Johnny Eblen only has 12 fights on his resume, but his head coach believes he’s already the best middleweight in the sport, regardless of promotion.
Mike Brown has worked with Eblen since the current Bellator champ first started training at American Top Team. He’s seen plenty of talent over the years as both a fighter and a coach at the famed gym. While Eblen still has a lot of room to grow, Brown believes the undefeated Eblen has already done enough to prove he sits at the head of the table in the middleweight division.
“There’s no doubt it — Johnny can beat anybody in the world right now,” Brown told MMA Fighting. “No doubt about it. I think there’s nobody in the UFC like Johnny Eblen. I think Johnny also showed it.
“He probably already beat the best guy with a name he could beat, in Bellator, in Gegard Mousasi, but people might not believe me, because I train with Johnny. But this guy, I believe, is the best middleweight on the planet – any division, any promotion.”
A former Division I wrestler from University of Missouri, Eblen had the perfect pedigree to follow other Mizzou wrestling alumni including Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley and Michael Chandler.
After deciding to test the waters in MMA, Eblen, 31, began training at ATT. Brown said it didn’t take long for some of the gym’s most famous fighters to take notice.
“He became real close with [Jorge] Masvidal, and they were training a lot,” Brown said. “Johnny only had a few fights, and Masvidal would say, ‘This guy is unbelievable, this guy is really special, he can beat anybody.’
“As we saw him develop, it was happening in training. It was like he’s beating everybody in training, is this going to translate to fights as well? Yeah, he’s doing it in the fights as well.”
While Eblen’s wrestling and grappling are certainly a powerful weapon, Brown believes the Bellator champ has transformed himself into a complete MMA fighter, which makes him even more dangerous as he moves forward.
Of course, Eblen will undoubtedly run into resistance on the idea that he’s the best middleweight in the world, simply because he doesn’t compete in the UFC. For his part, Brown understands how that narrative gets built, but he also has zero doubts that if Eblen got the opportunity, he could beat anybody in the world, including the best middleweights in the UFC.
“He’s the full package,” Brown said. “He’s very well-rounded. He’s driven. He can wrestle. He’s been wrestling since he was a young boy. He’s blessed with amazing cardio and conditioning, and he has a natural feel for footwork and striking. He’s not a normal guy. He’s a special athlete. I truly believe he can beat anyone in the world, any promotion.”
Perhaps the scariest part about Eblen’s future is that he’s still just scratching the surface on his full potential. He’s only been competing in MMA for five years.
His next challenge comes at Bellator 290, when he faces Anatoly Tokov in the co-main event on CBS. Brown fully expects Eblen will continue winning until the whole world is forced to recognize his potential.
“As he grows, as he gets better, as his confidence grows, you just realize this guy a special athlete,” Brown said. “Very young and not a lot of experience like 10 or 11 fights, but he rose quickly, and I think the confidence and as experience grows, it’s like exponential.
“He’s getting better even faster because he knows how good he is. He believes it. I think that it’s going to be really hard to beat this guy.”