Anyone who watches Dana White’s Contender Series knows UFC’s president puts serious importance on going for the finish.
That’s undoubtedly the reason he came out of UFC Charlotte sounding more than a little annoyed by Johnny Walker’s latest performance against Anthony Smith in the co-main event of the ABC broadcast last night (Sat., May 13, 2023) in North Carolina.
Walker claimed a dominating decision win over Smith, wrecking “Lionheart” with a series of leg kicks that had the former contender seriously hurt. But, the Brazilian fighter didn’t go in for the kill, claiming it was part of his plan to fight 15 minutes that night.
“I want to prove myself, so I don’t want to finish him quickly,” Walker told Daniel Cormier in the cage following his victory. “I want to fight three rounds with a high level guy to show I can defend, I can block, I can fight. Because if I beat him too quickly, there’s no joy. People in Brazil stay up for fights very late, I’d like to put them to sleep early, you know?”
That peeved White, who built this UFC on ABC card to generate bangers.
“Whenever we get the opportunity to do ‘Prelims’ on ESPN, main card on ABC, I’m old school so ABC’s Wide World of Sports was a big deal to me growing up,” White said at UFC Charlotte’s post-fight press conference. “So, it’s kind of special for me when we do these fights. And you look at guys like Walker ... didn’t really wow anybody tonight, but he won. He was put on the co-main event to kind of shine tonight. He got a W, so I guess that’s good.
“[Jailton] Almeida did what was designed to do, Ian [Garry] did what he was designed to do,” White continued. “[Carlos] Ulberg. And either way those fights went, it’s all kids that have a ton of potential. Like I said, we’re the bells and whistles. We lob up the softballs and let these kids hit home runs. When you get the opportunity to fight on an ABC or an ESPN, you want to go out there and deliver and most of the card did.
“Obviously he’s in there with a very durable, tough guy and a dangerous guy in Smith,” White concluded. “But Smith got dropped, was hurt in the first round. Then his leg was gone, and Johnny never went for the finish. Never tried to finish the fight. Just tried to fight safe and get the win.”
When Walker sat down with the press after White’s comments, he still sounded very pleased with the win.
“I think it’s my best [performance],” Walker said. “I’ve never fought someone in the top five, so this is my best performance until now. I know I can do better, which is why I’m going back to the gym this weekend. Keep training, keep improving. Next time I want to fight better than this time.”
The win puts Walker on a three-fight win streak, which is a nice change of pace from an earlier 1-4 skid. The Light Heavyweight had gained a reputation for leaving himself in extremely poor defensive positions, and he paid the price for that over and over again. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s still re-calibrating with his SBG Ireland coach, John Kavanagh.
Let’s hope he finds a solid middle ground between jumping into punches and playing with his food.
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