<div class="Article" style="float: left;"> <table> <tr style="vertical-align: bottom;"> <td> <h3><a href="/go=news.detail&gid=226622" target="_blank"> The miraculous return of Big Johnson </a></h3> </td> </tr> </table> <a href="/go=news.detail&gid=226622" ><img class="photo" src="http://img.mixedmartialarts.com/method=get&rs=100&q=75&x=115&y=1&w=310&h=165&ro=0&s=lavar-johnson.jpg" /></a> <strong class="ArticleSource">[fresnobee.com]</strong> <div style="clear: both; line-height: 1px;height: 1px;"> </div> </div> <blockquote>
No one will wonder which fighter was shot three times. Even from the back row, it will be obvious.
Lavar Johnson plays in a sport where the opponents go shirtless, so the evidence will be right there for the crowd at the Save Mart Center -- and the TV audience watching on Showtime -- to see.
Johnson has a train track of a surgery scar down the front of his torso, wide enough to drive toy cars from his chest to his pelvis, and three acorn-sized wounds where the bullets went in.
When you suggest that he is a 32-year-old mixed martial artist, a modern day warrior, a player in a sport of manliness, and that perhaps the scars will intimidate the man whose goal is to punch him into submission, Johnson says rather calmly, "Either that or it's a pretty good target."
Johnson's return to the cage is being billed, promotionally, as a miracle of sorts, and it's no exaggeration.
He could take the hype or leave it, really, but he gets that the recovery story line is ripe to be harvested.
"I'd rather be known as the fighter who knocks people out, not the one who got shot," he says.
Just last Independence Day, he was at a family reunion in Bakersfield, where 100 people had gathered for the holiday. Johnson met family members he hadn't seen since he was a kid. Cousins had come all the way from Texas.
The party drifted outside to the front yard, as Fourth of July gatherings usually do when it gets dark. Just after midnight, Johnson was standing on the sidewalk talking to one of his cousins when he heard pops that sounded like fireworks.
When he looked down, though, he saw blood pouring from the inside of his left forearm and knew they were gunshots.
By sheer mass, Lavar Johnson was the most likely to be hit by random gunfire. He was 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, a size attained playing linebacker and strong safety at Merced College, and then in recent years training in Fresno for mixed martial arts events.
He remembers lying there, trying to get up and be heroic, wanting to run around and grab family members, the way the action heroes do it, but his body wouldn't move. He remembers the EMTs cutting off his clothes and putting him on a stretcher and asking one of them in the ambulance, "Am I going to be OK?"
The response was, "I don't know. It looks pretty bad."
Five members of the party were shot. Anthony Johnson, Lavar's 37-year-old cousin in town from Jacksonville, Texas, was killed.
A lot of gunshot survivors get lucky when the bullets miss everything vital. The two that went into Johnson's midsection didn't seem to miss anything.
During the surgery, doctors at Kern County Medical Center had to splice his intestines in six places, remove his appendix, repair his colon and sew his stomach closed. They stopped the surgery at one point and left him cut open, hoping his blood pressure would recover so they could keep going.
Johnson didn't eat or drink for a month after they sewed him up, unless you count that tube in his chest. And he doesn't.
"I just laid there watching all these commercials about food," he says.
The Bakersfield police say it was all because of three teenagers, Bennie West (who is now 20), Darryl Stewart (19) and Laquiria Foreman (15). They've all been arrested and charged with murder, and West has been charged with rape in a separate incident.
Police believe Foreman told the other two there were rival gang members near the party. They think West did the shooting. Johnson said he never saw the people responsible, but he was told the shots came from three young people walking across the street, two boys and a girl pushing a baby stroller as a decoy.
"Like something out of the movies," Johnson says, shaking his head.
His comeback certainly qualifies as something right off the big screen. In nine months since the shooting, he shriveled 50 pounds, to his Madera High weight, and then slowly started putting it back on when he could eat bits of food again.
Up until two months ago, his midsection was still sore to the touch, let alone the punch, but he says the pain is gone and he has been cleared, medically. "I gotta pay bills," he says.
Really, the scars are just an intimidation bonus. With the smooth bald head and thick goatee and tattoos, the groundwork had already been laid. It's not just any man who can go by the nickname "Big."
"I take life more seriously now," he says. "I realize I'm getting older. I know my clock is ticking."
Now that you mention it, wasn't there a film by that name where the main character's body is transformed, he learns lessons, returns to his former body, and comes out victorious?
Indeed, like something out of a movie.