Wales’ Brett ‘The Pikey’ Johns will have plenty to grin about at the moment. Not only did the UFC Bantamweight contender come up off the canvas to grind out a unanimous decision win (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) against American striker Montel Jackson (9-2-0) at UFC Fight Night 172: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez 2 but he recently became engaged to his long term girlfriend on his return home to Swansea.
Brett’s dominance in the grappling exchanges over Jackson put an end to the Wisconsin native’s three-fight win streak and saw the 5’7 Welshman’s professional MMA record move to 17-2-0, now on a two-fight win streak himself, adding to his Fight of the Night win over Tony Gravely (19-6-0) back in January’s UFC Fight Night 166: Blaydes vs. Dos Santos.
“If I’m being completely honest guys, that was a dire performance, that wasn’t the best.”
Despite picking up the W, Brett voiced his frustration with his performance, admitting in a post-fight interview that Jackson’s striking had caught him by surprise having previously believed his own striking would have been “level par, if not better!”. While his performance may have not met his own standards, the relentless cardio king has his eyes very much set on the future, acknowledging how he sees the 28-year-old Jackson as one of the bantamweight’s gatekeepers to the elusive top 15.
Johns’ has actually seen himself ranked before. He managed as high as #14 in the UFC’s bantamweight division before seeing back to back decision losses to Aljamain Sterling (19-3-0) and Pedro Munhoz (18-4-0) back in 2018. This is nothing to be disheartened by though, ‘The Funk Master’ Sterling currently sits at #2 in the UFC bantamweight rankings and looks set for a title shot after his impressive first-round submission of #4 ranked Cory Sandhagen (12-2-0) back at UFC 250 in June. Munhoz, on the other hand, is set to fight UFC legend Frankie Edgar (22-8-1) at UFC 252 on Saturday 15th August. This will be his first bout since having lost himself to The Funk Master at UFC 238 in June of last year.
Edgar, 38, is a former 155lb champ and an absolute legend of the UFC’s modern era. A win over him for Munhoz will undoubtedly propel his name into title contention as Edgar himself fought for the 145lb belt as soon as last July, coming up short in a unanimous decision loss to Hawaii’s Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway (21-6-0).
“Now I want the legends, now I want to fight the guys who have been there and done it.”
Now he’s back in the winner’s column it would appear that the Welsh submission artist wants to follow in the footsteps of his former competitor Munhoz, expressing his own desire to face off with a UFC icon by taking time to call out UFC Hall of Famer, Urijah Faber (35-11-0) during the aforementioned press conference. The callout is very uncharacteristic of Brett, normally the humble and reserved fighter, he’s never normally one to mince words. Yet, this could be a smart move by Johns. While Faber remains unranked in the Bantamweight division, his last outing was to none other than current 135lb king Petr Yan (15-1-0) and with the weight his name holds, a victory over the 41-year-old former WEC champ would be sure to attract people’s attention.
Plans for the future may have to be put on ice for the time being though. Johns suffered an injury to his left cheek after an exchange with Jackson. That coupled with a 45 days medical suspension means realistically a return to the octagon won’t be back on the cards until the tail end of 2020.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Johns recognises:
“I’ll have to see what the doctor says but the UFC will sort that out, but if they’re happy and it’s nothing to be concerned about then I’m just happy to jump back in there.”
Overall, what’s evident is that the black spots on Johns have only come to those at the very pinnacle of the division’s hierarchy. No doubt, under the right guidance of his new gym at Tillery Combat MMA and with a few more wins against the right opponent, we could easily see him propel himself into the upper pecking order. Furthermore, at just 28 he’s still developing as a fighter. Only time will tell how high this Welsh dragon can soar.