When news broke that Gus Johnson was leaving CBS and his familiar post during March Madness and NFL games, I assumed that meant no more calling fights on Showtime (or CBS, if they ever decide to air fights again). CBS and Showtime are owned by the same parent company, and Johnson has done bouts on both networks for Strikeforce. I assumed wrong.
According to a report by MMA Fighting, Johnson's contract for calling NCAA basketball and NFL games with CBS ended. However, his deal with Showtime to call fights, both boxing and MMA, was a separate deal.
Michael David Smith points out that it's good to have a proponent of MMA like Johnson in the mainstream:
While HBO's lead boxing voice, Jim Lampley, rarely discusses MMA except to compare it unfavorably to boxing, Johnson spoke admiringly about MMA during Saturday night's Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight, at one point comparing and contrasting the striking styles of the two sports and noting that a punch Pacquiao threw was similar to an MMA Superman punch.
But it was Johnson who uttered a phrase that was incredibly damaging to the sport. During the melee after Strikeforce's event in Nashville last April, Johnson said, "These things happen in MMA," when nothing can be further from the truth.
After fights, cages are normally areas of respect and appreciation. Melees like that are extremely rare. Baseball and basketball have more dirty moves and fights than MMA, but Johnson didn't point that out. He made it sound like fighters can't stop fighting when the bell rings, but had no evidence to back up that claim.
That was during a CBS broadcast, when people with no prior exposure to MMA had a chance to see the sport for free. Nick Diaz and Jason "Mayhem" Miller deserve the brunt of the blame for the melee, but they both served suspensions and paid fines. Miller wasn't allowed back on Showtime, and sat out for more than a year before being signed by the UFC. But Johnson continues to call fights, despite his poor reaction to an odd event.
Do you like Johnson's fight commentary, or would you rather see him stick to basketball and football?
- Gus Johnson