2017 was an incredible year for Swansea’s Brett Johns (15-0). The UFC Bantamweight was first victorious against Albert Morales at UFC Glasgow, but the highlight was certainly his Submission of the Year contender against Joe Soto. Johns needed just 30 seconds to submit the American, utilizing the extremely rare calf slicer submission.
The victory earned Johns a much larger opportunity. On April 21st, 2018, Johns has been handed the opportunity to face Aljamain Sterling (14-3) at UFC Atlantic City. A victory in this fight would propel the Welshman towards the very top of the division, within striking distance of a title match.
Before his contest this Saturday night, Johns took the time out to talk with Gary Friel of MMUK about his background in the sport and what he expects this weekend.
Interview with Brett Johns
We’re under 1 week before the biggest fight of your career. On April 21st, you take on Aljamain Sterling in Atlantic City. A win in this fight would go a long way in helping you cast a shadow over the rest of the division. How excited are you for this opportunity?
It’s a huge opportunity which I’m grabbing with both hands, the guy has been in the top 10 for a long time and that’s why I wanted to fight him! I want to see if I’m at that top 10 level, and I won’t be stopping until we get a shot at the belt.
Aljamain Sterling is known for being a capable fighter wherever the fight goes. Has it been difficult to find holes in his game that you can exploit?
To be completely honest I’ve thought less about that and more about looking at holes in my own game. Because I want to better myself every fight! I doubt I’m going to better the Soto fight but I am going to try.
Back in 2013, you competed in a Cage Warriors tournament which saw you compete for 7 rounds in one night. How was this experience and was it as challenging as it sounds?
8 rounds in one night actually hahaha! I will remember that night for the rest of my life! It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! It would have been okay if I had 2 first round finishes. But classic Brett Johns loves to make a job harder than what it’s supposed to be.
You had your final Cage Warriors fight in 2014, before leaving for Titan FC in America. What spurred on the change of scenery and did this experience help in preparing you for your future UFC career?
My coach, Chris Rees, always knew the UFC call was coming and he thought it would be a great idea to get some American experience with Titan FC. They were amazing trips and Titan FC and Cage Warriors treated us great.
Previously in your career, you had a couple of issues with making 135lbs. You have been flawless in your preparations in the UFC so far. Is it safe to say that you’ve got these weight problems under control now, and what changes did you make to ensure the issue went away?
The weight cut is always a struggle for me but I’ve made weight my last 4 scheduled UFC bouts. I’ve just been following the same structure.
Your calf slicer victory over Joe Soto shocked the MMA world, with you getting your hand raised after just 30 seconds of fighting. Is this a submission you specifically train frequently, or just something you came up with at the moment?
It’s something I’ve worked on at Chris Rees Academy but I didn’t think for 1 minute that I was going to pull it off. Right place right time. Do I think it would work again against Soto? Probably not, the guy is an amazing grappler and it was an honour to share the octagon with him.
Over the course of the last two years, Welsh MMA has really become one of the biggest nations in talent development. Multiple Welsh fighters have signed with the UFC, and many more make waves on the European circuit. How proud are you of the nation, and do you feel any additional pressure in being the current face of Welsh MMA?
It’s honestly one of the most single proudest moments of my life! And to be one of the leading men it’s an honour. I’m proud of my nation, we are a different type of fighters. Even the Americans talk about how tough the welsh boxers are. Us MMA fighters are exactly the same.
When he first signed with UFC, Justin Gaethje said that he knew he’d lose his undefeated streak whilst signed with the company. Do you have a similar expectation, or do you think you will be one of the few MMA fighters capable of putting together one of the great undefeated streaks in the sport?
I’m on the fence with this. Yes, I am going to try and be one of the only MMA fighters to retire undefeated, but this is the most premier MMA promotions in the world, so if that day comes I will deal with it. But for now, my next goal is 16-0.
We’ve just seen the TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt rematch announced for the UFC Bantamweight Title. What did you think of the first fight and which of the two would you prefer to share the cage with?
It’s a great bout. I loved the first bout And the second one is going to be great. It’s a fight I’m watching carefully also I would be naive if I didn’t. If I had to pick one I would pick TJ Dillashaw only because he fought Walel Watson and Joe Soto, 2 opponents that I’ve fought, so it would be great to see how I would get on.
Viewers in the UK can watch UFC Fight Night 128 on BT Sport 2 on Saturday, April 21st. The preliminary card starts at 1 am GMT, while the main card, which features Brett Johns Vs Aljamain Sterling, commences at 3 am GMT.