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Brett Johns says he almost quit fighting, but is reignited for UFC on ESPN+ 24

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RALEIGH, N.C. – After suffering setbacks ranging from losses to injuries, Welsh bantamweight Brett Johns started to question his MMA future.

Johns (15-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) hasn’t competed since August 2018, when he suffered a unanimous decision loss to Pedro Munhoz in a fight he described as “an absolute barnburner.” It marked his second straight loss, an unfamiliar feeling for the formerly undefeated fighter.

“At the time, it did really dent my confidence, coming off two losses,” Johns told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “But watching them guys progress after that, it kinda picked me back up.”

But the next year and a half only got more difficult for Johns, who had to nurse an array of injuries from the fight and a knee injury suffered in a 44-second loss in a grappling match at Polaris 8.

So he decided to take some time off to heal and engage a little bit in other aspects of his life away from the sport. After a conversation with his brother, Johns decided to head to Las Vegas to visit the UFC Performance Institute and get a full physical checkup.

“When I went out there, I think subconsciously I was in this rut, and it was very, very disappointing to be in that rut,” Johns said. “I’m a guy who loves this sport, but going through the beginning of 2018 all the way through to like the middle of 2019, it became a job, really. When I went to Vegas and came back, I was a new fighter completely and I felt like it was a new me.”

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The rut forced Johns to rethink his passion for the sport, and he admitted that he was on the verge of walking away from MMA completely.

“I’ve been in this game a very long time, bear in mind,” Johns said. “Everybody gets sick of their job at some point, and I definitely went through that rut. And after I got back from Vegas, I think I was really close to stopping fighting. Knowing full well that you were at the brink of stopping and then you kind of take in consideration that you know where you’re going after that is a huge deal for me.”

Rejuvenated from the time off, Johns is set to make his return Saturday when he takes on Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Tony Gravely (19-5 MMA, 0-0 UFC) in a fight that Johns calls the most important of his career.

“Tony is a strong athlete overall,” Johns said. “I’ve looked at his game and he has not been taken lightly. I fought No. 2 and No. 5 in the world, but my hardest fight this Saturday is Tony Gravely.”

With a tough test ahead of him, Johns looks determined to bounce back from a difficult time in his career, and he admits he’s heading into Saturday’s clash with a point to prove.

“It has put a chip on my shoulder, I guess,” Johns said. “I’m like, Yeah, I need to perform.’ But in the same breath, this fight on Saturday is more than this sport. For me, it’s a massive personal goal to win this fight. This isn’t for MMA. This isn’t for UFC. This isn’t for my sporting career. This is for my life. I know full well that I need this win to be mentally the best I’ve ever been.”

Gallery

Pedro Munhoz def. Brett Johns at UFC 227: Best photos

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