Johnson's record may not reflect his talent or his future
The UFC recently signed a fighter named Dashon “Fly Boy” Johnson, a 26-year-old prospect from California with a 9-0 record — eight of those victories being submissions or knockouts — who will face Jake “The Celtic Kid” Matthews, 4-0, in June.
On paper this looks like this newcomer will make a good addition to the UFC’s lightweight (155 pounds) division, but examining the records of his last nine opponents may give a different impression.
Johnson’s nine bouts have been against opponents who have a combined record of 13-29. Only two of these opponents actually have a number other than zero in their win column.
It’s typical for prospects — men or women — to have victories over opponents who have less wins on their record than actual fights. However, Johnson’s success with his opponents has caused fans, critics and journalists to complain about his “padded record” and lash out at the UFC for signing someone who was essentially “fed” opponents.
All nine of Johnson’s fights have been “Xplode Fight Series,” a California-based promotion that has been accused of building up certain fighters by giving them easy opponents.
Although MMA is considered a relatively new sport, promoters are conducting practices that boxing has been doing for a long time.
In boxing, fight promoters or managers to build a star by having him face lesser opponents or even fix fights. Most of Mike Tyson’s early wins were from lesser opponents. But when Tyson started fighting top competition he was just as dominant.
Although this kind of practice may seem less appealing to fans, it makes sense from a business standpoint. If you have a client who you want to promote and get to a bigger stage —because it will help you generate more money and bring in more clients— it’s going to look more attractive to a promoter if your fighter has an unblemished record with some impressive knockouts.
Perhaps that’s what happened here. When UFC talent scouts were looking at Johnson’s fight resume, they may have overlooked the records of his past opponents. This isn’t the first time this happened. Last year the UFC signed undefeated Russian pro prospect Aleksandra “Stitch” Albu to compete in their women’s bantamweight division. Although the reports said that Albu had five matches, only one of these bouts was actually confirmed.
Is this unfair to fighters who have had some success but with better opponents? Should the UFC do a better job at examining someone’s career before signing them to a multi-fight contract?
Probably, but maybe there is something in Johnson that the UFC sees that fans don’t. In addition to his mixed martial arts career, Johnson is also a professional boxer, accumulating experience and a 15-15-3 record with only two of his losses coming by way of knockout. While his MMA record — along with his opponents’ — may give fans an impression that Johnson isn’t ready for the UFC, the Fly Boy could prove us wrong and become the promotion’s next big star.
A fighter’s record doesn’t necessarily reflect their talent. This applies not only to someone who is undefeated, but also someone who has a losing record.
One example is Mark Hunt, a former K-1 World Grand Prix kickboxing champion. Prior to his debut in the octagon, Hunt’s record was 5-6 and he hadn’t won a fight since 2006. Despite losing his first UFC bout, Hunt won his next four fights. He is coming off back-to-back “Fight of the Night” performances.
Fans should at least wait until Johnson’s fight before they start throwing stones and complaining on the UFC’s message boards.
Al Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.