“Don’t give up on your dream…even if someone says you can’t do it.” – Zachary ‘Ziggy’ Johnson

Gem story was written by: Marcus Mulenga

Don’t ever expect this Gem to give up on anything. He’s a fighter…and we mean that literally! Zach Johnson is a professional athlete who specializes in MMA, boxing, and bare-knuckle fighting. He has an upcoming bout on April 22nd in NYC, and Zach is very excited to go back home and fight in front of his hometown fans. He has never forgotten where he came from or the people who raised him and taught him how to be a pro athlete back in Clifton Springs, New York. Zach was a 3-sport athlete at Midlakes High School, which included football and indoor and outdoor track. Sometime after graduation, following a short time playing semi-pro football, Zach was approached by an MMA trainer. After performing well in his first tryouts and participating in three uncoached fights, “Ziggy’s” new career was officially underway!

Zach was eventually picked up and signed by Slaughterhouse. Being a part of this team, and especially being managed by Ryan Perez, has boosted Zach’s confidence in himself and his powerful strike. He’s in the gym every day working to improve his defensive skillset. Zach is committed to getting better every day to make sure he’s always at his best. He is driven by a strong competitive edge that always has him seeking out new challenges. In his first seven fights, he fought the best of the best, and he felt like he was the strongest he’d ever been…

And that’s when COVID stepped into the ring and threw a nasty haymaker. Zach, unfortunately, tested positive and had to spend time in recovery. This meant that he wasn’t able to train, and he had to back out of a few fights for both physical and mental health reasons. And if that wasn’t enough, once Zach did get better, several fights that he was able to participate in were canceled due to factors out of his control. Not everyone understood this, however, and it was angering for Zach to constantly read texts and tweets from “jealous keyboard warriors” calling him a fake fighter and claiming that he was afraid to fight tough opponents. The great thing about Zach is that he knows who he can go to when the negativity starts rolling in; he relies on his family, his team, and his true fanbase to remind him that he is indeed a tough fighter. He has been hitting the gym every day to prepare for his upcoming fight, and for the added motivation he’ll watch Underdog or Remember the Titans to inspire him to continue to push through the adversity he faces.

Speaking of movies, Zach has recently been blessed with an awesome opportunity to star in some upcoming movies, thanks to David J. Paul, a local casting director, reaching out to him one day. You can watch Zach in his first film project, a short film called The Secret Mechanic, out now, as well as an upcoming film, David, which begins production this April and should be released Christmas of 2024. Never in his wildest dreams did Zach envision himself as an actor, but he believes that “taking on new tasks makes you stronger as a person.” And Zach is never one to back down from a challenge!
This is the kind of message that he likes to share with the kids he coaches at the Make-A-Wish foundation. He hopes that his story and example can teach kids with disabilities or who have been bullied that you “don’t give up on your dream…even if someone says you can’t do it.” Zach views these children as real heroes and champions. And as much as he tries to teach them, he learns from them as well. They remind him to stay humble and enjoy whatever comes his way. When Zach isn’t fighting, acting, or volunteering, he likes to spend his time fishing, hunting, and sightseeing. But right now all his attention is on getting ready for his fight on April 22nd at the Flex Fight Series. He still has a lot to prove to everyone who doubted his abilities during the pandemic. His competitive fire is burning stronger than ever, so be sure to stay tuned with this Gem as he reminds the world why you never count out the underdog!

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