UFC lightweight Johnny Case hasn't lost an MMA fight since 2010, and he comes into the UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3 card looking to extend his winning streak to a perfect dozen. The 26-year-old native of Iowa is set to face Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Yan Cabral in Sao Paulo, marking the 2nd time in his 4 UFC fights that he's assumed the role of the "away team" in foreign territory. Another impressive win would likely position Case for a significant step up in competition in what is arguably the deepest division in MMA.
In a recent interview with the Three Amigos Podcast, we spoke to "Mr. Hollywood" Case about embracing that "underdog role" when fighting in his opponent's backyard, as well as how much Frank Trevino's eye poke affected his vision at UFC 188, his interest in taking on Conor McGregor at 155, and a lot more.
TAP: You've fought in enemy territory before, having done so in your UFC debut against Kazuki Tokudome in Japan, but Brazil provides an entirely different and sometimes hostile atmosphere. Was there any apprehension when accepting this fight with Cabral?
Case: Oh no, I asked for it actually. I kind of thrive on playing that role, going into hostile territory and more or less being an underdog in their eyes. I'm supposed to go there and I'm supposed to lose, so for me to just show up there and pull off the upset is something I thrive on.
TAP: Since you thrive on being in the underdog role, is that why you wanted to get a spot on the UFC Dublin show?
Case: Yes exactly! I also wanted to just help out the show, you know? That card had already lost their co-main and their main event as well. I was just thinking, "let's get in there, let's save the card, make some money, and gain some fans." And going to see Ireland wouldn't be too bad, either. [Laughs]
TAP: In your last fight vs. Frank Trevino [at UFC 188], he poked you really hard in the eye in the 1st round. How badly did the eye poke impact your vision in that fight, and how difficult it was to strike without depth perception?
Case: Oh man it totally changed the fight. It's kind of like the scene from Bloodsport when Jean-Claude Van Damme gets that salt blown in his eye and everything's all blurry, and that's pretty much exactly how it was. I was seeing three of him, I couldn't judge depth perception, and it was really just a pain in the ass. It really changed the whole outcome of the fight, I think I was en route to finishing him. To make matters worse, that was the eye that I had the detached retina in, so that was immediately what my mindset went to. It was like, "oh shit, now I gotta go through the surgery again, go through this recovery again, let's just get through this fight and see what we have to do at the hospital." It really just changed my mindset from finishing him to sort of surviving myself, doing enough to get the win and getting safely out and getting my eye checked.
TAP: Do you think that eye poke should have warranted a point deduction?
Case: I don't know. It's not really my call at that point. Do I think he did it intentionally? No, I don't think he was doing it intentionally. It was definitely bad enough that it changed the momentum of the fight, so yeah I think it would have warranted a point.
TAP: You mentioned that detached retina, is that what prevented you from going to the UFC a few months earlier? Because you weren't medically cleared to make your debut the first time around.
Case: Right, I was actually supposed to make my debut on June 28th, 2014 against Joe Ellenberger, and then they immediately found out that I had an issue with my eye, which pulled me from the fight. But everything happens for a reason, and I was able to get my eye fixed on the UFC's dime and also keep my contract and have a full camp to prepare for my debut. Everything worked out the way it should have, and it's all forward from here.
TAP: We all know that the more outspoken you are, the more likely it is that you get fights. Conor McGregor is living, breathing proof of that. We know you're not looking past Cabral, but you've likely got a candidate in mind for your next fight. Who would you say that is?
Case: I don't really have anybody in mind to fight. It's really just ... I'm enjoying traveling the world. I'll continue to be the underdog or play the underdog role so long as I get a vacation out of it. My debut was in Japan, my last one was in Mexico City, I'm going to be in Brazil. Who knows? Maybe I'll go to Australia or Ireland or China, wherever. I just want to travel and see what the world has to offer.
TAP: So when you look at the UFC's upcoming events and you see that they're going to all of these other countries, you're just trying to checkmark to see which ones can double as a vacation while doing your job at the same time?
Case: Absolutely. That's my goal for the first year, let's see the world.
TAP: Speaking of McGregor, he's considered moving up to 155 at some point down the line. How do you think he'll fare at 155 and would you be interested in fighting him?
Case: I think he'll do well, and hell yeah I would fight him! I think that'd be a win-win for anybody who'd want to fight that fight. He promotes fights and he's only going to make me more money, as well, promoting that fight, so I would love to fight Conor McGregor.
TAP: Would you fight him in Ireland?
Case: Hell yeah I'd fight him in Ireland, that'd be perfect! I'd get a vacation, get a good payday, and I think we'd have a pretty good scrap. He's got that kind of unorthodox style with those karate side kicks and spin kicks and stuff. He's real flashy and I like to be in flashy stand-up wars, put on a show and entertain, so given the opportunity I'd sign that contract immediately.
You can check out the show here or via the embedded player below. The full interview starts at the 1:20:05 mark of the audio. Remember, if you're looking for us on SoundCloud or iTunes, we're under the MMA Nation name. Follow our Twitter accounts: Stephie Haynes, Three Amigos Podcast, Iain Kidd and Mookie Alexander or our Facebook fan page, Three Amigos Podcast.