, the lead mixed martial arts play-by-play man for CBS who has called many of the most-watched fights in the sport's history, is reportedly leaving the network.
Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated reports
that Johnson, who's best known for calling college football and the NFL, is leaving after failing to come to terms on a new contract with the network. UPDATE: The New York Daily News reports
that while Johnson's contract with CBS has expired, it's still possible he could reach a new deal.
It's not clear whether Johnson is also out at Showtime, where he has been both a boxing and MMA play-by-play voice. Johnson will still be part of Saturday night's Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley pay-per-view broadcast, but it seems unlikely that Johnson would stick around at Showtime, which a division of the CBS Corporation, for long.
When Johnson was first announced as the lead voice for MMA on CBS, it seemed like a big deal for the sport because he's such a well-regarded broadcaster in basketball and football. But Johnson has never been the right fit for MMA. He simply doesn't know MMA as well as he knows other sports, and it shows: His most famous call as an MMA broadcaster was the way he ecstatically likened Seth Petruzelli to Rocky after Petruzelli knocked out Kimbo Slice, suggesting that it was one of the most momentous upsets in MMA history. In reality, Petruzelli-Kimbo was just one mediocre fighter beating another, and a broadcaster with more experience in MMA would have known that.
If Johnson does leave Showtime's MMA coverage, it will be interesting to see to what extent Strikeforce's new parent company has some say in his replacement. The UFC has always liked to have total control over its television product, while Showtime has had control over the announcers, production and other aspects of Strikeforce telecasts.
Johnson, who was passed over by NFL Network when it recently changed its broadcast team, has talked to Fox Sports and also calls college basketball for Big Ten Network.