The past 12 months have been difficult for Mike "Cobrafast" Johnson.
Last May, the 24-year-old black belt kickboxer from Manchester lost his World Martial Mania Federation title in front of his hometown folks to Andre "The Giant" Blignaut of South Africa.
It was a controversial, nine-round unanimous decision that left Johnson frustrated, bewildered and with something to prove.
His chance for redemption came last weekend when he competed in the Black Dragon Fighting Society tournament in Orlando, Fla.
Sixty-four fighters and five matches later, Mike Johnson again owns a world title. It was the second time Johnson has won the annual World BDFS title. He won it for the first time in South Africa two years ago.
"I'm back, not that I was ever gone," Johnson said.
"I had something to prove to myself and all my fans. I went down there with 63 others and came out on top -- as the man. It feels good."
In the two-day elimination tournament May 16, each bout had a 10-minute time limit with no weight divisions.
Johnson won three fights that day to advance to last Sunday's competition. He pinned Nick Fletcher, a 185-pounder from Chicago, at the 3:47 mark in the opening round and then knocked out Hector Perez, 155-pounder from Puerto Rico, in 1:28.
He finished by knocking out 210-pound Rolf Heil of Germany in 6:26.
"He kept his ground and gave me some problems," Johnson said.
He captured the U.S. title in the fourth fight after fellow American Jesse Whitehead (198 pounds) forfeited at the 4:13 mark. Whitehead had suffered a knee injury the day before, and Johnson took advantage with sweeps to the leg.
That left only two fighters -- Johnson and 135-pound Kou Hung of Shantung, a small country in East Asia.
"He was very fast and had some different stances. I had to get inside on him with my longer legs and muscle him."
A little more than 3 1/2 minutes later, Johnson was world champ.
"I hit him with a jump back spin kick on the side of the chin. I just had a burst of energy and, bam, it was there. There was so much power behind it even a 200-pounder wouldn't have gotten up."
Johnson hopes that 200-pounder may someday be Blignaut.
"Andre's next. I'll do whatever I have to do to get him here," he said.