On October 13, Johnny Case will enter the Professional Fighters League (PFL) cage for the first time and be only two fights away from winning a million dollars. “Hollywood” Case was not originally a part of the 72-man field that was competing for the ten million dollars in cash prizes the PFL was incentivizing for its inaugural season, but he has been impressed since the announcement of the new organization and since it’s inaugural season started.
“Ever since I even heard the news about the million-dollar tournament winner, eight-man tournament stuff, I thought it was a much more lucrative financial stand point from fighting. But I was signed with the UFC at the time, so my chances of fighting there were pretty slim. Now that I’m a free agent, the PFL is where I want to fight for sure. There is nowhere else you can fight and make that type of money, I’m all for it.”
As he mentioned, Case fought for the UFC and he even left with a winning record at 4-2. Hollywood finished his first two fights against Kazuki Tokudome and Frankie Perez. He then defeated Francisco Trevino and Yan Cabral before losing back-to-back fights to Jake Matthews and Tony Martin. After the loss to Martin, Case was told to stay ready for a fight, then the only way he’d get a fight is if he was a last-minute replacement and then he was told he was cut. He felt “scorned” for a little bit, but believes it led to even better things.
“I realized everything happens for a reason, I met the love of my life, I got this million-dollar tournament, I’m happy, I’m healthy, I just feel like a brand-new fighter through and through. I feel like I kinda had a chip on my shoulder, maybe I felt like I was fighting by myself at times and now I feel whole again.”
Case is looking to add a bit more happiness to his life by winning the million dollars and he can thank the love of his life, UFC fighter Emily Whitmire for helping him get the opportunity.
“My girlfriend trains at the same gym as Ray Sefo, the President of the PFL at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. So, she kinda put it in his ear one day like “hey, if you need an alternate for lightweight, Johnny, he’s 24-6, 4-2 in the UFC and he is looking for a fight. It just so happened that Ramsey Nijem and Brian Foster were originally supposed to fight for that last, eighth seed in the tournament and both of them weren’t cleared by the tournament.”
Case was brought in to face Jason High for that last spot, but High missed weight by five pounds, Case was not surprised by it.
“To be honest, I knew he was going to miss weight because we were cutting weight, there was probably an hour and a half before we had to be on the scale and I only had like a pound to go and he came in the sauna dry, completely dry and only sat in there for five minutes and then got out for ten minutes and then got out for a couple minutes and I knew right then, he showed me his heart, or lack of heart.”
At that point, Case wasn’t sure what would happen when his opponent missed weight.
“I knew either I was going to advance or I’d be used as an alternate. I didn’t know what to think at that point, I just knew that I showed up, I did my job and I did what the PFL asked of me.”
It just so happened that the events ended up in Case’s favor Case was awarded the eighth seed in the playoffs without throwing a punch.
Now Case will step into the PFL cage for the first time on October 13 at PFL 9. On that date, Case will have to defeat two opponents in one night to earn a spot in the finals. In his first matchup, Case will face the lightweight number one overall seed, Natan Schulte. Schulte has been impressive in his PFL run. He was the underdog in both of his regular season fights, first against Chris Wade whom he defeated by unanimous decision and then to Jason High, whom he defeated by submission. But Case says he won’t underestimate him, though he believes it’s a very favorable matchup.
“This guy is a bully style fighter, he comes forward with a lot of pressure and that breaks a lot of guys. With me, I can strike going backwards, going sideways, going forwards, I can strike and move. I think one thing about a bully is, if you frustrate a bully, they tend to get reckless, they tend to change their game plan when they realize oh G-d this guy isn’t letting me f**cking steamroll him. So, I think it really matches my style because I can move really well, I can strike in all ways. From what I’ve seen out of him, he really relies on that forward pressure and that bully, I’m going to break you mentality.”
But if he beats Schulte, Case will have to fight the winner of Robert Watley Jr. and Chris Wade. Hollywood says, he is focusing on them too, because he is going to be the won fighting two fights.
“I’m fighting two fights, it’s in my head that’s what I’ve been training, that’s what I’ve been preparing for, I’m fighting two fights that night.”
And Case thinks he won’t have a problem in the second round if its Wade or Watley.
“Chris Wade is a southpaw, more of a grappler-based, throws a little bit, but we’ve got the best one in the world (at the MMA Lab) in one-time world champion Benson Henderson, he’s a south paw and I have a hard time thinking Chris Wade is a better look than that guy, he’s a savage. If it’s Robert Watley, there’s not a whole lot that I see out of Robert Watley that is too crazy. He’s a very good fighter, he is very well-rounded, jack of all trades, master of none, he’s really not too flashy.”
Case respects both Wade and Watley but he thinks he is bigger in two areas that will determine who fights for a million dollars.
“Respect to both of those guys, they’re tough as shit, we’re both going to have two fist fights in one night, then it’s going to come down to who’s got the bigger balls and who’s got the bigger heart that night and I think they all fall short.”
PFL 9 is on October 13 and can be watched live on NBCSN.