Brett Johns at UFC London weigh-in. Photo credit: Jim Edwards.

Following the heartbreak of losing his spot on the UFC London card, Brett Johns is aiming to return to the Octagon as quick as possible, with his sights set on fellow bantamweights Henry Briones and Marlon Vera.

The Welshman was scheduled to face Ian Entwistle at UFC Fight Night 107 until a botched weight cut forced the Englishman off the card, on the day of the event. The day prior, Entwistle had weighed-in at 139lbs, three pounds over the bantamweight limit, thus forfeiting 20 percent of his purse to Johns. 

However, despite the sanctions placed on the Accrington fighter, and Johns graciously accepting to fight a heavier foe, the UFC was forced to cancel the fight on the grounds that the former Cage Warriors fighter was deemed ‘unfit to compete’.

Johns spoke to MMA Plus about his turbulent London experience and his; now proven, fears over Entwistle withdrawing from their fight. 

“He could have come over by 50 pounds, I wouldn’t have cared,” began Johns, retelling his side of the UFC London debacle. “All I cared about was the fact that he was going to turn up the next day. I was so scared that he wouldn’t, that they asked me ‘do you want to cap his weight?’. I said I didn’t care, I said let him weigh whatever he wants the next day, I just want him to turn up tomorrow night. 

“During the public weigh-ins, I was standing there bouncing, I love them weigh-ins, and I was first up, he’s just standing there, all drooped over. His body language was saying everything I didn’t want to hear really. He kept on apologising and apologising and apologising, It was doing my head in, in the end.”

It was almost as if the weight issues served as an inevitable prologue for Entwistle’s demise, with him having a proven track record of withdrawing from bouts. “Entry” has been booked for seven bouts during his UFC career, but has only competed in three, citing injury and illness as the reason the other five did not materialise. 

Brett Johns
Brett Johns [Photo Credit: Cage Warriors/Dolly Clew]

The former Cage Warriors and Titan FC champion Johns – who in the past has been guilty of weight issues himself – explained how he found out about the news. On the morning of UFC London, Johns spent time with his family and friends, before returning to the hotel for his final preparations. It was here where his manager informed him of the ill-timed news.

“I said goodbye to my girlfriend and she left, and as I walked upstairs, I went in the lift, all the way up to the top floor, opened my hotel room door and my manager was sitting there and I just knew. The thoughts that were going through my head were unreal,” he explained frustratingly. 

Following the incident, Entwistle announced his retirement from mixed martial arts, a move which Johns criticised as ‘quitting’ rather than retiring. 

“Some people were born to fight, others were not and sorry Ian Entwistle was not a fighter,” commented Johns.

Johns on losing out on the chance to fight on Brad Pickett’s retirement card

25-year-old Johns made his UFC debut last October at UFC Fight Night 99 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he defeated Kwan Ho Kwak. With that debut win in the books, the undefeated Welshman was hoping for a perfect start to 2017, with the opportunity to compete on the same card as his early hero, Brad Pickett.

Brad Pickett
Brad Pickett at UFC London. Photo by Jorden Curran.

Despite his hopes, Entwistle’s late withdrawal dashed Johns’s chances of achieving one of his dreams, something which he claimed was the most difficult part of the weekend. 

“That was the thing I struggled with the most really, my only thing I wanted from this whole UFC London card, no disrespect to anybody, I didn’t really care that it was in London. The only reason that I wanted to be on that card was because it was Brad Pickett’s last fight. If I knew I was fighting on that, I would have fought for free if it meant being involved in Brad Pickett’s last card. I was 16 year’s old when I wanted to do MMA, I used to watch that guy constantly on YouTube, I’ve [got] Cage Rage DVD’s upstairs, he was a hero of mine. All taken away from me on the last day. 

“Without overexaggerating, Saturday was one of the worst days of my life, full stop.” 

Johns confirmed to MMA Plus that he received his show money from the UFC.

Johns calls for fights against Briones and Vera

As for his plans to rebound from the misfortune of last weekend, “The Pikey” was completely transparent with his intentions, calling out Henry Briones and Marlon Vera for fights on future UFC Europe shows.

“I would love the Briones fight in Stockholm and I’d love the Marlon Vera fight in Glasgow.” exclaimed an excited Johns, confirming his intent to compete on the upcoming Stockholm (May 28) and Glasgow (July 16) cards. 

Now 13-0 as a professional, he went into depth as to why he wants to fight Briones and Vera, and Johns even revealed an interesting incident with Vera, following his win over Pickett at the O2 Arena

“I want good fights, and I look at the Briones fight and I think Briones is a tough character and I think him and [Dominick] Cruz are the only guys to take [Cody] Garbrandt to the scorecards. He’s a tough character, I like that fight, he’s got a good record. 

“I like Marlon Vera, I spoke to him after the show on Saturday. Apparently, he was shooting me behind my back, putting gun signs out to shoot me in the back, as if I was on his target list. He did it in front of my brother and one of my teammates who both caught him. I didn’t know this until after we had the conversation.”

Discussing the potentially dangerous row of bantamweights ahead of him, Johns ended: “I know [Aiemann] Zahabi was in Joe Duffy’s corner, he’s another good bantamweight. They’re all good guys, it’s just, I know every single fight in a row is going to be tough, I’m not stupid, I’m not looking at any of them thinking they’re easy fights because I’d be delusional.”