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Blackzilians coach Henri Hooft says Michael Johnson needs to make 'real money,' be more vocal

Esther Lin, Sportsfile

ORLANDO – For all intents and purposes, Michael Johnson has won five fights in a row heading into his lightweight bout with Nate Diaz on Saturday night. Johnson dropped a controversial split decision in his last fight against Beneil Dariush in August, a fight that left a lot of people shaking their heads.

One of those was his Blackzilians coach, Henri Hooft, who sees Diaz as a potential sixth victory in a row for the 29-year old Johnson. Hooft hopes that a victory over Diaz gets Johnson not only into the title conversation, but a significant bump up in pay.

"Michael has a five-fight winning streak, if he beats Nate Diaz, it’s six," he told MMA Fighting at the UFC on FOX 17 open workouts. "Come on man. And also, he’s been fighting for a long time since TUF. I think he needs to get paid well, because he performs always. He puts on a show. I think he’s right up there and needs to make real money as real good fighters. Again, if you win five or six fights in a row against this competition — [Gleison] Tibau, Tony Ferguson — he beat a lot of guys that are good."

Johnson scored decision victories over Joe Lauzon, Melvin Guillard and Edson Barboza over the last two years, and he knocked out Gleison Tibau in the middle.

Yet his opponent Diaz hasn’t fought in a year, and has dropped three of his last four fights. In the last three-and-half years, Diaz has one victory in the Octagon — a TKO of Gray Maynard at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale over two years ago. A win over Diaz shouldn’t exactly jump Johnson’s stock, but Hooft thinks Diaz’s star power — and fighting in a spotlit situation — makes up for any rankings discrepencies.

"I don’t look at records, he’s just a very big name," Hooft said. "I really like the [Diaz] brothers. I’m friends with Jake Shields, and everybody knows each other. I like it because Nate comes to fight, and Michael comes to fight. After his last fight, which I though Michael clearly won, we needed a name like this. And if Michael can put on a big performance against Nathan, it’s going to be an amazing fight. Nate likes to bang, so it will be good."

Diaz, who failed to make weight in his last lightweight fight against Raphael dos Anjos, looks to be in great shape for the match-up. During the open workouts he looked lean, and said he was right on track to make weight. Still, as a lightweight Diaz will have the size advantage against the 5-foot-10 Johnson.

"[Diaz] always looks the same to me," Hooft said. "He’s big for a 155er. So first of all he has to make the weight, and I hope he does it because I just want to see him fight. Michael fights big guys in the gym, he trains with 170 pound guys. I’m not worried about size. He’s very fast, Michael, and that’s going to be our key. To be faster and try to be smarter. But again, I am always like that. I always go into a fight with the same mentality. Both these guys have a big chin, my guy’s prepared well so the other guy must be really good to beat him."

Should Johnson prevail on Saturday night, Hooft is hoping he will use the platform to make his case. The Dutch trainer said he has been prompting Johnson to get more vocal, not unlike the star of last weekend’s show, Conor McGregor.

"I’m a of Conor’s," Hooft said. "I think a lot of people don’t give him the credit. We need people like this in the sport, to get it so everybody makes more money in the sport. And he backs it up. As said to Michael, too, because Michael’s not a crazy talker. After this fight, say something, because it’s your right to say something."