Cancellations soured Joshua Van before Charles Johnson stepped up: ‘I love everything he stands for’

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Joshua Van proudly wore designation of one of the UFC’s most active fighters as 2023 turned into 2024 and he fell into a half-year of inactivity.

The break in the action wasn’t because Van (10-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) called timeout, which frustrates him even now that he has a fight on the books for Saturday at UFC on ESPN 59 in Denver.

“I’m just happy to have a fight,” Van recently told MMA Junkie. “It’s been six months that I haven’t fought. I’m just excited to get back. Hopefully this one goes through.”

In April, opponent Lucas Rocha pulled out to due to injury. Van was then booked for June 1 vs. Tatsuro Taira, but the promotion split the matchup and rebooked the fighters against different opponents for June 15.

On June 14, Van weighed in and made weight, but opponent Tagir Ulanbekov missed by 3.5 pounds and the fight was scrapped. Going through the entire process without a fight, Van lost his taste for fighting for a little while, he admitted.

“This is kind of getting annoying,” Van said. “I got to the point where I didn’t even want to train and sh*t like that. When I came back from Vegas two or three weeks ago, I didn’t even want to train, man. I just stayed at home for a week, a week and half. After that, that’s when my manager called me and I went back to training and sh*t like that. This thing is getting annoying.”

Van’s coaches, teammates, and mother helped him eventually bring his motivation back. That’s when the phone rang. It was his manager Jason House. While the process from there was up and down, eventually Van found a willing combatant: Charles Johnson (15-6 MMA, 4-4 UFC).

“I got his name a day before I signed the contract,” Van said. “I said, ‘Yes, I want to fight him.’ Then, my manager called me a couple hours later and they gave me a different name. It was a better matchup. Not just a better matchup, but it was a better opportunity. I said, ‘I’d fight that guy.’ It turns out that guy doesn’t want to fight me. The next day, I think I sent Jason (House) a screenshot like, ‘I think Johnson wants to fight me. Why don’t we fight him?’ And he’s like, ‘All right, I’ll work on it.’ The next day, he sent me a contract.”

In a world where it’s “cool” to talk trash to your opponent, Van has nothing but respect and admiration for Johnson, the lone man willing to step up at this moment in time.

“I love it, I love it,” Van said. “I love everything he stands for. Like I said, he stepped up. A lot of people don’t want to fight me short notice. I know we’re both short notice, but he stepped up. Much respect to him. His style his crafty. Come fight day, it’s going to be who’s prepared more and stuff like that. I’m very, very excited for this one.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 59.

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