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The Freight Trains Journey- A conversation with Josh Diekmann
Sunday December 27, 2015– It all begins 39 years ago in Westerly Rhode Island. The third born, Josh’s mother was just 21 years old when she had him, his father only 18. When Josh was 2 years old his father would leave for Texas to attend college. His mother then tried to hold it together as long as she could, however battling her own demons of addiction proved to be too much for her. When Josh was in 3rd grade His mother entered rehab and her children were split into different grandparents homes. As the new kid, who was living with his grandma, he endured taunting and bullying. Being bigger than most the neighborhood kids, he often found himself fighting. Sometimes with kids a few years older than him.
“After about a year or 2 (closer to 2) my grandmother must’ve realized that I wasn’t going to figure it out on my own. So she enrolled me in Judo. I picked it up it rather quickly. It wouldn’t be long before I started throwing people around at tournaments, and the street corner too.”
The spring before Josh turned 13 he earned his purple belt. Progressing so quickly and feeling stagnant and a bit restless with Judo he tried his hand in different martial arts. He spent time in the gym lifting and playing other sports as well. In 1994, his junior year of high school, he would change schools to join a recently re introduced wrestling team at Westerley high school.
During his teen years and up to age 22, he saw his fair share of trouble. (A constant if not reacquiring theme to his life) No matter where he was it found him, or he would find it. That was all about to change with a simple conversation in a local bar.
“I chugged my beer, got up off my bar stool, and walked in to ” The Strike Zone “. I’d heard about the place from an acquaintance of mine. He was at that very bar bragging about how he’d been training ” U.F.C.” I’d been searching for something to battle the beer belly, and just give my life any shred of anaerobic activity I could. I asked him something like – ” So I hear you’ve been training some Ultimate fighting?” His response was – (verbatim ) “Well I am an Ultimate Fighter.”
Entering The Strike Zone Gym started Josh’s journey to an eventual career in MMA. This would also begin his relationship with the Ward family.
“Mike “lights out” Dexter (Retired MMA vet) and I checked out his place and asked about the particulars and what the gym was offering. The guy I met next was Kent Ward. Older gentle man, (probably in his early to mid 50’s). Rock solid handshake, looked you dead in the eye. Two traits I most admire, and look for when meeting a man for the first time. He also had (and still does) the body of an in shape 35-year-old. There were some guys in there fumbling around on the mat, a couple of guys working the heavy bags, and a little boy, with an abundance of energy running around. I met a couple of the guys. We all talked some more, cracked some jokes and Mike and I decided to join. As we were completing the necessary paper work, the little boy wandered over. Being friendly I asked what his name was. He said his name was Brennan, Brennan Ward. Cute little kid, respectful, LUNATIC.”
Brennan as we know has found his own success with Bellator MMA Including an upcoming fight on the new Rizin card. A top contender and to this day, self-proclaimed “little brother” of Josh.
Josh enjoyed training for a couple of reasons. One being he could do what he liked to do, fight, legally without any concern of police reports and charges being filed. Another perk of fighting was the attention it brought to him locally. His career has been filled with some amazing wins, some questionable losses and some brutal injuries. All the while battling his own personal wars outside the cage. He’s done his share of jail sentences and life in the fast lane has always been a constant. All the while training and fighting.
Here’s Josh on his most memorable fight night:
“We finished training camp with a 2 day bender and a 24 hr nap. It was mid-week media day and I was feeling pretty good, Come fight day one of the tournament competitors was suspended by the athletic commission for wearing a sauna suit to medicals and Brennan (who was on the under card with me) got moved into the tournament. I could tell he was nervous. (I’ve known him since he was a sprat) but it seemed to light a fire in him, which in turn motivated me. I remember being on deck, I was nervous. I’d done this 20 times before, but this time something was different. I could feel the energy in the building. I was the 3rd or 4th fight, but by that time the place was packed. I remember thinking to myself… ‘ oh god, please let me die an honorable death. I had every intention on coming home with my shield or on it. I remember the walk down. Just before my music hit Brennan came sprinting down the concourse. He grabbed me by the face and said:
“This is what you do Train. You’ve been fighting all your life. You deserve this. Go show them how Connecticut boys get down. I love you brother ”
Then my music hit. I walked through the curtain and the building erupted. The ground was literally shaking. As I walked down the aisle, I was greeted by people from my childhood. La Barberios, The Degiacamos, The Luzzis, The Spasatos. The Intreris. My whole fucking neighborhood was there. I was awe-struck, but focused. I remember the feeling as I took my clothes off. The chills were running down my spine. The hair on my neck and arms looked like something from a Sex Pistols poster. Every hair firm as a nail, standing at attention. The last thing I remember thinking as I walked into the cage was ” oh god… please give me the strength to do this. If not, please give me the courage to die well. Parker came down to an onslaught of boos and the match started. We danced around trading his leg kicks for my punches. He landed some solid punches which backed me up. The crowd was roaring. I began swinging back violently. I was trying to take his head clean off his shoulders. A friend of mine was on deck and later told me:
“When you and Parker started trading the whole building was shaking. The very roof (which was the floor of the bleachers) was shaking. If I didn’t know better I would have thought there was an earth quake. ”
As he closed in I instinctively tightened up my punches and dropped him with a flurry of lefts and rights. The ref stopped the fight and the arena erupted. I’ll never forget the look on the faces of the people in the crowd. My family, My friends my co workers I even saw my boss. Everybody was going crazy. I was the most surprised as anyone. I had just decimated the #1 heavy weight in the region 10 years my junior. I had never felt so at peace, so alive. As the announce read my name as the winner, the place erupted again. So much so that they called me back for an interview. I thanked the crowd. I told them:
“I had my first fight over 10 years ago, and when I look out now I see a lot of the same people that were there that night. I am truly blessed and I’d never forget this moment and I thank everyone for continually supporting me. By the time Brennan took the cage, the crowd was drunk and rabid. I felt like I had done my job. I gave him a similar speech he had given me, then took a ringside seat to watch him begin his journey to greatness. I have never been so proud in my life. Brennan Murdered his undefeated opponent and our perfect night was complete. I still say, the greatest joy I get in life is watching my loved ones succeed. And succeed he did. In dominant fashion. I still search for the perfect words to describe that feeling, but to no avail.”
After a slew of fights and many injuries and surgeries, Diekmann feels he’s nearing the end of his career inside the cage. Never being able to fully capitalize on the monetary gain many have in MMA, he feels he’s deserved one big fight. Josh has worked his entire MMA career, put off having a family as well as sacrificed just as much as others who have stepped in the cage with less to show for it in the form of paychecks. Who he wants is Kimbo slice.
Due to Kimbos entry to MMA being similar to his, Josh would love to be Kimbos road block to a title shot.
“Kimbo is a guy that capitalized on his name at the height of his fame, and he has become wealthy in the process. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some amazing friends and women n my life, but have neglected them in search of…. I don’t even really know what. A lot of people don’t realize the sacrifices one has to make to achieve even the slightest amount of success in this game. You miss holidays, you miss birthday parties, you miss watching loved ones grow up and mature from children to young adults. You miss out on quality time with your elders and then have to live with the guilt after they have passed and you realize that you didn’t take advantage of those opportunities when they were available.”
Josh feels that their fighting style would result in a stand up war. Both meeting in the middle and slugging it out till someone falls.
“He has mentioned that he wants a title shot before he is done, but I don,t feel that fighting a 50 yr old Ken Shamrock(even though Ken is a legend and pioneer) or some dude from a Miami barbecue with 2 fights and an inactive period of over 3 years. I am a guy with many wins over U.F.C. vets and very well could be the most formidable opponent he has faced since being cut from the UFC. He’s going to have to step up and fight someone legit if he wants that title shot, and I feel I am legit enough yet beatable enough to make it worth his while.”
Before that fight is possible Josh will be fighting a champ Ashley Gooch on January 8, 2016 for CES MMA live on AXS TV Fights from Twin River Casino. Not one to mince words or lack of respect he wants to leave it up to his fighting to do the talking.
“As far as Ashley Gooch goes, I have nothing to say. If I have learned 1 thing over the years it is that words are just words, we still have to fight. That is the beauty of our sport, everything usually comes out in the wash. Ashley is a champion, he hasn’t lost a fight in 3 or 4 years and he seems to keep improving. He will be a good test for me , as I hope I am for him. I have a lot of early knock outs. I believe that is due to the speed of my strikes and the power in my hands. The best guy doesn’t always win, another thing that makes our sport so exciting.”
When it’s time to hang it up Josh plans on continuing to be active in MMA, in a different role. As well as continue his writing with different MMA Media.
“2015 was tough. I lost my job of 5 plus years, Broke both my hands beating Mike Wessel, Had 3 knee surgeries and lost 5 friends in 7 weeks. Due to some type of tragedy. As far as when I’m done, I’d like to give back. Open a school and cater to under privileged youth such as myself. I have also began to write an autobiography and write for a handful of MMA sites. I am also in the process of creating my own. I recently landed a very small role in “The Code”. It is the 3rd movie in “The Purge” series and I have been contacted by people for future work as a stuntman.”
It was a pleasure to speak with Josh and hear his story. As our conversation ended, I couldn’t help but feel we still have a lot to see from him.
Josh would like to specifically thank the following people for their contributions along the way. Along with the many others that have made an impact in his life and career.
“I have had numerous sponsors over the years, too many to name off the top of my head without forgetting some so I won’t even try. I will say, Coaches Kent Ward Whaling City Boxing, Greg Reballo and the legend Kru Mark Dellagrotte Sityodtong, Tim BUrril, Jorge Rivera, Pete and Keith Jefferies Tri Force MMA, and the many I am failing to mention.. Oh Lonnie Morris and Brian Allen Johnson and Whales wrestling team.”
By: Korey Lane
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