Convicted domestic abuser and UFC veteran Lavar Johnson (18-10) will return to fighting on Saturday’s Valor Bare Knuckle event against fellow UFC vet James McSweeney (15-18).
Johnson, 42, was arrested in August of 2015 following a brutal attack on his then-girlfriend of seven years. At the time, the attack was described by MMAJunkie as “so [severe] she needed staples to close one of her wounds.”
According to the initial reporting of Johnson’s arrest by TMZ, the 6’3″ professional MMA fighter “slammed [his girlfriend] against the wall and ground, kneed her in the face and head multiple times and then struck her 11 more times in the face with a closed fist.”
The TMZ report continued, “When cops arrived, Johnson was gone — but the girlfriend was clearly busted up … with swelling across her forehead and nose and blood everywhere. She later needed staples to close one of the gashes.”
In his defense of Johnson, defense attorney Gerald Schwab stated that “Johnson is a stand-up guy who had too much to drink and was mad about his girlfriend tracking him with GPS,” per Fresno, California’s ABC30 station.
As a result of the plea, several other charges against Johnson, including assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, dissuading a witness from reporting a crime, and dissuading a witness by force, were dismissed.
Johnson was sentenced to five years in state prison, though the Madera, California, native has been released following the completion of the first three years of his term.
At his sentencing, which took place in April of 2016, Johnson accepted responsibility for what he had done. “I’m sorry,” said Johnson, per ABC30. “I take full responsibility for my actions.”
ABC30 noted that Judge Glenda Allen-Hill “reminded Johnson of his past history which includes violence and alcohol.”
“It does appear there were times when Mr. Johnson could have stopped this offense,” said Judge Allen-Hill. “That he could have not inflicted the amount of damage that he inflicted on his victim, but he did not.”
Johnson, 42, began his MMA career in 2004. The Californian made waves in the WEC during the early portion of his career, even once contending for the promotion’s vacant heavyweight title.
The heavyweight went on to fight for Strikeforce, the UFC, and, most recently in 2014, Bellator.
Johnson will resume his career five years later at the inaugural Valor Bare Knuckle event, a bare-knuckle boxing show promoted by UFC legend Ken Shamrock. Johnson will face James McSweeney, an Ultimate Fighter, UFC, KSW, and ONE Championship veteran.
McSweeney, 38, has lost his last five MMA fights, three of which came by knockout. The Englishman has lost 7 of his last 10, dating back to 2014.
Johnson and McSweeney are set to compete on the event’s main card, which takes place on pay-per-view.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.