As soon as he heard the name Matt Brown uttered, a wave of relief washed over him.
It’s not because Howard doesn’t respect Brown or think he’s a tough opponent. It’s actually the exact opposite.
John Howard is a guy who loves to fight, he love to stand and trade, and maybe he’s got a little bit of Fight Club’s Tyler Durden inside of him, but he likes to get punched.
He likes it so much, Howard is already predicting both he and Matt Brown will be walking home with bonus checks.
“I think Fight of the Night. We’ve got a main card spot, he’s going to bring it, I’m going to bring it, and if he’s like me, we’re going to have fun. He’s going to punch me in the face, I’m going to punch him in the face, we’re going to try to knock each other out, then after that we can go out for a beer, get drunk, and have fun,” Howard told MMAWeekly Radio.
Howard, who spent much of his training camp for this fight in Denver working at the Grudge Training Center, didn’t have to change much to go from Kampmann to Brown. Overall, he expects the same kind of fight, which is a knock-down, drag-out war.
“Basically, we were planning on a stand-up fight anyway, so this is perfect. It’s a perfect fight for us. I love a stand-up war, and I perform better when I fight another striker. It’s a perfect match-up. It was a blessing in disguise,” Howard said about the switch in opponents.
“I like that better, it’s more entertainment, it’s a more fun fight. When you have someone who’s just trying constantly to take you down it’s aggravating. When someone brings the fight it’s awesome, I like it much better.”
Having fun is an important part of the job to John Howard, but the other pressure in this fight can’t be ignored. Brown comes into the night on a three-fight losing streak, while Howard is rebounding from back-to-back losses of his own.
While some fighters might try to grind out a win, or fight not to lose just to try and walk out with a victory, that’s just not John Howard’s style.
“I know I’ve got to win, and I do want to win, but it is what it is. You can only control it to a degree. I just go out there and fight my best and hope for the best outcome. I fight a certain style where I like to finish my fights, or at least try to finish. I’m not really going to grind them out,” said Howard.
“We’re going to see what happens with this fight. Matt Brown needs a win, I need a win, but I’m going to go for it and see what happens.”
When Howard is done on Sunday night in Pittsburgh, he’s still got one more fight on his mind that he knows will happen one day.
The Boston area fighter has been involved in a long-standing feud with fellow welterweight Anthony Johnson. The back-and-forth barbs exchanged between the two fighters went from a friendly beef to out-and-out hatred as the words got more and more personal.
It’s to the point now where Howard will absolutely fight Johnson in the UFC, but if that doesn’t happen, he’ll miss out on a payday and throw down with his rival in the street.
“Yes, that fight will eventually happen. Now, will it happen in the UFC, I can’t guarantee that, but I can tell you this if me, I somehow get fired, or Johnson gets fired from the UFC, I will find Johnson somewhere on the street and beat his ass. That fight’s going to happen regardless,” Howard said.
“It’s on a personal level, it’s past the UFC. I prefer it to be in the UFC, cause I can get paid for it, but if circumstances come to push, I will fight him in the street and beat his ass there. Have a camera crew or something there, some old backyard Kimbo Slice fight.”
Some fights have manufactured heat to help sell the fans on the beef between two competitors, but when it’s all over everyone shakes hands and it’s all forgiven. It’s very clear that Howard and Johnson won’t go that route, no matter who wins.
“I cannot stand that kid. I really have some serious dislike for that kid,” Howard said. “I just hope I fight him where it will be legally, but if it’s illegal, it’s going to happen. I’m definitely going to punch him in the face and break all this teeth, that’s one of my goals in life.”
Howard actually ran into Johnson back in May when the two fighters attended the UFC Fighter Summit in Las Vegas. As Howard and Johnson approached each other, a dark gaze locked them with one another and it appeared if fireworks might happen right there, if not for a certain employer standing just a few feet away.
“Dana White was right down the hall looking at both of us, we look up and see Dana White, and Dana White gets this look like ‘if y’all even do it, you’re both fired.’ So we looked at each other, we didn’t say nothing, he went his way, I went my way, and that was it,” Howard commented.
If the fight does happen in the UFC, Howard wants to make sure they capitalize on the heated rivalry between the two fighters.
“If we’re going to fight we might as well make money off it,” said Howard. “I want it to at least be main event, and it needs to be a 24/7 show because the beef is unbelievably real. People they may beef, but not like us. My first fight in the UFC we started beefing. I don’t know what happened, something was said, it got carried away, blew out of proportion, and exploded to what it is now.”
Before Howard will get a chance to settle the score with Anthony Johnson, he’ll first have to get past Matt Brown this Sunday night in Pittsburgh at UFC on Versus 4.
Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for MMAWeekly.com.
Follow @DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon a question or comment.