'Cobrafast' Johnson eager to kick up title in Russia

June 17, 1993|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

Mike "Cobrafast" Johnson once again is taking his martial arts skills abroad, competing in the first-ever American-Russian International Tournament of Traditional Forms and Sparring in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Johnson, a black belt and master of tae kwon do, is leaving for Russia Saturday morning and will compete in the inaugural tournament, which begins Tuesday and runs through next Thursday.

The Manchester native said roughly 200 North Americans will participate in different weight classes, and he's expecting roughly the same number of Russian competitors.

The 185-pound Johnson will be in the heavyweight division, consisting of competitors weighing 178 pounds and heavier.

"I'm just looking forward to being a part of a first-ever historical event," Johnson said. "It's also a good chance to get over there and see the country. It's gonna be fun."

And, of course, he's going over there to come home a champion. Johnson, 25, has enjoyed plenty of success abroad.

After getting his start in tae kwon do when he was in the military in Frankfurt, Germany, Johnson went to South Africa in May of 1990 to compete for the World Martial Mania Federation light-heavyweight title, which combines judo and kick-boxing skills.

He came home a world champion with a fourth-round knockout of former champion Andre Blignaut of South Africa. Johnson also is a two-time world champion of the Black Dragon Fighting Society.

Johnson said the traditional forms and sparring event is a lot different from those competitions.

"It's really all about speed, technique and knowledge," he said.

"It's a two-minute fight unless you are tied and then whoever scores the next point wins. You just try to get your points and get out. You don't need as much endurance in this kind of competition and there aren't as many hard shots.

"I'm hoping I'll get there early enough to check the brackets and see some of my possible opponents so I can find their weak points and later exploit them."

The event will take place in Jubileyni Stadium in St. Petersburg where Johnson said nearly 6,000 tickets already have been sold.

"It's process of elimination -- you win, you stay; you lose, you're done," Johnson said.

"We'll probably see a whole lot of black belts with some great competition. I feel great, and I'm ready."

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