John “Doomsday” Howard arrived on the UFC scene in January 2009, at UFC 94, where he defeated Chris Wilson via split decision. Six months later he returned at UFC 101, where he took home another split decision victory, this time over Tamdan McCrory.
Now, prepared for his third UFC fight of the year at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale on Dec. 5, John Howard’s caliber of opponent moves up dramatically as he takes on MMA legend Dennis “Superman” Hallman. Howard realizes the significance of the fight and agrees it will be the biggest test of his career.
ProMMA.info spoke with “Doomsday” on Wednesday about the upcoming bout, and what it means to him to fight someone with Hallman’s experience. We also talked to John about where he grew up, his MMA beginnings, training at Wai Kru, and much more.
John “Doomsday” Howard interview (audio):
ProMMA.info: Hi John. Thank you for talking with us here today at ProMMA.info, how are things with you?
John Howard: Alright, just getting ready for this big fight, man. That’s about it.
ProMMA.info: Are you ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow? What will you be doing – how does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?
John Howard: No I’m not, I really won’t be eating too much cause I got to make weight. I still have plenty of pounds to cut so I won’t really be eating too much. It’s just my family. A lot of food, watch football and stuff. Me, unfortunately, I’ll be training.
ProMMA.info: How hard is it to be around all that food on Thanksgiving, and how do you deal with that?
John Howard: It’s really hard. What I do is, I try not to be a part of it. I just say my hi’s and goodbye’s and do what I got to do.
ProMMA.info: You’re not even taking the day off tomorrow (Thanksgiving) then?
John Howard: No, not even.
ProMMA.info: From what I understand, you grew up in a pretty rough area of Boston, is that correct?
John Howard: Yes.
ProMMA.info: What’s the name of your neighborhood or area of Boston where you grew up? What was it like there growing up?
John Howard: Dorchester. It’s not easy man. A lot of violence, a lot of trouble-makers. Just a lot of stuff you have to deal with like that. That’s about it man.
ProMMA.info: It’s so easy to go down the wrong path and make bad choices when surrounded by those types of circumstances. How did you first get interested in mixed martial arts, and when did you realize you could actually make a living at this?
John Howard: Actually, I went to Job Corps to get my high school diploma. At Job Corps I met a guy named James Stokes who was a freestyle grappler, like catch wrestling grappler. He taught me the basics of grappling, and when I learned that, I took it a step further and learned how to fight, went to a school and got legit. After I graduated, I came back to Boston and found a school here and kind of took it and ran with it.
ProMMA.info: How were you able to stay away from those bad influences and choose the right path?
John Howard: Not being a follower, being a leader. Basically, It’s not the stuff I wanted to do, not the type of influences I wanted to be around. I just never got into that, it’s not my thing, it’s not my style, not my way. I found a way out so… It’s not my thing. Even if I didn’t find mixed martial arts, I still wouldn’t be into that type of thing. I’m still glad I did, but it’s just not me. These kids today follow a certain crowd that looks pleasing, but it’s all a lie, it’s a joke. I figured that out early in life and didn’t go with it.
ProMMA.info: Could you tell us about the time the older guy tried to hit on your 12-year-old sister and what happened that caused his whole family to come after you. I heard a little about that story but could you give us the details?
John Howard: What happened was my little sister was playing outside and this older guy tried to come on to her. I came out there and tried to diffuse the situation. I was like, “This is a little girl. You’re an older man.” So he sucker punched me and we started fighting. He ended up with a broken knee. I was actually really scared for me, because his whole family was the neighborhood basically, and they started to come after to me. So I had to go on the out-skirts a little bit and let things die down. It was just me defending my little sister, that’s all man.
ProMMA.info: So are you still in the same neighborhood and is that guy still around?
John Howard: No, definitely not. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know anything about mixed martial arts, and if he did, I doubt he knew I’m the same guy who did that to him. I live in the same neck of the woods, but not the same exact neighborhood.
ProMMA.info: You have a very unique tattoo on your head. What’s the story behind it?
John Howard: No, I have no tattoos man.
ProMMA.info: What’s the flame on your head?
John Howard: No, that wasn’t a tattoo, it was a hair cut.
ProMMA.info: Oh, are you serious?
John Howard: Yeah, it’s a hair cut man. It was a hair cut. There’s a guy in Philly, this barber shop called “The Fifth Element” and these guys are really good, and he’s so good at what he does, he made it look like a tattoo. What he did is, he cut that design in my head and then he dyed it black so it looks like a tattoo.
ProMMA.info: Oh, OK man, it looked just like one.
John Howard: Yeah, so that’s what he did man. It was awesome. That was my first experience with that. It was pretty good man. But it was just a hair cut.
ProMMA.info: Is that something you’re going to continue to do?
John Howard: Yeah, I’m going to Vegas again. Usually, I try to find the best barber shop in Vegas or whatever city we have a fight in, and I tell them, “Look I’m in the UFC, I’m going to be on TV, and I can mention you, all you have to do is put a sick design in my head. I don’t care what you do. Just make sure it’s nice.” They usually do a good job. They come through.
ProMMA.info: That’s a good trade-off there. You seem to have some type of background in gymnastics. What’s the story there?
John Howard: Not really gymnastics, just acrobatics, just doing back flips and stuff like that, nothing major. Just stuff since I was a little kid I liked to do.
ProMMA.info: So you just taught yourself?
John Howard: Some kids from the street, these breakdancers taught me, and I just took it from there.
ProMMA.info: Were you ever into breakdancing yourself?
John Howard: A little bit. I wasn’t that good at it. I could do the back flips, the flips, but all the breakdancing, the hand stands and all that, I couldn’t do that.
ProMMA.info: What kind of background do you have in wrestling?
John Howard: Actually, I started wrestling when I started MMA believe it or not. I just wrestled high-caliber D-1 All-American wrestlers, you know. That’s why my wrestling got so good.
ProMMA.info: You never wrestled in school or anything?
John Howard: Never.
ProMMA.info: OK, let’s talk about your upcoming fight. You have what must be the biggest fight of your career coming up at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale on Dec. 5 against Dennis Hallman. Would you agree this will be your biggest fight yet?
John Howard: Yeah definitely my biggest fight. I’m fighting a legend in the sport man. It’s actually an honor to be fighting him. He’s been in the game for years. I’m going to do my best and hopefully the best outcome happens.
ProMMA.info: What does it mean to you to be able to fight a legend like Dennis Hallman, and how do you see yourself matching up against him?
John Howard: Pretty good man. Obviously, he’s a better grappler. I think I’m a better striker. I think I match up pretty good against him. I’m going to use my speed and my boxing against him, and use my takedown defense, and my jiu-jitsu defense against him, and see if that works. But that’s my plan. But I think I match up pretty good against him. I think it’s going to be a good fight. It’s a good fight for me to face a big time name.
ProMMA.info: How do your coaches feel about it, are they excited for you?
John Howard: They are really excited for me. They have all the confidence in the world for me. They say it’s my time and that I’m ready to fight the legends and beat the best, beat the people who were the best to become the best.
ProMMA.info: Is there anything about Hallman’s game that concerns you?
John Howard: Yeah his grappling man. His grappling is really top tier. He has really good… I want to call it jiu-jitsu… but, catch wrestling; which is really good, a lot of leg locks, a lot of finishes. I mean this guy finished Matt Hughes twice, so I really do respect, I respect his whole game, but I really respect his grappling game.
ProMMA.info: How do you deal with someone with that much experience? What part of your game do you think will give him the most trouble?
John Howard: I think the part of my game that will give him the most trouble is my boxing, my striking. And dealing with someone with that experience, it’s not easy, but what it is with me, I like fighting people with experience because they have control. They know what they want to do. They don’t go out there and swing wild and just do a lucky shot and hope they win. Fighting someone with control is easy because the fight goes smoother and you can see the skill sets between the fighters. So if you’ve got one fighter who is really skilled and one fighter who is just a cowboy and just goes out there and throws blows and swings for the fences, that’s always a scary opponent, cause you never know what you’re gonna do.
ProMMA.info: Where do you currently train and who are some of the people helping you get ready for this fight? Who helps you with your BJJ, boxing, and Muay Thai?
John Howard: I currently train at Wai Kru. People who are helping me get ready are John Allen, Alex Costa, Kru Mark Nardone. Also Joe Lauzon, Dan Lauzon from Lauzon MMA, they help me out. My main gym is Wai Kru. There’s a lot of people in that gym who help me out. The names are ridiculous. I got some old UFC fighters, upcoming fighters, it’s just unbelievable.
ProMMA.info: What can we expect to see out of John Howard in 2010 and beyond?
John Howard: See something exciting and see something wild, man. I’m one of those fighters who just goes for it. I just go out there and fight man. I’m the type of guy, if there’s ten seconds left in the round, I will go off the cage and do a back flip just for the hell of it cause there’s ten seconds left. I like to have fun in the cage. I don’t like to be too serious. I want to win, but I also want to enjoy myself in the cage. Gotta enjoy it.I always got to have fun. That’s my whole deal with fighting.
ProMMA.info: We really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us here at ProMMA.info, and we wish you the best of luck in your upcoming fight against Dennis Hallman at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale on Dec. 5. Are there any sponsors you would like to thank or anyone you would like to give a shout-out to?
John Howard: Yes, I just want to thank API who is one of my sponsors. Shout-outs to David Ginsberg, Alex Costa, Wai Kru, Dany and Joe Lauzon, and Chris Palmquist.
By: Jack Bratcher