Johnny Eblen isn’t pulling any punches: He thinks he would smash Alex Pereira.
This past weekend, Eblen continued to impress, dominating Anatoly Tokov at Bellator 290 to retain his middleweight title. Following the win, the discourse quickly turned to where Eblen fits among the top middleweights in the world, and “The Human Cheat Code” has an answer: Firmly at the top.
Speaking with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Eblen made no bones about just how good he is, saying he would absolutely defeat current UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira.
“I think I beat him. Ten times out of 10, I beat him,” Eblen said. “I’m too much for the guy. I am a style matchup disaster for him. He’s a style matchup [that’s] great for me. I have great cardio, I can hit hard, I can take a punch, and I mix up the striking and wrestling really well. I don’t see him beating me. There’s no way. The ability for how well I wrestle, you can’t make up for that, especially with the time that he has in MMA. There’s no way. He’s too old. He would have had to start wrestling 10 years ago. So I think I’m a bad style matchup for him and I think I beat him 10 times out of 10.
“I think I can beat anybody on the planet. I’m one of the best, if not the best middleweight on the planet. I can’t say for sure, factually, because I haven’t fought everybody, but I think I match up damn well with every single middleweight in the world and I think I can win every single fight.”
Eblen has a reason to be confident. A former D-1 wrestler for the University of Missouri, Eblen is 13-0 in his professional MMA career and trains out of one of the most well-regarded gyms in the world, American Top Team. Working with some of the best fighters and coaches in the world, all of whom speak glowingly of Eblen, has helped the Bellator champion to be fully confident in what he brings to the cage.
“During this camp, it started creeping in,” Eblen said. “Like, ‘Dude, I’m getting better, I’m getting good.’ I’m a problem. I’m a huge problem, and I’ve still got to work on a lot of stuff. I’m going to be more of a problem this next camp. I’m just getting better exponentially and it’s getting scary. I’m seeing the trajectory and I’m like, the fact that I’m beating the s*** out of guys right now, it’s only going to get worse.
“It’s not like I’ve been telling people that,” Eblen continued. “I doubt myself. But the people around me watch me work, watch me do my thing, watch me train, and they’re like, ‘Dude, you’re the best.’ I think that’s a vote of — I have self confidence, of course, but I’m going to doubt myself because I’m very critical of myself. But the fact that the people I’m spending the most time around are telling me this, it really means something. It’s helping me believe in myself, if anything.
“I do believe in myself, just genuinely, but it’s just a little bit more, ‘OK, well I’m not delusional at least. Other people are telling me this.’ Obviously there’s going to be some backlash about it, and a lot of people are going to think I’m delusional, but I don’t really care. The people that are around me the most and the people that actually know me are telling me honestly what they think, and that’s what they’re telling me. So I’m just like, f*** yeah, let’s go. Let’s get this money.”
Currently the No. 6 ranked middleweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, the issue for Eblen moving forward will be, what comes next? Bellator does not have a deep middleweight division and Eblen has already beaten three of the top five fighters in the Bellator rankings. However, there is one matchup on the horizon that Eblen believes would make sense for his next title defense: The winner of the upcoming Gegard Mousasi vs. Fabian Edwards fight that will take place at Bellator Paris in May. That would give Eblen the chance to either pull off a clean sweep of Bellator’s top middleweights, or to run it back with a legend of the game, and improve upon his dominant showing in their first contest.
“I think the winner of Mousasi and Edwards, that’s the one that makes sense,” Eblen said. “I think they’re fighting in Paris in May. It seems like a No. 1 contender fight for me.
“I just want to fight, get paid, and put on another good performance. Regardless of who it is, I don’t care. I’m ready for anybody. Like I said, I’m ready to fight anybody in the world, so I really don’t care. It would be cool because it would be a different challenge with Edwards, but it would be even better to run it back with Mousasi, because I’m getting even better so I can put on a better performance and even finish him.”