Front Street Fights 12, presented by Bodybuilding.com, will bring a lot of familiar faces to CenturyLink Arena on May 12th. One of Idaho’s most respected mixed martial artists will fight for the bantamweight title belt inside the cage, preceded by one of Boise’s rising stars in the co-main event. Alongside the cage and wearing the headset will be a man who has not missed a punch, kick, or guillotine choke since Front Street Fights began.
Matt Johnson has been involved with Front Street Fights from the very beginning and will call his tenth consecutive night of fights at CenturyLink Arena. For Johnson, Friday night’s main event between Jesse Brock and Noah Ali has all the elements of a perfect title fight.
“Looking at the Main Event, stylistically this is the perfect matchup for what you want, said Johnson. “They both have really similar styles and they both know how to work the ground. Both are capable of striking. I think fans are going to see excitement in this bout with a very methodical fight.”
Brock is among Idaho’s most decorated MMA fighters with a career record of 22-9, stepping into the FSF cage for the first time since FSF 5 two years ago and seeking his first FSF Title. Ali enters on a three fight win streak, but only has 12 career pro fights compared to Brock’s 31.
“Ali has a little bit of a height advantage, but with his wrestling background, I believe the advantage does favor Jesse Brock. Ali is a well-rounded fighter and has the potential to be a very exciting fighter, but much like Jesse, if he needs to slow the fight down he can,” said Johnson. “I think both fighters have the ability to adapt to whatever style each one of them brings.”
“It’s been two years since we had Jesse in the cage for a Front Street Fights event. For someone who really has carried the flag of the Front Street Fights bantamweight division from the beginning, I think it’s only fitting for him to be fighting for the first FSF bantamweight title.”
Matt Jones will also be making another appearance at FSF, his seventh. Jones has already stated that he intends to win his bout with Carson Frei and set himself up for another shot at an FSF title belt.
“He was in the Main Event at FSF8 and fought for the Featherweight title. He didn’t win that one, but he went all five rounds against a well-rounded fighter in Josh Tyler,” said Johnson. “We saw Matt grow up in that event.”
Jones came back to defeat Kerry Lattimer in his next fight, and most recent, at FSF9. He’s also been training with Idaho fighter Ricky Steele to adapt some of his karate fighting. Would Jones’ improvements and a win against Frei put him on track to a title fight?
“The Co-Main Event has a lot of intrigue to see the changes in Matt Jones’ game, but also because Carson made his pro debut with us a couple years ago against Joe Hamilton (a TKO defeat at FSF 4),” said Johnson. “Since then Carson has gone on a great run and he’s found himself as a fighter. A win against Carson would definitely put Matt back in the conversation for a title fight, but obviously that decision ultimately falls to (FSF Matchaker) Todd Carlson.”
The other fights on the pro card pit Lino Sanchez and Mario Cervantes against each other, with each fighter making his pro debut. Mike Garcia makes his second professional appearance, the last coming with a win at FSF11, while Brandon Todd makes his pro debut. Including amateur bouts, this will be Garcia’s fifth fight at FSF.
Garcia vs. Todd may offer the best entertainment value for fans, according to Johnson.
“That fight has the potential to be the most exciting fight of the night. Mike Garcia is one tough guy. Mike finally turned pro for FSF11 and he was a fighter that for a while we were waiting to turn pro. Mike has fought for us here at FSF four times. He can stand up and bang, and he is a very exciting fighter. There’s potential for a lot of fireworks.”
The card features three amateur fights, where sometimes fans will get an idea of which up-and-comer is ready to take the next step and turn pro. Yet the highest intrigue for this amateur card might just belong to a young kid getting his feet wet in the CenturyLink Arena cage.
“Noah Shultz is 18 years old and stepping into the cage for the first time,” said Johnson, eager to see the high school senior square off with Justin McCormick. “Anytime you step in for your first amateur fight, it’s obviously overwhelming and exciting. But he’s literally doing this right out of high school. I’m excited to see how he does.”
Johnson’s preparation for fight night goes well beyond records and past results. His extensive homework and research for the FSF broadcast has been ongoing for several weeks, but it hits a fever pitch over the next few days.
“A lot of it is watching film. For the guys that we’ve seen before, we go back and look at their fights again to refresh the memory. For the guys we haven’t seen before, it’s watching various YouTube videos and comparing from numerous MMA stats sites and determining if there are interesting matchups or opponents in common,” said Johnson.
“For the last fight there was a great storyline where a bunch of the fighters who were fighting on that card had all fought each other at some point during their amateur careers. Sometimes it’s about finding that cool storyline that can indicate matchups in the future.”
That prep work is made a bit easier by the man who will be sitting in the chair next to Johnson. UFC veteran Scott Jorgensen will broadcast his second FSF event, and he brings considerable knowledge to the airwaves.
“It’s no secret that Scott is one of the owners of SBG Idaho, and there are a lot of SBG Idaho fighters on this card. He obviously knows them much better than I could ever know them, and that insight is very helpful,” said Johnson of Jorgensen, who worked with him on FSF10. “He also knows them well enough that if he needs to call them out in their fights, he can do that too. Having his experience as a UFC veteran and a record that speaks for itself, and his knowledge combined with an intimate familiarity with the fighters, is going to be really valuable.”
As for Johnson, a fight fan who also knows the local fighters on a personal level, it’s about describing the action and preparing for a good show.
“When you’re in the chair you have to be impartial. Sometimes it’s hard, because you get to know these local guys. I just want the fans to be entertained and for the fighters to leave it all out in the cage to prove that they are the best against each other. I want them to represent themselves well and our brand well.”