Madera man, an ex-MMA fighter, held in brutal beating of former girlfriend

Lavar Johnson, left, takes on Lolohea Mahe during the Strikeforce Challengers mixed-martial arts event at the Save Mart Center in March 2010.
Lavar Johnson, left, takes on Lolohea Mahe during the Strikeforce Challengers mixed-martial arts event at the Save Mart Center in March 2010. Fresno Bee file

Lavar Johnson, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight, has been arrested in connection to the brutal beating of his longtime girlfriend, Fresno police said.

Lt. Joe Gomez said Johnson, 38, of Madera, is suspected of attacking his girlfriend Aug. 11. He has been in jail since Aug. 25 and is being held on $175,000 bail.

According to police, the alleged assault happened at the victim’s Fresno home. She told investigators:

Johnson, listed on jail records as 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 260 pounds, got into a verbal argument with his girlfriend of seven years. He grabbed the victim and threw her to the floor. He lifted her back up and struck her in the face twice with his knee. He threw her to the floor once more and continued to punch her in the head and face with closed fists.

After seeing a large amount of blood coming from his girlfriend’s face, he stopped hitting her. She grabbed her phone and attempted to call 911. During the call, he overpowered her and smashed the phone. Police were able to hear part of the call and headed to the home.

After breaking the phone, Johnson hit the victim a few more times with a closed first before leaving the home. He was not there when police arrived.

The victim went to a hospital with multiple bruises and cuts on her face and head. One of the gashes near her hairline required staples to close. She told detectives her ribs and collarbone ached for several days, making it difficult to breathe.

She later told detectives she believed Johnson was going to kill her. She said he had threatened her life and the lives of her family members in the past.

11The number of times Johnson allegedly threw his girlfriend to the floor during an attack on Aug. 11.

Investigators caught up to Johnson later that day. He invoked his Miranda rights when they asked him for a statement, and he was jailed on multiple felony assault and domestic violence charges.

The next day, Johnson posted bail and was released, which Gomez said worried the victim. She gathered her things and left the home. She later told police she has not seen or heard from Johnson since the night of the attack.

On Aug. 25, the Fresno County Superior Court remanded Johnson, sending him back to jail. Attempts to reach the court to find out why he was held were not successful. He was in custody as of 5 p.m. Friday.

Johnson attended Madera High School, where his massive physique made him a star on the football field.

He began his mixed-martial arts career in 2004 at a World Extreme Cagefighting event in Lemoore. After excelling at that level, he moved to the more popular Strikeforce promotion.

On July 4, 2009, Johnson was shot several times during a family reunion in Bakersfield. His 37-year-old cousin, Anthony Johnson, was killed. The bullets damaged Johnson’s internal organs, and he spent the next year recovering before returning to MMA.

He fought several more times for Strikeforce before joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world’s largest MMA promotion, in 2012.

Johnson was known for his punching power, earning knockout of the night awards in his two UFC wins. After losing three straight fights, he was dropped from UFC and joined rival company Bellator. His last professional fight was Sept. 5, 2014.