Author: Jordan Powell Photos: Jordan Powell
When Brian Deegan first stepped into the short-course scene, many believed it was all a publicity stunt. The tattooed, rebellious Nebraska native had it made huge in the freestyle motocross community, so when the decision came to go from two wheels to four, all eyes were on the “General” to see if he would be just another marketing ploy gone bad. However, in the few short years Deegan has been racing short-course, he has dominated the sport over and over again. His success hasn’t stopped there, though, as he has slowly but surely made a name for himself in the Global Rallycross community, virtually evolving into a top crossover athlete. While this might seem like the pinnacle of his career, Deegan assures us he has more to prove, and that this is only the beginning. “When it comes time for me to step away from off-road racing, I want to be able to feel like I was able to build an iconic name for myself, much like Ivan Stewart, Walker Evans and Mickey Thomson did. That’s my vision, that’s my goal, and I plan on making it happen,” he confidently notes.
Though the General stepped away from FMX a few years back, he’s still known to throw it down at the Metal Mulisha Compound. The Beginning Nestled in the easternmost part of Nebraska, the city of Omaha served as Brian Deegan’s hometown. With a passion for motocross, and very little money, Brian’s father somehow made the ends meet, just so the young General could follow his dreams. “I grew up racing motocross in Nebraska, and I’d say I was pretty successful in the amateur ranks. Like every kid out there, my dream was to turn pro and become a factory rider,” said Deegan. “I always look back at old pictures from my life, and I trip out on how far I have come. My dad raised me as I was growing up, and we didn’t have a lot of money. However, he still got me to the amateur motocross races in our little van.” As time passed on by, those dreams started to become a reality, and before he knew it, Brian was turning pro. However, in order to do so, he had to make the move to California. “Moving out to California from a small town in Nebraska was a big deal because I didn’t come out here with a single dime in my pocket. I literally slept on some dude’s floor when I moved out here. When the time finally came to turn pro, I won a Supercross race, and I felt like I was on my way, but I began to struggle as a privateer. Eventually I stepped away and helped grow the sport of freestyle motocross.” As the public interest in FMX started to grow, a sudden realization struck Deegan. “From day one, I always wondered why I was getting paid from a sponsor to run their logo so that they could sell their product. I just figured, why don’t I run my own logo?” And so, Metal Mulisha was born. With the sport of freestyle motocross evolving and reaching new heights, the limits were constantly getting pushed. “The tricks got harder, and multiple bones were getting broken. Finally, I had a really bad crash in which I lost my liver and spleen, and I almost died,” recalled Deegan. “That was the breaking point. That was the moment when I knew that I needed to start looking into some safer sports.” Fortunately for Deegan, an opening on the Rockstar Energy short-course team came up, and it became evidentially clear that if he wanted to take his career to a new level, he needed to accept that offer.
Fitness is one of the keys to Deegan’s success, which is why he chooses to stay in shape with the help of his personal trainer, Charles Dao from Icon Sports Performance.
The Turning Point When Deegan decided to make the switch to a cage, he wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms in the off-road community. “I believe that I had to rebuild a name for myself because all I had was the credibility from the motocross community. When I first jumped into short-course, there was a lot of talk going around that I only got the ride with Rockstar because of who I am. To be honest, I got sick and tired of hearing that, but that gave me the fuel to show everyone that I was a racer. It took time, but when I started to beat some of the big names in the Pro 2 class in my rookie year, I think my credibility started to grow,” said Deegan. Almost overnight, the critics started to take a step back as Deegan’s results quickly began to improve. No longer was he a celebrity athlete looking for some stardom, he was a legitimate title contender with a massive amount of talent on four wheels. While most would be more than pleased with being a three-time LOORRS short-course champion, it wasn’t enough for Deegan. When the X Games first introduced Rally X into their lineup of events, he knew he needed to get his hands on one. With his connection to Rockstar Energy, and his ability to drive a four-wheeled vehicle quite well, he decided to make the call to his sponsor to see what kind of strings they could pull.
Deegan might have accomplished his goals in short-course, but he assures us he is here to stay.
“To be honest, I wanted to get into rally because it was in the X Games,” remembered Deegan. “I thought to myself that if Rockstar sponsored Tanner (Foust) could, maybe I could get a ride. Fortunately, Rockstar made it happen for me.” To Deegan’s surprise, he went home with a fourth-place finish. In the following years, the Rockstar Energy athlete felt like he had something to prove, and he ended up taking the silver and gold medals. “I felt like rally really clicked for me, but I’m still learning. That’s one thing I feel like I haven’t really mastered. Rally X has been a massive challenge.” For Deegan, that challenge is the fuel to his fire. Admittedly, Deegan said that short-course was fairly easy for him, right from the start. However, his success in rally has been more gradual. “I think that challenge in rally keeps me going because if I walked away from the sport right now, I’d feel incomplete. I’d feel like I haven’t gotten to where I want to be.”
Rallycross hasn’t come as easy as Deegan might have hoped, but it’s the challenge that keeps him wanting more.
The Present As anyone could imagine, Deegan lives a hectic schedule with everything he is involved in. If he’s not racing short-course, he’s racing Rallycross. If he’s not racing at all, he’s traveling across the country with his son Haiden, also known as Danger Boy, to race the amateur motocross circuit. At the same time, he still has to raise a family, and somehow manage his rapidly growing business. It’s an exhausting 365 days of the year, and after a while, family life begins to take an impact. Deegan has begun to see this all too well. “It would be an easy decision for me to leave short-course or rally if I wasn’t good at one of them,” Deegan explains, “but I feel that I’m successful at both of them. So, I want to take that challenge on. Unfortunately, that’s why my schedule is so hectic. I’m racing two different series, doing Monster Jam, and I’m running Metal Mulisha, which has multiple licenses with all the Deegan 38 products. It’s so hard. I think some people don’t understand that at times, but it’s so stressful. With all the traveling and the amount of hours that I put into my work, it impacts the family. “That’s why next year I’m going to have to make some better decisions that protect my family time. Pretty soon my kids will be grown up, and those days will be gone and over before I know it. I respect my family more than racing, so I have to make that work. At the same time, my kids are becoming champions in their own sports. A lot of people don’t know, but my daughter is leading the Kart championship series with one race to go, which will mark the first girl to win, and my son Haiden has won multiple titles this year in motocross. That’s so rewarding to me. If I focused on my own racing and not theirs, I wouldn’t feel right. My championships would mean nothing without my kids.”
Not only is the Nebraska native successful in his own disciplines, so are his kids. Hailie is on the verge of becoming the first girl to win a championship in the Junior 2 Karts in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series. Haiden has already won multiple titles in his first year on the amateur motocross circuit aboard a Cobra 50.
The Future In the five years Brian Deegan has been involved with four-wheeled sports, he has accomplished quite a bit. He’s won three championships in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series, four medals in X Games rally and was narrowly defeated by Tanner Foust in last year’s Global Rallycross Championship. We have watched him evolve from a punk-ass, freestyle motocross kid, to a talented, passionate athlete and family man. In a way, the future seems limitless for Deegan because he has proved he can run with the best of them in any four-wheeled discipline. But what’s next? When we asked him about possibly racing desert, he responded, “I’ve raced some desert races in a Class 1 car back in the day, but what I want to race is NASCAR. However, that dream gets smaller and smaller every day that my kids get older. Plus, business is getting crazier, and off-road is growing so fast. There’s so much money to be had in off-road racing. However, I made a goal for myself to race Nationwide. It doesn’t matter if I’m battling for the lead, or if I’m just starting my car up in the NASCAR pits; that’s my goal.”
Located in Temecula, California, the Metal Mulisha Compound offers picturesque views and a private moto track.
Not only is Deegan evolving as an athlete, his company is, too. The brand that once started out as a local clothing company has expanded into an empire, and there are plenty of big things happening in the future. “I’ve always said, ‘World domination since day one,’ and I feel that’s what’s happening. It’s not over yet, though. Ten years ago is when I started to build this brand at X Games with freestyle motocross. I’ve only been in off-road for a few years. So, imagine where it could go from here,” explained Deegan. “A lot of people don’t know, but now I’m working with Mickey Thompson, and we’re going to have a full line of Deegan off-road tires, to go along with the wheels, tools, and everything else we produce. All of this has been possible with the good partners I have like Greg Adler from 4 Wheel Parts, and other dudes who support me, in which I support them.” And for all the kids out there hoping to be a Brian Deegan someday, he says, “The advice I have to give is that I’ve failed at more things than I’ve succeeded at. I’ve been beat down, but I was able to come back, multiple times. I think it comes from not giving up, working hard and treating people how you want to be treated. A smile goes a long way. If you want to be a grumpy, negative dude, that’s what you’re going to get back in life, and I learned that the hard way. Nothing is going to get handed to you, unless you’re a trust fund kid,” laughed Deegan. “I think that’s the best advice that I have.”
Success hasn’t come easy for Brian Deegan, but with the support of his tight-knit family, he’s been able to conquer his goals.