It takes a lot of faith to leave the familiar behind for new and uncharted territories, especially when you’re chasing a dream. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines faith as having “complete trust,” “something that is believed especially with strong conviction,” and “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” None of these definitions are easy to grasp which is what makes faith such a complex and abstract notion, yet something that is innate in us all.
At 17, extreme action sports athlete Brian Deegan allowed his faith (and his father’s) in his motocross abilities to lead him from his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska to Southern California to pursue his dream of becoming a pro supercross rider. “After I graduated high school, I told my dad to give me one year to try and make it as a pro rider and if that plan didn’t work out, then I’d come back home from California and go to college,” he recalls. That leap of faith has obviously paid off, making Deegan a household name within the action sports world. He is after all, the forefather of freestyle motocross, “The General” of the Metal Mulisha crew and the most decorated freestyle motocross rider in X Games history.
I took out the best in the game and was so pumped that I just launched the bike and remember guys jumping over me, still trying to finish third and fourth. Everybody got mad at me for busting that ghost ride and I was fined, but I didn’t care because I was such a badass rebel.Thanks to such unrelenting faith, Deegan went on to win the Los Angeles Coliseum AMA125cc supercross in 1997 as a privateer with no sponsors behind him, and make history by “ghost riding” his store-bought bike across the finish line—astonishing the crowd, upsetting AMA officials and, basically, setting the stage for freestyle motocross and the future Mulisha crew. “That was my first big achievement, winning the race as a privateer,” he says. “I took out the best in the game and was so pumped that I just launched the bike and remember guys jumping over me, still trying to finish third and fourth. Everybody got mad at me for busting that ghost ride and I was fined, but I didn’t care because I was such a badass rebel.”
Two years later, Deegan (with the help of other riders) made freestyle motocross an official X Games competition, and he’s since then taken home many gold medals. (He actually holds the elite distinction of being the only rider to compete in every Summer X Games competition since the games’ inception.) As a fierce competitor, Deegan has never settled for anything less than first place (or X Games gold), creating a notable reputation for being a top-rated action sports athlete and an all-time fan favorite.
Since his first huge win, the 32-year-old rebel has garnered many more accolades over the years and isn’t even half way done being a fierce competitor. “I feel like I’m in the middle of my career with a lot more of those opportunities coming,” he explains. And by opportunities, Deegan means accomplishments.
Already a celebrated and decorated motocross/supercross/freestyle motocross champion, he’s thrown in the towel as a pro competitor on two wheels for the chance to reign supreme in motorsports involving four wheels. “Dirt bikes had been my whole life,” he explains. “With dirt bikes, I feel like I’ve done it all already, like won numerous championships at X Games and stuff. So it’s sort of that ‘been there, done that’ mentality. Plus, after a few bad crashes and near death experiences, I thought I needed to get into something with a roll cage and do something safer, so I started racing trucks. But don’t get me wrong, I still love riding with my buddies, but it’s not about competing anymore. I’m now focused on trucks and racing cars.”
In 2009, he ventured into short course off-road racing in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series’ (LOORRS) Pro Lite Unlimited class and took home the championship during his rookie season—cementing his name in off-road racing.
But like any rookie, he had a rough start. “After Rockstar Energy gave me my first opportunity to race trucks, I sucked at it in the beginning. I would barely break the Top 10 at races. But with everything I do, I really put all my focus in it and studied it like a science.” In the last two years, Deegan has dominated the off-road truck world, taking both Lucas Oil Pro 2 Unlimited and Pro Lite Unlimited Championships, being named Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year in Pro 2 Unlimited and taking home the 2011 Lucas Oil Driver of the Year (which he also won in 2010). He also took on rally racing for fun and at X Games 16 won silver in both the Rally Car Racing and Rally Car Super Rally events, before taking home the gold at X Games 17. And in X Games 18 this past summer Brian took home the Bronze in a field that consisted of the top RallyCross drivers in the world!
...for X Games 17, I really went hard and was like, ‘I’m taking home gold!’ And I did.“Truck racing is what I put my all into, but when Rally Racing time comes once a year for X Games, I get the bug and really focus on it two months before X Games,” he confesses. “The first time I tried it, I really didn’t practice, which is why I got silver, but then for X Games 17, I really went hard and was like, ‘I’m taking home gold!’ And I did. Rally is fun, but my heart is in truck racing. You can catch more air in the trucks on the jumps and there is way more contact in the sport. Rally takes more finesse and perfect driving and I like to just pin it and go crazy in the truck.”
Besides his extreme action sports career, Deegan is also well known for his Metal Mulisha brand that has transformed over the years into a full blown lifestyle business. Apparel, shoes, bike/auto accessories and athlete sponsorship is what Metal Mulisha might entail, but at the heart of it all, it’s still about that original “rebel, badass” mentality that Deegan and his pals brought to the sport when they first started the crew. “The goal for Mulisha was to always do something that was different,” he says. “We wanted to set new trends in the sport and do it our way. We’re not scared to be different and that’s what Metal Mulisha is all about…we play by our own rules. Always have and always will.”
Metal Mulisha might have been born in motocross, it’s now expanding to MMA, with various fighter sponsorships like the notorious Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate, and more. “I’ve always been a fan of the sport and love training MMA style,” he says. “It’s really good cross training for me as an athlete so I usually have guys come out and we’ll train together. There’s really nothing more gnarly than getting into the Octagon with other guys just brawling and going at it!” Although he won’t be trying his hand at becoming a pro MMA fighter, he did get to throw blows with Dave Mirra as part of EllisMania 8 (Jason Ellis’ wacky star-studded fight card he hosts in Vegas) on September 17, 2011.
“Man, that was an awesome experience!” he admits. “I literally trained for two months, three times a day and went all out for the boxing bout. I even got to train with Mike Tyson a bit. It was so crazy, but I really felt good for the fight. Both Mirra and I were all ripped and yoked-out, ready to battle it out like legit fighters. But it’s not something I’d do for my career because it seriously takes a lot of work. I have this whole new respect for fighters now.”
And like Deegan’s exploration for new sports to conquer (he’s even trying his hand at NASCAR), his ride game has changed tremendously throughout the years. He’s long done with his luxury car fascination, having already had Bimmers, Benzes and more. These days, Deegan’s ride of choice is anything that can handle dirt roads. Being sponsored by Ford has its perks since his Ford Raptor is his everyday ride, while his F-250 does all the dirty work when hauling his racing trucks to events. “Cars need to be about function now,” he says. “I’m not about cruising slow with big rims, and am more about driving fast in the dirt, jumping trucks now. So really, my rides need good suspensions for off-road use. My dream ride is a tough off-road truck with a good suspension that I can jump…and has a DVD player for the family thing.”