Brett Johns was a schoolboy lacking in self-confidence, spending almost every lunchtime in the library searching YouTube for videos of his hero, the MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter Brad Pickett.
But 25 year-old Brett, from Pontarddulais near Swansea, will achieve his dream at the O2 in London on 18 March.
The documentary Brett Johns: Ymladdwr UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship Fighter) on Wednesday, 15 March on S4C will show his journey from a four year-old boy training at his stepfather’s gym to his success today. But the fight to the top hasn’t always been easy.
The programme follows Brett during the most recent part of his career as he takes to the competitive world of the MMA nationally and internationally, with big fights in Titan FC in America, in the hope of reaching the dizzy heights of the UFC and ultimately, fulfilling a lifetime ambition.
“This fight in London is a bit of a personal one for me. It’s one ticked off the bucket list. I’ve gone from the boy who was 16 watching Brad Pickett on the computer in school to having the opportunity to fight on the same card as him.
“I started judo at four years old with my stepfather at Pontarddulais Judo Club. I did judo all the way up to the age of sixteen. I still do judo but probably not as often as I should. I basically went to my local BJJ gym (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) when I was sixteen just to better my skills on the floor, submissions and stuff. I saw the MMA and I’ve never looked back.”
Brett is one of a select few Welshmen to have succeeded in the MMA world and he attributes his success to mental and physical reasons.
“I’ve been fighting now for over eight years; it’s been a tough journey for me. You’ve got to pick the right fights and you have to keep winning to keep the ball rolling. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. It’s having the right team behind you as well, that’s the big thing. I’m very lucky to train with the Chris Rees Academy in Swansea.
“I know Jack Marshman has a very good gym up in Abertillery with Richard Shore and also John Phillips, who trains out in Ireland with Connor McGregor’s camp. It’s having the right team behind you that can really help you through in this game,” he says talking about other Welsh fighters in the UFC.
But having a supportive team is only half the battle. The preparation work before each fight, as Brett explains, requires physical and mental application every day for up to two months.
“For a fight, we have things called camps. The camps can be between six and eight weeks. It’s intense – you can train three times a day, six days a week. It’s tough. You pick up a lot of injuries along the way. You walk through the injuries and at the end of the camp, you get to use your skills.”
This documentary is the perfect taster for the new series, Y Ffeit from 29 March on S4C, which will broadcast highlights programmes from three boxing and three MMA events during a series of six weekly one-hour programmes.
Brett Johns: Ymladdwr UFC
Wednesday 15 March 9.30, S4C
English subtitles available
Available on demand on s4c.cymru, iPlayer and other platforms
A Tanabi production for S4C