Johnny Eblen didn’t surprise himself of any of his teammates this past Friday when he became the Bellator middleweight champion.
Many fans seemed shocked at the result of the fight. But as Ariel Helwani pointed out Monday on The MMA Hour, perhaps the promotion didn’t do as strong of a job as possible putting “The Human Cheat Code” on everyone’s radars.
“I felt like they could’ve pushed me a little bit more,” Eblen said on the show. “But that’s not my job — my job is to show up, fight, beat the s*** out of people, put on a performance. I don’t know, that’s not my thing to debate how they should promote me, what they do with their show, that’s not my job. I just do what I’m supposed to do and they do what they’re supposed to do.
“I just felt like they could’ve done a little bit better of a job promoting me, and Mousasi. I feel like they were posting a lot more about Mousasi. It was more on his end, but they promoted me a little bit. Relatively speaking, not as much as Mousasi. It felt like I wasn’t getting the push I should’ve gotten, if that makes any sense.”
Eblen can’t help but notice the attention Sabatello has gotten from interviews, promos and his performances. Sometimes he wonders if he should go that route himself.
“I’m the guy who kind of likes to sit back, just do the work, and let everything unfold on fight night, and not have to do too much talking,” Eblen said. “I’m not too good at being a character, I’m just good at fighting and being known for that.
“I see what Danny is doing — it gets a lot of views, gets a lot of clicks — and people want to go and see him win, or lose, if they’re fans or not, but it’s not my style.”
There seemed to be a chip on the shoulder of Eblen heading into his first championship opportunity against one of the sport’s legends. Feeling like many people were sleeping on him heading in, Eblen just ate up all of the doubt, feeling just days before the fight that Mousasi may also have underestimated him.
In the end, Eblen added to the collection of title belts at ATT, and even got some kudos from from the two-time title holder.
“He was very respectful at weigh-ins, and I’m sure he took me seriously,” Eblen explained. “I think he thought the fight was going to be easier, but I’m sure he took me seriously, trained. ... I mean, he was the champion, it’s not like he didn’t train or anything.
“After the fight, he actually followed me on Instagram and sent me a message saying, ‘Hey, bro you deserve this. Congratulations.’ He’s a classy dude, a good guy. He really believed he was the best middleweight in the world and on Friday, I checked him. My walkout song was Check Yourself by Ice Cube, and that’s the reason I chose that walkout song. I was like, ‘This dude is so confident right now,’ and I knew he was one of the best, but he needs to check himself before he gets wrecked, and I’m going to be the dude that wrecks him. It all played out like that.”