Kajan Johnson says the sport of mixed martial arts needs more out of the box players like Ryan Hall.
Johnson, a former member of the UFC roster, helped prepare Hall for his fight with Darren Elkins at UFC Sacramento. More specfically, it was Johnson’s responsibility to mirror Elkins in training. Touching on how few and far between dominant champions are in the UFC, Johnson shared his thoughts on what it will take to see more fighters in the image of Fedor Emelianenko and Anderson Silva.
“Everybody has figured out the recipe. At the beginning, nobody really knew what worked. We were all trying to figure it out. There was no blueprint. Guys like Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva have shown us if you want to win fights in MMA, you gotta be good at boxing, wrestling, muay thai and jiu-jitsu. You need to train several times a week, you need strength and conditioning, you need all these things,” Johnson said on Saturday’s Pull No Punches podcast. “We kind of understand how these puzzle pieces fit together. Everybody has all this information and they are all pretty much operating on similar information. You don’t see huge technical gaps between people anymore.”
“There are more levels, we haven’t reached the full possibility range for what is available as far as mixed martial arts is concerned,” he continued. “What’s going to happen is, eventually, we’re going to see somebody who is doing things completely differently. Someone who is thinking about things completely differently. Someone who is using positions and techniques in ways that we don’t really understand yet. That is what is going to level up the game.”
Cue Hall, who Johnson believes is one of these futuristic fighters. “I’m not saying he is going to go on and be a champion for 25 years, although he very well could because he is f—king good. Just in his approach. It’s not that he is the toughest guy or the strongest guy. His approach to mixed martial arts is so far out of the box of what everybody else is doing,” Johnson argued. “When we start seeing more and more people who are doing that thing — that are thinking outside the box, asking different questions, addressing positions in different ways and creating different theories and principals — we are going to see a huge f—king jump in skill level.”
“If Ryan Hall was to put any person in the 145-pound weight division into a leg lock entanglement... he might not finish it, but the technical superiority that you will see there is so vast it’s like black belt to white belt. The opponent has no clue what is going on,” he added. “It’s like Rich Franklin vs. Anderson Silva. Rich Franklin had no idea what to do in a thai clinch.”
Johnson has a hunch the key to MMA’s future is locked in the past. “I think it’ll take time for us to get outside of this box. We know that this works so it is hard to go to something that we don’t know will work. I spent six-months training Wing Chun because I have theory all martial arts will eventually go back towards traditional martial arts like karate and Kung Fu,” he shared. “I think it’s quite possible there are other truths that we don’t know yet that still exist in older martial arts... It’s going to take creative, ballsy people to go and explore it. To bring back the data and prove it in the fight.”
Hall (8-1) beat Elkins via unanimous decision at UFC Sacramento on July 13. He used a variety of creative kicks to hurt Elkins and keep him at range. Hall also utilized an imanari roll to stifle his opponent’s forward pressure.