Photo Courtesy of Mike “The Truth” Jackson
Today, most people know Juan Adams as “The Kraken” – the guy with a 6-5, 266-pound frame and 81-inch reach whose relentless jabbing of opponents both in the octagon and on social media has made him one of the fastest-rising stars in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight division.
However, to attorneys Michael P. Fleming and his son, Nick, he’s just “Juan” – the kid who has been joining their family for dinners ever since he and Nick became friends during their days on the wrestling team at Houston’s Strake Jesuit Prep.
It was actually during one of those dinners back in early 2018 when Michael asked Adams a question that may have helped to ignite the young fighter’s career, which has led him to a spot in a featured bout July 20 at UFC San Antonio.
Adams (5-1-0) will take on former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy (4-1-0) in the ESPN-televised event at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
“We were eating dinner at their home, and he asked me what my sponsor packages looked like, and I really didn’t have any at the time,” Adams says. “So, he threw a number out there to become a sponsor, and [Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C.] became the base for all of my other sponsorships. It all kind of grew from there. … It’s made a huge difference. I can devote all of my time now to training.”
‘He Took It Seriously’
Nick Fleming first met Adams back when they were among the few freshmen who wrestled on the varsity squad at Strake Jesuit. Given the dedication that he saw in Adams during high school, it’s really no surprise to see him enjoying success today as a professional athlete, according to Nick.
Adams earned All-America, All-State and All-District honors in wrestling at the school, where he compiled 116 wins as a heavyweight. He also lettered in football and track and earned National Merit Scholar semi-finalist honors.
“He was the type who would never miss a practice, and he would train throughout the offseason. He took it seriously,” Nick recalls. “And he was a big guy, too. We thought he was going to be a pro football player.”
After high school, Nick attended Spring Hill College in Alabama, where he played rugby, and earned his law degree from the South Texas College of Law. Today, he is an associate at Michael P. Fleming & Associates, where he focuses on civil litigation and practices along with his father, Michael, and his mother, Natalie.
Adams, meanwhile, went on to wrestle on a scholarship and study electrical engineering at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), where he led the team in pins as a freshman. Because of an injury that cut short his promising junior season, Adams ended up spending five years in the program.
After college, he returned home and got an offer to try out for an NFL team. He also coached wrestling to a group of mixed-martial arts (MMA) fighters at Houston’s Paradigm Training Center. He soon became more interested in pursuing a career in that sport instead of football.
Adams started to compete and quickly made a name for himself by going 4-0 as an amateur. He then turned pro and won his first three bouts, with each one ending in a first-round knockout.
However, he was also finding that life outside The Octagon wasn’t so easy.
‘It Boils Down to Doing It Yourself’
To support himself and still have enough time to train, Adams needed to work a handful of part-time jobs. It became a difficult and often frustrating schedule. But after that dinner with the Flemings, and the increase in his sponsorships, things began to change for him.
“At one point, I had six jobs, and I was trying to wedge my training in there,” he says. “But with each sponsor I got, I was able to eliminate one of those jobs and, eventually, right before my Contender Series fight, I was able to train full-time.”
Adams knocked out Shawn Teed in the first round of that bout, making it the most important win of his career to date. It allowed him to earn a contract with UFC and enter the highest level of mixed-martial arts competition.
He went on to TKO Chris De La Rocha in his UFC debut at UFC Milwaukee – his fifth knockout in as many fights as a pro.
Michael Fleming says that it has been a thrill to see Adams’ rise through the UFC’s ranks, and he is glad that his law firm has been able to play a role in it as a sponsor. However, he says, sponsorships do not automatically lead to success.
“[Mixed-martial arts] is like any career. It’s all up to you. You may get some help from other people, but no one else can make you a success. It boils down to doing it yourself,” Michael says. “And he’s doing it himself.”
‘They Have Been There from the Beginning’
In May, Adams suffered the only setback of his career, dropping a unanimous decision to Arjan Bhullar at UFC Ottawa. He quickly shook it off and picked up the bout with Hardy at UFC San Antonio – one that he had been pushing hard for in media interviews and on social media ever since Hardy entered UFC’s ranks.
To prepare for the fight, Adams has ramped up his training and focused, specifically, on his nutrition and cardio workouts. Some days, he gets up at 4 a.m. to get to the gym, and he starts his sparring as late as 7:30 at night – with a strength and conditioning workout and visit to his chiropractor and another sponsor, Dr. Tyler Bowman, somewhere in between.
“It’s a pretty big fight,” he says.
When he looks out at the crowd on July 20, he expects to see a couple of familiar faces cheering for him. The event in San Antonio will be the first time that Michael and Nick will get the chance to see Adams compete live at a UFC event. That kind of support means more to him than sponsorship dollars, Adams says.
“Loyalty is a big deal to me, and the fact that they have been there from the beginning and throughout the whole process – the whole family, really – it’s pretty important to me,” he says.