Wesley Johnson knows how to tear down the house. The 32-year-old London, England-based music producer—better known as 2Play—is responsible for putting together bangers like Kevin Lyttle’s Turn Me On and Raghav’s So Confused. His reggae-flavored, bass-heavy jams excite both nightclubs and big arenas. He should know. After all, last December he walked to the cage while his latest single That’s What The Girls Like, featuring Maxi Priest, Moni, and Juxci D, was on full blast for the 2,600 in attendance for Ultimate Challenge UK at The Troxy.
“I always come out to my music because that’s what I’m known for,” 2Play says. “I’m a music producer turned cagefighter.”
Holding a 4 –1 record, 2Play trains daily with the hopes of one day signing a Zuffa contract. The 155-pounder, however, wasn’t always passionate about mixed martial arts. In fact, his first glimpse into the sport was in April 2006 when he saw then-UFC Heavyweight Champion Andre Arlovski defend the belt against Tim Sylvia.
“I couldn’t watch it. I was like, ‘This is seriously brutal stuff going on here,’” he recalls. “I kinda got over that shock factor and was glued to it. I was hooked that same evening and realized it’s just not two guys swinging in a cage. There’s lots of technique, especially with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—reversals, submissions, taking people’s backs, putting the hooks in, putting the choke in. It’s like a chess game.”
2Play immediately began training with semipro fighter Brett Sizeland at Monsters Gym and worked on his ground game extensively at Mamazinho BJJ in north London. Two years later, the lightweight joined Team Titan, an up-and-coming camp best known for producing WEC sensation Brad Pickett, to help get prepared for his debut against relative unknown Mark Brown in July 2008 at Cage Rage in Wimbley Arena.
Although he felt immense pressure, it vanished 31 seconds later when 2Play pounded out his opponent. “It’s one of the most draining things on the body,” 2Play says. “Just the adrenaline and whole fear factor of going into the cage and [once] the gate doors shut, it’s you and him, and the ref, and you just go at it as hard as you can with little gloves and no protection on your feet. It’s quite a feeling.”
The music producer earned three more victories—all ending in the first round via triangle choke—and the latter two as part of a tournament for upstart organization Ultimate Challenge UK. The finals of the lightweight bracket pitted him against teammate Luke Smith, causing him to leave the fight camp at the end of 2009 for New State Martial Arts.
Although 2Play would subsequently lose that bout, he remains motivated. Soon, he will be training with UFC welterweight contender Paul Daley and is planning a trip to Los Angeles to work with Eddie Bravo at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. In fact, if he can get everything organized with Empire Construction—the company he founded last year—then he would consider relocating to California permanently. “The music scene is buggin’ and lots of collaborations can be made, lots of networking can be done, and there are lots of great gyms to train in,” he says. “Plus, the weather is good and the American people there are friendly. If I can get things straight over here, that’s my next stop.”
From Kicking to Punching
Before he even discovered fighting and producing, 2Play was a teenage soccer pro. He launched his career in 1994 at 16 years old, playing as a winger for Brighton & Hove Albion, Wimbledon (now known as Milton Keynes Dons), West Ham United, and Dunfermline Athletic in Scotland. After six months in Scotland, he grew tired of the job and left the sport in 1997 to obtain a Higher National Diploma in Surveying from Waltham Forrest College.
That year, he also secured his first deejay gig for a friend’s 16th birthday party. “I hired all the turntables, had my collection, and saw the reaction from everyone and thought, ‘Yeah, this is great,’” 2Play says. “You’re the man in charge of the party. Everyone is having a good time because you’re there playing, so I wanted to become a successful deejay as well.”
2Play continued spinning records and got a radio slot, which allowed him to network with record executives. That led to producing Kevin Lyttle’s Turn Me On in 2001, which wouldn’t be released until 2003 in Europe and 2004 in the United States. Also, in 2004, 2Play earned a MOBO award for best collaboration with Raghav for the song So Confused.
Amidst all of his accomplishments, be it winning awards for hit singles or playing pro soccer, there is one thing his soul desires more. “My dream is to fight in the UFC, even if it’s just once. That’s been my dream from the very beginning since watching it, and that’s what I want to do,” he says. “The guys who are in the UFC are on a serious level. They’re very well equipped. So I’m putting lots of time into my BJJ. I’ve got a purple belt now, and I’m looking to get better in all areas and get that fight in the UFC toward the end of the year.”
That would be music to his ears.