Brian Deegan is an innovator in action sports. He is considered to be motocross legend and as a businessman has been nicknamed “The General.” At the young age of 17 Deegan moved from his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska and traveled to Southern California with hopes of making a name for himself in the world of motocross.
In 1997 at the Coliseum in LA, Brian made history with the Freestyle Motocross move called “ghost riding” as he crossed the finish line. Brian has won many awards in actions sports. Brian currently competes in Motocross, Freestyle Motocross, Rally Car, and Short Course Trucks as founder and co-owner of the Metal Mulisha.
I caught up with Brian to chat with him about how he entered the world of motocross, fatherhood, injuries, and his clothing line.
Art Eddy: Let’s go back a bit in time. At age 17 you left Omaha, Nebraska for Southern California. You had big dreams of making a name for yourself in the world of motocross. Can you recall that one moment that made you take that big leap?
Brian Deegan: Growing up in Nebraska and going to high school there I had already traveled all over the United States racing in amateur motocross. I think that just getting to see all the parts of the country and places like Southern California really made me want to do that move there. The lifestyle there made me want to take the leap from Nebraska and go to California. Or maybe it was the girls there. I don’t know. (Both laugh)
AE: Was there ever a time in the beginning where you thought you had made a mistake?
BD: When I moved out there I didn’t have anything. I went out there with a pick-up truck, two dirt bikes and a credit card. I was sleeping on my buddy’s floor. I was renting a room and just trying to make things happen. There were points where it got tough, but I realized that I never wanted to go back.
I had to make it work. If I went back my dad wanted me to go to college. I thought that if I did that I would fall back into the normal routine, which is fine, but that was not what I wanted to do.
AE: When you look back do you have one moment that you can say to yourself that you made it?
BD: Yeah, I think it was the moment where I started getting paid by sponsors. That was when Freestyle Motocross started and X-Games as well. I got my first few main sponsors that were actually paying me really good money. That was when I realized that I was on to something. I feel like I hit the sport at the right time. We were the guys that pioneered in action sports. I realized at that moment that it was the right move. It worked out well.
AE: Out of the many accolades and awards you have won does one award stand out more than the others?
BD: I would say that the biggest moment that stands out the most was when I won the L.A. Coliseum Supercross. I went against all odds and beat the best guys as a privateer. I ghost rode my bike over the finish line, which at that time was unheard of.
I walked away from the sport and started up freestyle and did the first 360 on a dirt bike at the L.A. Coliseum. I won the gold medal there that year in best trick. Those were probably the biggest highlights. That was before I got into four wheels, which was a whole new realm of highlights.
AE: To say that you are fearless is a total understatement. From what I read you have experienced multiple near-death experiences, several broken bones, a lost kidney, and a severe spleen injury. What gets you back on the track time and time again?
BD: I would say it was the will to win. Injuries are never something you plan. So really what they do is just stall you out. They are like hurdles on your way to your original goal. I always saw it as just that. I had injuries and a few near death experiences. Those basically just slowed me up for my goals. I still move forward and was always able to block it out and get back to compete. Yet getting older and having kids your priorities change.
AE: Tell me about the company you started up in Metal Mulisha?
BD: I feel like when I was walking away from racing we were kind of the rebels of the sport. We went into Freestyle Motocross and actions sports at the X-Games as the characters of that sport. We came into the sport at the time where skateboarding and BMX was big.
Motocross stepped in and we were on the big stage where the cameras where rolling. It was time to play it up. We were the guys in all black, in spikes, and heavy metal. It kind of just took off. I was able to use my business sense and with my dad being there to help me I thought how are we going to monetize this. We turned it into a clothing brand and selling other product as well. It just took off. Now it is one of the biggest action sports brands out there.
AE: You have three kids. Two of them, Hailie and Haiden are following in your footsteps by winning a few titles of their own. You must be a proud dad.
BD: Absolutely. For me I have always been competitive, but I always wanted to be the dad that was helping my kids succeed. A lot of the dads that I have seen at the track are always worried about their next win, that their kids get neglected sometimes. I really didn’t want to be like that. I am still competitive and still have to pay the bills and go race. I have toned that back to just truck racing and rally car.
My son Haiden just signed a factory deal with KTM, which is the youngest kid to do that. He is the five time champion this year in Motocross. Hailie won the off-roading championship this year in off-road trucks in the Lucas Oil series. She is the first girl to ever do that. I ended up winning the championship this year as well. This was the first combo with a father and a daughter winning. I take pride in that. I take every waking moment to where I am either making my kids better or myself better.
AE: What advice do you give them about racing and competing on the track?
BD: I tell them it is about being serious and being smart. It is about being the smartest person on the track. I think that is what wins races. We go out and study the track and study video with them. I have a race shop at my house. We are always building better and faster stuff. We take it seriously. People say it is all about having fun. I say I have fun when I win. That is when it is fun. So that is kind of our family motto.
AE: Have they ever freaked you out by trying to perform a new trick?
BD: I would say it is my son on a dirt bike. I have raced Motocross for a long time and I know how dangerous it can be. Today there was this six pack of doubles that were just for big bikes and he goes flying at it on a 50. I was telling him no and trying to make him stop, but he hit perfectly. He is doing things now past my coaching. If these kids want to push it hard, well I think that it is good.
AE: What is the best thing about being a dad?
BD: I would say that it is the satisfaction of seeing your kids achieve goals. I think that is the coolest part. I would also say the aspect of family. I think it is the lost art so to speak. I think it is having a secure and stable family. To be able to race and have my kids there and watch them race is what we take pride in. I think that is the coolest part about being a dad. Being there and watching your kids succeed is probably my number one.