UFC veteran John Howard reveals diagnosis of clinical autism
"God has a plan for everybody. This is the way I am."
John Howard is one of the most experienced welterweights on the planet but, throughout his 12-year fight career, he awaited a clinical diagnosis.
Howard, a former UFC fighter who went 7-7 under the promotional banner, was always aware that he had struggled in certain areas - speech, relationship-building and social skills among them.
As 'Doomsday' prepares for his first outing in World Series of Fighting, he opened up about his recent diagnosis with clinical autism in an outstandingly honest interview with MMA Fighting's Shaun Al-Shatti.
"Growing up, I was always in Special Education classes," Howard said. "I always struggled with learning disabilities. But back in the day, when I was coming up in school, we didn't have autism, ADHD, all these things that we know about now. We didn't have the science to understand it. So if you were any kind of handicapped, or your thoughts were flawed, you were put in Special Education automatically. I went my whole childhood being in Special Education class, basically thinking that I was slow and stupid.
"It was the hardest, freakin' scariest thing. I was getting teased every day. People would try to beat me up. It was terrible. I was being called retard. ‘How come you're in the retarded class? You can't talk. You're stupid.'"
Howard, 33, is looking to get back to winning ways, after enduring defeats in four of his last five UFC fights, and he refuses to see his diagnosis of autism as anything but proof of what he's been able to overcome in his life.
"It's a technical term, because that's what people label it as," Howard continued. "I don't consider myself disabled. I consider myself, if anything, advantaged. My disability, if that's what you want to call it, is mine. They label autism as a disability. I label autism as an advantage, because once you beat that advantage, what's going to stop you now?"
The Boston fighter takes on the 15-10 Michael Arrant at WSOF 31 on Friday night and he has one person in particular to thank for getting him to where he is now.
"My mother just kept pushing me," Howard added. "Her thing was, this is what she taught me: nothing is impossible. Stuff is improbable, but not impossible. If you have to try a million times, a billion times, eventually you're going to get it right once. And then when you get it right once, you just keep striving for that. That's it."