How many people out there would love to be able to have a business card with this on it?
And how many more would love that it be the actual truth?
Cowboy Lifestyle fans, by now, are figuring out that I adore sharing stories about the underdog; the improbable; the insurmountable; and the notable – all within the western world that we all love!
Venn Johns fits the bill – on all accounts! I believe that the summary of his “official” bio sums it up quite nicely, but it may need a bit more by way of explanation:
American Ninja Warrior Athlete
Professional Bull Rider
Former US Gymnastics Federation Team Member
Former Professional MMA Fighter (retired, with a 15-3 record)
Black Belt – Jujitsu/Karate.
“He sings, plays guitar, snowboards, wakeboards, rides motorcycles and bulls, is an MMA specialist, works on computers, competes as a ‘Bull Riding Ninja Warrior’, sleeps, and chews gum”.
Mr. Johns is an Oklahoma native, whose life’s road has been more like a roller coaster ride taking him on one heck of a trip – and it’s not over yet! There have been times when it’s seemed to dead-end; and others when it looked to be impassable.
But this truly optimistic individual has always known how to pave his own way to scenic destinations, steep slopes, and thrilling passageways.
Early Childhood: At the age of seven, Venn lost his hero. His Dad was, is, and always will be the one person he wants to impress.
He has some amazing grandparents, who stepped in and not only raised him, but afforded him every opportunity to excel in sports, and eventually gymnastics.
He enjoyed and competed in any sport he could; but was asked to make a choice to focus on one sport, so early on in his high school career, he made the decision to start training as a gymnast.
Former Gymnastics Federation Team Member: After completing high school, Venn was awarded a full scholarship at Oklahoma University as a Gymnast.
In 1996, he made a gutsy move and left OU to pursue the challenge of becoming a member of the 1996 US Gymnastics Team, as one of 12 members of the very distinguished US Federation Team.
He was one competition away from qualifying for the 1996 Olympics, when he chose to end that pursuit, marry, and eventually become a father to a son, who is now grown and a United States Marine.
Former Professional MMA Fighter: Right around the time that Venn left the Olympic dream, Venn met Dale Cook, five-time kickboxing champion. Dale saw Venn as a teachable athlete who he knew was good with people; so he offered Venn a position at his gym and Venn’s MMA career began.
Over a seven year period, he fought and earned a 15-3 record, as well as a Black Belt in Jujitsu and Karate.
Professional Bull Rider: While working at the gym on his MMA career, at the ripe ol’ age of 25, Venn met a pro bull rider who came in to work out. During their conversations about bull riding, Venn decided that this sounded right up his alley, and asked what equipment he would need and type of training.
Venn is a networking expert – and eventually met, made friends, and trained with contractor Gene Owens, PBR riders Paul Hixon, Gary & Brett Lefew, David Berry, Luke Snyder, and LJ Jenkins.
When he made the move from the practice pen to the competition arena, he learned the hard way about the bull riding fact that it’s not IF you get hurt, it’s WHEN you get hurt. Right out of the chute, Venn sustained injuries that included torn ACL and MCL; and shortly thereafter he sustained an injury to his face, which required reconstructive surgery.
As stated in his Bio:
“Even after all this, Venn would not be stopped. Even when people began to suggest that he quit, he wouldn’t stop. Even when he was told that, at 25 years of age, he was too old to begin this career, he refused to give in to negativity. He was determined. He was resolute. He was certain about his goal. Nothing was going to get in his way.”
Venn’s bull riding goals are not limited to his immediate surroundings. He traveled to Honduras and earned the 2014 Honduran National Bull Riding Champion title.
Currently, Venn has his PBR card, and is ranked 165th in the world on the “Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour”. Just last weekend he won the WSPBR in Witchita, Kansas.
He continues to compete on a professional level, against men half his age; and his next goal is to become the oldest bull rider to qualify for the PBR Finals, by the age of 44, which will be within his reach in 2018.
American Ninja Warrior Athlete: In early 2017, Venn was approached by NBC’s “Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge” to be a part of a team made up solely of pro bull riders. Although this concept didn’t come to fruition, the general idea of competing in this new and exciting arena appealed to Venn and, as he puts it, “I just copied and pasted (video and application) into the American Ninja Warrior format and submitted it.
In a Venn-style twist and turn of events, based upon his background story and credentials, NBC called and gave him a last minute invitation to compete in Season 9. Taping was set for late May in Denver, and his “call” time was to be at 6pm.
Venn only had 3-4 weeks to train for competition. Keep in mind, that most competitors have a year or more to prepare. But Venn Johns has never let age, time, nor weather dictate his level of optimism.
He first sought out the right shoes: a pair of New Balance brand, to help him navigate well-known American Ninja obstacles such as the “Spider Wall”.
He then reconnected with old gymnastics friends and went to Iron Sports in Houston, Texas to train for 3-4 days. He googled the Tulsa area for American Ninja specific courses, and spent 5 days on those.
By the time May rolled around, he had spent every last hour training and working to take advantage of an opportunity.
Taping of “American Ninja Warrior” began at sundown (6 pm) , and didn’t end until sunrise. Venn was #51 out of 130 competitors. When his time came to compete, it was 1:30 am. It was a balmy 43⁰, but he said he barely noticed that.
You can witness what happened next on NBC – “American Ninja Warrior” – which airs at 8/7pm Central on Monday, July 17th.
Future Plans: Venn plans to stay involved with the Warrior events by opening a Ninja and Bull Riding gym; including accredited obstacles for other Ninja hopefuls.
He strongly believes that the gym will also be a mecca of training for bull rider athletes as well.
Other ANW affiliated events include “Conquer the Gauntlet” (an official Obstacle Course Race), to be held on August 26th in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There are over 2700 entrants expected for this competition.
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