On what was an otherwise disappointing night for British fighters at UFC Fight Night 113, one man who did rise to the occasion and produce the goods was Welshman Brett Johns, who defeated Albert Morales via unanimous decision in one of the night’s prelim bouts.
A couple of days after his latest win, one that stretched his undefeated run to 14 fights, Johns explained to Fighters Only editor Michael Owens why he felt a little flat on the night.
Q: Did the fight at the weekend go according to plan?
Brett Johns: If I’m honest, I wasn’t particularly happy with the performance. There are things in the fight I did that were very amateurish, and these things you can’t see. It’s all mental stuff. For example, in the second round, I was just getting these bad thoughts in my head. I’ve had them in the past, but I take a punch, it wakes me up and I get back into it. That was a big thing.
I think it was just such a long camp. I’ve spent a long time in the game and I just wanted to get it over and done with.
Q: You said you were ‘broken’ by the 20-week camp. Is that right?
Johns: Before the Kwak fight I’d taken a year-and-a-half out, and we took the [first] UFC fight on two or three weeks’ notice, and we did it. I don’t know why, but the lay-off between the Kwak fight and now felt a lot longer, even though it was eight or nine months less. I’m always in the gym. Physically I was overtrained, and mentally I was as well. I went to the gym yesterday to see some of the guys and had a chat with them. It was nice just to feel relaxed. My coach rang me up and I thought I was late for training, but he said just to chill out, take a day off and relax. I am absolutely obsessed with this game so it’s nice to have time now where I can enjoy and aim to get back in by December.
Q: How are you going to relax?
Johns: We’re going on holiday with my girlfriend in August, so I want to train up until that point and then I can enjoy myself while I’m out there and not have to worry. It’s all holiday, but I’ve had a few guys message me. One of the guys I train with has contacts at the Mayweather boxing gym, so even if I can go there and hit the bag for an hour, that would be cool. And the UFC headquarters are there as well so I might go there.
Q: Any plans to train anywhere else? [Currently at Chris Rees Academy in Swansea]
Johns: I’m still in sunny Swansea with my training and a lot of people are asking this question now. A lot of coaches have come up to me and asked over the weekend why I didn’t come out. It’s the same thing as McGregor really. McGregor didn’t really go anywhere else to train – he’d always take his team with him. It’s similar with me.
I spoke to Duke Roufus and John Kavanagh out there and, obviously, they’re great coaches, but if it’s not broken, why fix it? Me and my team have a strong relationship and a lot of coaches don’t understand my passion for this game. My coaches in Swansea understand that passion, not only for the sport, but for my country. They know what to say. You can put me in with the best coach in the world but if they don’t know how to switch me on, it’s not going to work. With my coach, Chris Reece, he says the right stuff at the right time. He triggers something in my head every single time. That’s part of the game and that’s why my coaches are the best coaches in the world for me.
Q: Who do you want to fight in December?
Johns: There are a lot of fights out there I like. Thomas Almeida and Jimmie Rivera are fighting soon and that fight’s crazy. I think it’s gone completely under the radar. Their records are something like 40-odd wins and two losses between them. That is crazy. I’m going to watch that carefully because I don’t see them too far away – it could be in three, five or ten fights’ time. I don’t know. I will watch carefully, though, especially because Morales has fought Almeida. For a venue, I’d probably like to do it in Vegas before Christmas. I would like some Turkey if I’m honest.
Q: The crowd reaction at the Glasgow weigh-ins and on fight night itself was massive for the Welsh fighters, not just those from Scotland. Did that have a big impact in terms of motivating you?
Johns: Definitely. I didn’t understand. From the outside, the SSE doesn’t look that big, but it’s absolutely huge. It’s like a Tardis. I remember walking out, I looked up and I could hear a lot of chanting and screaming. I looked to my left and people were chanting, ‘Come on Brett!’ I looked to my left and people were chanting, ‘Come on Brett!’ I didn’t know these people, they were just Scottish fans. I saw a few Welsh flags, but the reception was as if I was from Scotland. Without sounding too soppy it was very emotional. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Scotland now. They really got behind me and I’m thankful for that. It was a dream come true to get that over and done with. I’ve done Belfast, I was meant to do London and I’ve done Glasgow. There’s just one place left and it’s just a case of waiting for that right venue now. I’m sure if any of them Scottish fighters came to Wales they’d get the same reception.
Q: Can you see a UFC event happening in Wales?
Johns: I don’t think so. There’s an ice hockey arena but it’s only about 3,000 seats. The Motorpoint Arena is 5,000. There’s not enough there. The best place would be Cardiff City or Swansea City football stadiums, but there’s no roof there. That can’t work at all. I’m sure if a venue does pop up they’ll be knocking on the door. They have mentioned UFC fights in Wales – they mentioned Aldo-McGregor at one point in the Principality Stadium, but the Irish fans weren’t too keen on it. For the minute, Brett Johns isn’t going to sell out a 50,000-seater venue, but that might come in the future.
Q: How’s [fellow Welshman] Jack Marshman? I saw a photo of you with him and he looked banged up…
Johns: He looks like John Merrick, the ‘Elephant Man’! He’s all right; he’s in high spirits. That’s why I enjoy fighting on the same cards as Jack. It’s a great thing to have. We’re from two different gyms, but when we go out there it’s like we’re teammates. On the regional circuit, I’ve fought most of his teammates, but, when you get to that level and you’re out there as two Welshman, I love how we’ve come together and we’re a team out there – this is what we do, we’re Wales. I think all the home nations should start doing it – getting behind their own guys. It’s a great thing.