Fast-rising heavyweight Lavar Johnson has accepted a UFC 146 showdown with Stefan Struve next Saturday, agreeing to replace an injured Mark Hunt on just nine days’ notice. The UFC 146 main card has completely morphed from when it was originally announced, but it remains the first ever all-heavyweight card in UFC history.
Johnson is coming off two stunning ‘Knockout of the Night’ victories over Joey Beltran in January and – just two weeks ago – Pat Barry in a thrilling one-round fight which was broadcast live on FOX on May 5. But despite the 14-day turnaround, the Madera, CA, born big man didn’t hesitate in accepting the fight with the 6ft 11inch ‘Skyscraper’.
He said: “I heard last night there was a chance I could get this fight, and I accepted right away. I got the final word this morning. I am good to go, I weight 250lbs, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in my ability right now. You don’t get chances like this too often in life, so when you are lucky to get this kind of opportunity you got to make the most of it.
“I took one week off after the Pat Barry fight and then went back to the gym. I used to have some drinks, gets some BBQ in my belly, and get a little out of shape right after a fight. But I feel that I am now at a level where I need to be in shape all the time, so I stayed in shape and I can now seize this chance.
“Struve is a great fighter. He’s a skilled guy with a lot of heart but I am not worried about his size. His reach is 83inches and mine is 82, and he doesn’t use his height. He always gets the crap beat out of him, he refuses to quit, then his opponent gasses or has to let up and Struve comes back to win. I am a fan of his actually, and I’ve cheered for him because of his heart. The only way to beat him is to put him out cold. That’s what I have to do next week and I will do it.”
Struve, 23-5 in MMA, is also coming off two inside the distance wins. He tapped out Pat Barry last October and stopped Dave Herman with strikes in February. He was excited about the shake up and also praised his new opponent for stepping up and taking the fight.
Struve said: “Johnson has looked impressive in his first two fights in the Octagon since coming over from Strikeforce, but I’m gonna look even more impressive next week. I really want to thank him for stepping up on such short notice – I really wanted to fight on this all-heavyweight card – but he’s gonna face the best Stefan Struve you’ve ever seen. The change in opponent doesn’t bother me at all, Mark Hunt was a big puncher too and I have trained too hard for this to affect me.”