Special to the Daily Times Herald
Johnny Case (left) of the United States punches Yan Cabral of Brazil in their lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium on Nov. 7, 2015, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Case won by a unanimous decision.
Special to the Daily Times Herald Johnny Case (left) of the United States punches Yan Cabral of Brazil in their lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium on Nov. 7, 2015, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Case won by a unanimous decision.

January 5, 2017

The agony of defeat has only motivated Johnny Case.

Success had almost become too easy, but then last March, Case suffered his first, disappointing loss. Since then he has been forced to improve in all facets of his game for future fights.

Jefferson’s only UFC fighter is ready to take on his greatest challenge yet, as he tries to bounce back from his first loss in the Ultimate Fighting Championship - Mixed Martial Arts’ highest level of competition.

Case had come out on top in 13 consecutive fights – a streak that dated back to 2010 before he lost March 19 to Jake Matthews in Australia.

His upcoming Feb. 4 fight at UFC Houston against James Vick will not only be his first bout coming off a loss in nearly five years - and his first official fight in almost 12 months - but it’s his first fight back in the states in two years.

He’s also coming off a broken foot, so there’s that to take into account as well.  

Perhaps the most interesting kicker is the fight comes the night before the Super Bowl.

Case’s Super Bowl undercard opponent will be the 6’3” Vick, who’s won five UFC matches.

The 29-year old from Fort Worth, Texas goes by the nickname, “The Texecutioner”and has compiled a 9-1 career record.  He succeeds off mental toughness, a strong boxing skill set and advanced stamina. Vick has a 76 inch reach and weighs 155 pounds.

To say a lot is on the line for Case in Houston would be a massive understatement, but the Jefferson native is handling it all with extreme confidence, per usual.  He’s ready to show the world what he’s been up to over the last nine months – he’s not only honed his craft, but he’s in a better state mentally and physically.  

Last March’s defeat was truly a blessing in disguise, Case said.  

The man they call “Hollywood” has a big 2017 planned and hopes to set foot in the Octagon at least three times in the next 12 months, but first, he’ll set out to create his next career highlight on Feb. 4.

Case touches on tales of his injury recovery (quicker than doctors predicted, Case points out), his daily routine, his Iowa roots and his emotions leading up to the big fight.

• How does it feel to finally  have another fight lined up, after a few failed attempts to get guys to fight you?

This may sound cliche, but it feels much like when I first started MMA and signed with UFC.

I don’t like to take time off and I hate not having a fight to look towards.

At the same time, I think everything happens for a reason. After five years of nothing but winning, I feel getting a loss and injury to humble me was meant to be.

To be honest, it’s really hard to improve when all you do is win and life is great. You’re almost not in reality and looking at things the way you do after a loss.

That goes for anyone in their career regardless of what it is. Adversity is where you see what people are made of and how bad do they want success. I took the last nine months and improved everything, personal and business. It’s still a work in progress.

I’m never content and just want to become better and better.

That’s typically not fun, so I can’t say I’ve had a ton of fun the last nine months, but I am better in every aspect now because of it.

At the same time, I am VERY happy, motivated and hungrier than ever to get to the top in everything I do. So all in all, I’m better than ever and in a really good place.

• On his difficult, but relatively quick recovery from injury

In March, I had a bad break in my foot within the first couple minutes (of the fight). (I’m) not sure how I fought another 10 minutes with that injury, but I did and it made it much worse. Every step I took for the first few months, it felt like I was stepping on sharp rocks. Not fun, but I got through it.

The doctors were saying I’d be out a year, I’m going to have a lot of problems, blah blah blah...... I’m good, before a year. (I’ve) been back to training for quite some time, but I didn’t want to jump the gun with a bad injury.

The only other time I was on the sidelines (this long) was when I was getting signed to UFC. I was off for seven months due to negotiating with UFC. Once that was done, I was set to fight in June 2014. They pulled me off that card a couple days before the fight for not passing the medicals even though I begged them to let me fight anyway.

I was poked in the eye by a scumbag opponent, which caused me issues. I didn’t even know until I failed the eye test, but I had a detached retina. UFC stepped up and paid for my surgery the following week, (I) passed the eye test a couple of weeks later and eventually my UFC debut was Sept, 2014, in Tokyo, Japan. That’s why I was sidelined the one other time. (I plan) on avoiding injuries and getting at minimum three fights in 2017. I’m hoping to get 4-5 fights within the year, but we’ll see how things play out. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

I wanted to fight no later than January, but the February 4th offer, the night before the Super Bowl, in the same city as the Super Bowl, was too good to pass up.

• How have you filled that void of not having a fight for so long while also recovering?

Improving myself in personal life, improving my family, working on other businesses / investments, improving my skills in business and taking some time to enjoy life.

It’s so easy to be so busy you don’t get free time to enjoy the things that matter the most, so I needed this time off to truly understand that.

I’m still young and in my twenties, I have a lot to learn still, and I love how all my Iowans are down to earth good people and living life the way everyone should.

So I try to learn from watching others and improving so life doesn’t pass me by without enjoying things.  

• Since your last fight, your first loss in UFC, what aspects of your fighting have you been focused on?

There isn’t an area that I haven’t improved. My surroundings, my mindset, my work ethic, my motivation, my emotions and every martial art – I’ve been working on all of it.  

• What do you expect from your opponent, James Vick and how will you beat him?

He’ll most likely fight the same way he’s been fighting, most likely will be improved all around. To me, I expect all opponents to be the best at everything once it’s time to fight. But none of that matters. I don’t give a sh*t what my opponent thinks he’s going to do – I’m going to do what I do and that’ll be that. I’ll attack his will to win, once I break that, I’ll focus on making a highlight out of him.

“The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung will headline the UFC Super Bowl card as he faces Dennis Bermudez in the main event inside the Toyota Center.The 29-year old stands 5’7” weighing in at 145 pounds. He boasts a 13-4 career record thanks to a powerful punch and aggressive fighting style. Bermudez stands 5’6” and boasts a 17-5 career record. He specializes in the “ground-and-pound” attack and takedowns.

Tickets for the UFC Houston main event go on sale Jan. 6 with the main fight card broadcast on FS1.

It’s important for Case to stay focused during the day, as he limits his time on the internet, on his phone or wasting away being stagnant. He blocks off time each day for limited internet and social media use but also makes sure there are certain times he cannot be around technology. The first restricted time frame is first thing in the morning, to avoid setting a poor pace for his day.  With that, Case makes sure family time is slotted into his schedule. It’s a vital part of staying focused.

“My circle of communication becomes very small until the fight is completed,” Case said. “I cram as much as I can in each day to assure I am maximizing each day. I hate being lazy / sitting around.”