anymore. All that stuff in the youtube videos that I’ve won is gone, I was never into that kinda stuff. I was more into paying rent and car notes.”

I believe prisons have less convicts due to combat sports. There’s a side of human beings that is not so nice, that has to dig down deep to their core to survive no matter what. It is that survival instinct that many sophisticated folk may never even encounter to its depth. John Ivey has been in touch with that instinct his whole life. And MMA, along with his faith, has given him the tools to channel that nature into productive avenues toward success. If you simply looked at his MMA record you may not think of the word “success”, but you wouldn’t know the whole story. And the whole story is worth knowing. I recently caught up with John to talk about his upcoming title fight for Colosseum Combat and his second Johnathan Ivey’s Cage Fighting Championships event a week later. Single father. Man of faith. Fighter. Promoter. It could have been a whole other story.

Thanks for talking with us John, you’re a busy guy with a fight coming up on the 12th, then you’re promoting your second show on the 19th. How are you juggling it all?

I’m not sure I’m doing a good job of juggling hahaha. I’m in fight camp for my title fight on august 12th, when I’m not at the fitness gym or boxing gym or jiu-jitsu gym…I’m doing everything that’s involved with running a promotion. It’s the list of things to do seems endless at times. Doing a fight and running my promotion within 7 days of each other may not have been the standard way of doing things…but Jack nothing in my life or career has ever been standard. I’m also a single father so every free minute I get I make sure to spend with my daughter. She just started back to school this week so at least now during her school hours I don’t feel so bad about being pulled away doing fight related things.

Let’s talk about your fight first, how much do you know about your opponent Jordan Mitchell and what’s your assessment of him?

To be honest I don’t know much about this Mitchell kid, my coaches and advisors watch him and have me work on different things. But at the end of the day he’s going to fight me like everybody else does. I haven’t had to stop a takedown attempt in over 10 years, nobody tries to take me down. They all know what’s up. They all want to keep it standing and keep me at the end of their strikes. They all fight me the same, I don’t expect any different this time.

Will you be looking for that leglock? How do you see it ending?

Leg locks are always at the front of my mind. If he ever let’s either of his legs get within arms reach of me…he is in serious trouble. No matter what position we are in. And he knows that…for sure hahaha.

This will be for the Colosseum Combat Heavyweight Title… how many belts have you collected over the years and what would this one mean to you?

I’ve sold every belt and trophy I’ve ever won, I don’t have any of that stuff anymore. All that stuff in the youtube videos that I’ve won is gone, I was never into that kinda stuff. I was more into paying rent and car notes. Winning the title on the 12th would be great, it would mean that I’m back on top in a organization. I defended my title down in Alabama 7 or 8 times before I lost it, I’d like to get on the same kinda streak up in Indiana.

What keeps you getting back in the cage after all these years?

Jack it’s the only thing I know how to do legally to earn a living. I don’t know construction, or how to hang dry wall, or how to weld, or how to be a barber….I’m a fighter. It’s the only job I’ve ever had Jack. And I’m so thankful it came into my life when it did, cause if not my life could have went a completely different way. I didn’t have alot of options to be honest. It was this or other things, and other things would have got me killed or in prison.

You held your first event for Johnathan Ivey’s Cage Fighting Championships earlier this year, and now you’re back with a second show. What has it been like wearing the promoter’s hat?

I decided to do the first one, but I knew if I was going to do this I wanted to do it my way. I wanted to control every detail of the event. I wanted it to be run the way I had wished all the shows I had fought on over the years were ran. I think when people come to my show they can see and feel the difference. I’m proud of the show that I’ve created, it’s like my baby hahaha. I want to watch it grow and expand. I think we are on the right track I really do.

Do you eventually want to make the transition completely from fighter to promoter?

I’m not sophisticated enough or smart enough to know what the future holds. With the shows I just want to do right by me, by the people that buy a ticket, and by the athletes that compete. I don’t want anyone to ever feel not pleased. When I started this I talked to a man that I respect, a promoter from another state, he told me no matter what I do always be honest and stand behind what I say and that’s exactly what I’m going to do Jack.

What challenges have you faced as a promoter maybe you did not expect?

Just really my own insecurities man. Doubts about can I really do this? Will anybody come to a show promoted by me? Will fighters want to be a part of my show? Will I let people down? Jack I always feel like a underdog, I always feel like I’ve got to beat the odds some how. When I feel like I’m not good enough to win a fight or run a promotion, I dive into scripture. God’s word is my comfort. No one can tell me that God’s not been on this journey with me Jack. I’ve over came to much in my life. There will be people reading this article that have never heard of me Jack, they’ll look up my record and see that I’ve lost just as much as I’ve won. They won’t see me as a success story. They don’t know where I’ve came from, my record doesn’t tell the violence I experienced as a child, it doesn’t tell the way I was bullied, it doesn’t tell the environment I come from, the crime I come from, the decisions I had to make to fight on 2 days notice or the lights get cut off, my record doesn’t tell the story of me constantly flying to other fighters hometown to fight in front of hostile crowds on a couple days notice over and over and over again just to lose a judges decision. The hardest thing to do in this sport is not to simply win, but to sustain yourself financially for a extended period of time. And I’ve sustained myself for a very long extended period of time. People love a success story…well people your looking at one!

Tell us about this upcoming card, what are some of the fights you are excited about and what can the fans expect?

Man this card is crazy!!! The fight of the night at the last event are having a rematch on this event for the belt! The first fight was crazy, I don’t expect anything less this time. I have undefeated Rakim Talley fighting a former champion Caleb Miller for the number one contender spot at middleweight. The winner gets a automatic shot at the champion next! I have undefeated fighter Nick Phillips fighting a monster in Tyler Edwards who is moving down to 135 for the first time. I have undefeated Jason Herring fighting undefeated Tyler Dempsey. I have the winner of the main event at the last show Michael Frey coming back to fight a much more experienced fighter in Tim Johnson. There is undefeated Caleb Ragsdale fighting a stud in Chaz Jourdan. And Kyle Lee and Najee Blackwell fighting for our inaugural middleweight title in the main event! They were “Fight of the Night” at our first show. It was so good we’re bringing them back for the championship! Jack there is not one fight on this card I’m not excited to see! I’m pumped!

Will we ever see you fight on your own show?

I’d love to do that eventually if the people want to see it. Right now my focus is getting the men and women that fight on my event as much exposure as I can get them. I want to do for them what was not done for me when I was getting started. To be honest I didn’t even know you wanted to speak to me, I was just worried about you talking to the guys on the card. And I thank you so much for talking with them Jack. You’ve always treated me fairly over the years.

What’s life like for you outside of fighting these days?

This single dad thing always takes priority Jack. I love this little girl so much man. I’ve done alot of bad in my life, alot that I hope she never finds out about. But when I look at her I know I’ve done something good. I’m so proud to be her daddy man. She’s been by my side every single day of her life since she was 6 months old. She’s a blessing come true. In my free time I spend it getting closer to God. I’m not in bible college anymore but I still try to study scripture like I am hahaha. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that God rewards those that diligently seek him. I’m seeking God Jack!!!

Thanks for your time Big John, any final words?

Just thank you Jack for even wanting to talk with me. Thank you brother. Thank you Ricky Ward for being my friend and treating me better than I deserve. Your friendship and the way you treat me doesn’t go unnoticed. Thank you Fred Dulay for taking me on again as one of your fighters. Nobody can get me ready to fight like you can. NOBODY! Thank you Jacob Kilburn for being so selfless. And for genuinely wanting the best for me. I’ll never turn my back on you brother. I put that on everything I love. And thanks to everybody that has ever rooted for this white boy from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ve made my journey worthwhile!!

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