Home Cooking: How Xplode Fight Series pads records, produces 'talent' for the UFC and Bellator

Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

New UFC signing Dashon Johnson may be 9-0, but all of his wins have come against embarrassingly low-quality opposition in a promotion that seems to have an endless supply of them.

If you've been a follower of Zane Simon's excellent "Welcome to the UFC" series, you'll find that the UFC brass has been ultra-busy signing new fighters to their massive roster (which is now nearer to 500 fighters than 400) as they look to fill up all of the 50+ events they're trying to run this year.

Earlier this week the UFC announced the addition of lightweight Dashon Johnson, a pro boxer (record: 15-15-3) who sports an undefeated MMA record of 9-0 and goes up against 4-0 Jake Matthews (who was swiftly bounced from TUF Nations) at UFC Fight Night in New Zealand. On the surface, it seems like a battle of undefeated lightweight "prospects" who have been impressive enough against regional opposition to warrant a spot in the UFC. But if you peel back the onion on Johnson's 9-0 mark, it's about as meaningless a 9-0 as you can possibly get. As Zane pointed out in his latest piece, the combined record of Johnson's opponents is 13-39, with 12 of those wins attached to Brady Harrison (12-11), who took Johnson to a split decision and is the only man he hasn't finished. For good measure, here are the records of each fighter he's faced at the time of the bout (in chronological order from top to bottom):

  • Tommy Franklin (0-0)
  • Jordan Delano (0-4)
  • Kenneth Johnson (0-0)
  • Randall Adams (0-0)
  • Phelan Fleming (0-1)
  • Kenny Kilgore (1-3)
  • Brady Harrison (11-10)
  • Ray Carter (0-1)
  • Jordan Delano (0-10, rematch of first fight)
All of these fights took place in the California-based Xplode Fight Series, a pro-am organization that runs almost all of its cards at an Indian Reservation in Valley Center. Having gone through a select few of their shows, it is an organization that is rampant with squash matches that would otherwise not be sanctioned if they were sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission. Last week, Bloody Elbow's Iain Kidd profiled Matt Betzold, a one-legged fighter with a 4-3 record who made his XFS debut on May 17th against Deondre Gibbs. Betzold won by submission in 55 seconds, which drops Gibbs' mark to 0-10. That's not even the most egregious example of shady matchmaking from XFS, as they've had several present and former UFC, WEC, and Bellator fighters under their wing within the past three years.

Titan FC bantamweight Walel Watson previously spent 4 fights in the UFC before he was cut in late 2012. Watson fought twice in XFS after his release, winning both bouts in a combined 99 seconds. The current combined records of the opponents he defeated? A dismal 0-23. Bellator and Strikeforce veteran Keith Berry (15-13) defeated 0-0 Josh Gibson in 2012 in what was listed as a middleweight championship fight. Berry later triumphed over Edward Darby, who came into the fight at 0-3 and is now 0-15. Following this win, Berry was signed by Bellator, where he's lost his last 3 and missed weight for 1 of his only 2 wins. Light heavyweight Patrick Cummins TKO'd Ricky Pulu (0-3) on an XFS show last year and was picked at the last minute to fight Daniel Cormier in February at UFC 170. Bellator lightweight Derek Anderson (11-1, 1 NC), who upset Patricky Freire last September and trains at Team Xplode MMA with Dashon Johnson, was signed by Bellator after he knocked out Chris Flynn, who was making his professional debut. He's the only one on this list who has fought multiple guys with winning records at XFS. Last but not least, UFC flyweight Danny Martinez (16-5) had two appearances in XFS back in 2012, winning by 1st round TKO against Nick Boyd and Rich Bonafidini, both of whom also were 0-0 at the time, and Martinez was even allowed to wear wrestling shoes. Martinez was later selected for TUF 18 and later signed on late notice for UFC 169 and is scheduled to fight again on June 7th against Scott Jorgensen.

So not only is Xplode Fight Series anything but a showcase of competitive, semi-decent MMA even at a regional level, but they needn't care for the safety of their fighters. According to Sherdog, Edward Darby fought 10 times in 2013, and after the Berry TKO (video here) on January 19th, he was KO'd again on February 1st on Gladiator Challenge. The ring announcer referenced Darby as having a 3-5 record in one of his other fights, which either means they're fibbing their faces off or they're counting amateur wins in their record book. In September, Darby was TKO'd by Jack Montgomery back in XFS and then again by Bellator veteran Raphael Davis two weeks later. Similarly, Jordan Delano, who fought Johnson twice, is presently 0-11 with all of his losses coming by stoppage within the first 2 1/2 minutes. He's toggled between XFS and Gladiator Challenge throughout his career and also mirrored Darby's 1/19-2/1 turnaround. These are men who are fighting at an alarmingly high frequency in such a short time span and getting stopped 100% of the time. Seasoned veterans like Martinez are matched up against guys with no pro fights under their belt. I highly doubt that this is unique only to XFS, as regional MMA is rife with unsavory promotions, but they're the most "prominent" because the likes of Berry, Martinez, Cummins, Anderson, and Alexis Dufresne have all fought for them and are now under contract with either the UFC or Bellator.

This is by no means justification to completely write off Dashon Johnson as a fighter or immediately assume he's going to fail in the UFC, but this has all the makings of Jason Reinhardt 2.0. There is overwhelming evidence that he is the product of some questionable promotional moves by Xplode Fight Series. The fact that the UFC signed him in the first place is real telling about who they're willing to bring on board just to be $8k/$8k fodder on Fight Pass. No one with a record littered almost exclusively with cans -- in this case, his pumped up record may be directly tied to his affiliation with Team Xplode MMA --  should be considered ready to compete in the sport's biggest promotion, but this may soon be more common than you think for as long as the UFC is insistent on "more shows and more fighters" and not necessarily "better shows and better fighters".

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