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Charles Johnson prepares to face Rafael Estevam of Brazil in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Charles Johnson Is Ready To Shine

St. Louis-Bred Charles Johnson Believes He Is Primed To Put On A Show In His Hometown At UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Nascimento

While Charles Johnson is as intent on chasing UFC gold as any fighter on the roster, it is also true that when he makes the walk at UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Nascimento, he’ll have accomplished something he spent the last few years thinking about.

The St. Louis-bred Johnson remembers speaking with fellow St. Louis representative Joaquin Buckley, who fights in the co-main event on May 11, a couple of years ago about this very scenario: fighting in their hometown at the highest level. 

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“It means everything,” Johnson said during his interview with “We talked about this over the course of years, growing up here like, ‘We're going to be in the UFC and fight in St. Louis,’ and I was here for the last St. Louis card in 2018. For me, it's just working a dream into fruition, staying constant, staying disciplined and working the vision.”

Keeping his nose to the grind is just the way Johnson is built, and it’s why he wasn’t truly concerned when he found himself on a three-fight losing streak heading into his most recent fight with Azat Maksum.

The 33-year-old knew he was good enough to get the job done. He just needed to put things together and fight his fight, and he did just that to the tune of a unanimous decision victory. Johnson, who earned the LFA flyweight title before reaching the UFC, admitted he became accustomed to five-round fights and found himself behind the pace with not enough time to work in a few of his trips to the Octagon.

He feels like he has that all figured out right in time to put on the best performance of his career thus far opposite Jake Hadley, who comes into the fight having lost a decision to Cody Durden in August 2023. The 27-year-old Hadley came into the promotion with an unblemished 7-0 record but hasn’t found that same consistency in the UFC so far. Even so, Johnson acknowledges his opponent as “talented” with good people in his corner. Beyond that, though, “InnerG” is staying mindful and centered.

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“I don't really give a f*** about Jake Hadley,” Johnson said. “I'm just focused on me, and I'm really focused on my performance and not too much about him at all.”

Johnson knows enough about Hadley, however, to assume he is going to fight in the style he prefers, which is upright. After doing battles with his fair share of wrestling-based opponents, Johnson is eager to do what he did last time out: push the pace, stay in his opponent’s face and, eventually, melt his foe under his pressure.

Charles Johnson poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 03, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Charles Johnson poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 03, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

That’s easier said than done against a stubborn and game opponent like Hadley, but that’s all the better for Johnson, who believes he solved the formula to translate his confidence in a five-round fight into a three-rounder. He is a little bummed out to fight earlier on the prelims rather than deep into the main card, but those opportunities come with success, and getting back to .500 in the Octagon is at the top of the priority list. Johnson has his eyes on the Top 15, and although he knows a win over Hadley doesn’t guarantee anything in terms of a big fight afterward, getting one’s hand raised never hurts.

There is the hometown conundrum, however. Some fighters paint a difficult picture when talking about competing within friendly confines. The spotlight is brighter. The amount of people getting in touch for tickets is much greater. The pressure, overall, is just more than anywhere else.

MORE ST. LOUIS: Buckley Comes Home | Hooper Interview | Baby Shark Interview | Tecia Pennington Interview | Derrick Lewis Interview | Rodrigo Nascimento Interview

Johnson is embracing it all, though. Before fight week, he got the chance to throw out the first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game, and he believes May 11 is going to be yet another showcase. In other words: Johnson isn’t feeling any trepidation about performing in his own backyard.  

“I'm the person that shines at home,” he said. “People are going to say, ‘Charles Johnson, that dude needs to be fighting for a title soon.’ That’s the type of performance I (plan to) put on.”

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UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Nascimento took place live from Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri on May 11, 2024. See the final Prelim and Main Card results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass