Kajan Johnson had a feeling going into UFC Moscow last month that that would be his last time stepping into the Octagon.
And he was probably right.
Johnson told BloodyElbow.com earlier this week that win or lose against Rustam Khabilov, he did not expect the UFC would re-sign him (the Khabilov fight was the last one on Johnson’s UFC contract). And after losing a controversial split decision to the Russian fighter, Johnson officially parted ways with the promotion.
Surprised to even get the Khabilov fight after losing to Islam Makhachev by submission two months before, Johnson tried to re-sign with the UFC heading into UFC Moscow last September, but the UFC wanted to wait until he fought out his deal.
Johnson believes he might’ve received a new deal had he beat Makhachev or knocked out Khabilov, but even then he wouldn’t have been too hopeful.
“I’m pretty sure they were planning on letting me go, anyway,” Johnson said. … “I had pretty much rectified and accepted that that was gonna be my last fight in the UFC.”
Despite his hunch of not getting re-signed no matter what going into the fight, Johnson remained optimistic after losing to Khabilov and still urged UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby to re-sign him. However, Johnson said Shelby told him the UFC no longer had a use for him. Johnson last spoke to Shelby on Sept. 27, he said.
“I was still talking to Sean and trying to get a new deal done, but they just said it didn’t align with them,” Johnson said. “They said they didn’t really know what to do with me at that point. I was hopeful, but I realized it was a very, very slim chance — maybe one-percent chance — that I would get re-signed.”
Johnson is an outspoken individual regarding fighters’ rights and is involved in Project Spearhead, an organization trying to unionize MMA fighters. The British Columbia native said his gut instinct tells him that probably played a part in him not getting re-signed, but considering he is on a two-fight skid, he has no way of knowing for sure.
“I think there is an element of that,” Johnson said. “I do scare some of the higher-ups in the UFC with some of the things that I say and my willingness to go against the grain and fight power.
“But who knows? We’ll never really know, because we’ll never get it from the horse’s mouth. They’re never gonna tell us what their actual motives are. … Even if that was the reason, they’re gonna do everything in their power to make it clear that that’s not why this is happening. If they’re doing it because of that, that’s illegal.”
Johnson believes there’s a chance he could fight in the UFC again one day, but it’s not very likely. He said the promotion would have to either be in need of a short-notice replacement for a Canadian card or local talent for a show in Vancouver, where Johnson lives.
“There’s just so many fighters out there,” he said. “They still wouldn’t need me. I’m not Conor McGregor. I’m not gonna fill a f-cking stadium. I don’t represent an entire demographic of people that are gonna fly across the world and come to the show.”
And even if the UFC was interested, a new contract would have to be worth a lot more than Johnson’s last one, he said, adding that the UFC paying him the amount of money it did was “pretty wrong.”
“If I did go back to the UFC, they’d have to pay me. The contract I was on before was garbage,” Johnson said. … “It’s possible that they’d pay me what I believe I’m worth. But it’s not super probable.
“I’m only interested in what truly serves me. And to continue to fight in the UFC, it doesn’t serve me to my highest unless I’m making money.”
But that doesn’t mean Johnson is hanging up his gloves — far from it. More motivated than ever, the 34-year-old plans to continue fighting as long as his body will let him. Johnson said he learned a lot in the Khabilov fight and is excited to show off his new tools in the cage.
“Since that last fight, I’m a different f-cking fighter,” he said. “It’s f-cking crazy. It’s like I have a new car to drive. It’s like I just bought a brand new Ferrari. It’s like I’ve been driving a Corvette for a while, but it’s a bit older, and I just bought a brand new Ferrari. I’m not giving away my driver’s license. I’m not putting that sh-t away. I’m f-cking driving that b-tch. I’m gonna f-cking whip that sh-t.”
Johnson said he’s already in talks with multiple promotions, including Bellator and ONE Championship. However, he is still weighing his options; a final decision regarding where his MMA career will take him next has not yet been made.
“Things are looking good,” he said. “Pretty up in the air right now. I wouldn’t want to say that one’s more likely than the other. I would be excited to fight in any one of these organizations. Each one of them has their benefits, and I’m really excited to fight for one of them next.”
Johnson hopes to return to action in early 2019.
Johnson may not know where he’s going to fight just yet, but he does know one thing for sure: his decision will solely come down to money.
“Outside the UFC, there isn’t a place that has a massive stable of fighters that you would consider the best in the world. No matter what, I’m not gonna be look at as the best in the world,” Johnson said. “So after that, if it’s not about being the best in the world, I need to get paid. I need money. I deserve that. I’ve put in the work, I’ve put in the time. I’m a vet. It’s time to cash in. It’s time to make some real money and leave the game when I’m ready.”