Strikeforce heavyweight makes UFC debut Saturday
Saturday in Chicago, Lavar Johnson knows exactly what is on the line.
Having lost his past two outings, Johnson is well aware that the pressure is on for him to hit the big stage and produce a victory. As the former Strikeforce heavyweight steps in to the Octagon for his UFC debut, he’ll be greeted by Joey Beltran at UFC on Fox: Evans vs. Davis – and it’s a moment he’s been looking forward to.
“I think fighting in the UFC is awesome,” Johnson told HeavyMMA. “I’ve been in the game for a long time and fought in a lot of different organizations. It feels good to finally get my shot to fight on the big show. If I want to keep fighting, it’s very important for me to make a big statement.
“I’ve fought my ass off to get here. Unfortunately, I’ve lost my last two fights – but now I’m in a must-win situation. In all honesty, I’m not even looking at that because win, lose or draw, I’m going to leave it all out there in the cage because I made it to the UFC and I’m not going to have any regrets.”
Johnson is part of the first wave of fighters to cross over into the UFC since Zuffa announced the Strikeforce heavyweight division would be dissolved. While he believes fans will have to adjust to the new names and faces, the move shouldn’t affect his colleagues.
“It’s technically the same, because a lot of these guys have been on both sides of the fence,” Johnson said. “It’s really not going to be anything new. It’s a different name, but the same game. I think both the Strikeforce and UFC heavyweights are equally talented. There are going to be a lot of changes once everybody gets into the same division. I think people might be shocked to see how well some of the Strikeforce fighters do.”
The matchup between Johnson and Beltran is custom-made for fan entertainment. All 15 of Johnson’s wins have come by knockout or TKO, with the majority of those victories in the first round. Beltran is notoriously difficult to finish, but Johnson believes he is suited for the task at hand.
“I think Joey is a good fighter,” Johnson said. “He brings a lot of pressure and he comes to fight. He has a good chin and his cardio is there. I think he’s a tough guy. His heart is his biggest weapon. That is his biggest attribute. He’s coming all out, and he’s a fighter.
“He is not going to stop – I’m going to have to stop him. Fans are going to see me knock Beltran’s ass out. He’s going to stand and bang, and I’m going to put him to sleep. That’s what is going to happen.”
And what does Johnson think of facing an opponent whose “Mexecutioner” nickname is one of the best in mixed martial arts?
“It’s a good nickname, but I’m only a quarter Mexican – so I don’t think he’s going to be killing me.”