Third Time the Charm – Johnson Finally Faces Romero at SFS
After years of trying to get this fight to happen, people are saying it is about time. This Friday, Tristan Johnson will square off against Will Romero at The Score Fighting Series in Mississauga, Ontario. With Johnson, he had the same thoughts as James Brown.
“I feel good,” says Johnson. “Training camp went well and I feel like I am ready.”
Most insiders have picked this fight as an early contender for fight of the night award, since both guys’ styles match up well with Romero’s Muay Thai’s skills against Johnson and his skills as a professional boxer. Sometimes it does not end up being the fight that everyone hopes to see. While we have the potential for one of the better stand up wars fans have seen in the last little while, it is a mixed martial arts fight.
“I think with people both classifying us as strikers maybe both of us are a little tired of hearing that,” says Johnson. “You can’t take anything out of it you know. Maybe he went home after his last fight and maybe switched up and maybe he has been working on his ground game and his wrestling. No one can just stay one dimensional in the game forever. I feel confident in my ground skills. I train jiu jistu, wrestling and grappling. I can say that I feel 100% more comfortable than I did in my last fight.”
While Johnson had some trouble on the ground against Douglas Evans on the W-1 card, he has doing a lot of ground work since then. While on Fit Plus’ annual trip to Thailand, he said that he would have fellow teammate TJ Grant working with him privately on his ground skills and training with a rising prospect like Chris Kelades does not hurt either. Besides there have been guys passing through Fit Plus that coach Scott Maclean has flown in like former IFL Champ and WEC vet Wagnney Fabiano and American Top Team wrestling standout J.P Reese.
With this Romero matchup, this is not the first time that these two warriors were supposed to meet. The two Featherweights were first scheduled over two years ago at Iroquois MMA Championship’s last event but legal issues became a problem. The two against were going to fight in Halifax on the W-1 card in October but Romero had to pull out because of an injury during training. While people may think there may be some bad blood between the two because the fight has been trying to happen for so long, Johnson is saying otherwise.
“People ask about this and they make it seem like I have something against Romero,” says Johnson. “I absolutely got nothing against the guy. It’s the fight that fans wanted to see because we are known as strikers. I had nothing against Romero from the get go. It’s been planned but injuries happen and also the commission were going to suspend people and stuff like that on the first card we were to fight on so I didn’t want to get suspended over that. The last time Will had an injury. It is not like I have anything against the guy or if he has anything against me but it was never really about that.”
With Johnson, he has had to put up with some injuries throughout his career. In his fight with Brad Duguay in 2009, he separated his shoulder at the beginning of the match. While he was still able to win the match with a second round TKO, the injury caused a layoff for about a year. Recently he did also did have to get surgery on his eye. While he is injury free, the time off for a young fighter can be difficult mentally, but, in the end, you have to just work it out.
“You play it all the time, the what if, what if,” says Johnson. “A lot of people say you don’t have any wrestling and you never did this. People don’t realize is that is how my arm came out in the first place. Finally I am over that mental hurtle and now this is why I feel I am ready physically. People get physically ready yeah but mentally I am ready for this fight.”
While all these thing have been happening with him over the last seven months, it is hard to find the time for yourself. Johnson was able to do that during Christmas time when he did some traveling in Africa for six weeks where he and his girlfriend got to visit Egypt, Cairo and Kenya. While there were sites such as the pyramids among other things, there were other things that Johnson liked seeing more.
“My girlfriend teaches in a school over there and we always wanted to do something nice,” says Johnson. “I went to go visit her. We went to Africa and we had these plans to do something nice for these children in Africa. We went to this village in Kenya so instead of spending money for Christmas gifts here for our friends, family and each other we spent it on the villagers. We rented a big TV and played videos on it and some of these children have never seen TV before. We got soccer balls and tennis balls and other things and just to see the smile on the children’s faces made my Christmas.”
In the end trying to pick a winner in this match is like a choice between hamburgers and hot dogs, both are pretty solid picks. One of Johnson’s teammates thinks Tristan’s mental strategy will be the key.
“I think he needs to use his skills and be confident,” says T.J Grant. “He has to believe in what he can do and be ready. He has done all the work and you just have to go out and do it. You have to execute, go out and pull the trigger. If he can fight the way he can and the way we all expect him to, he is going to win this fight.”
***photo by Martin Blais