FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Lavar Johnson was sentenced Friday for a severe beating he admitted to after a blow up with his girlfriend.
Pleas for a lighter sentence in the brutal beating did not convince a Fresno County judge to give the MMA fighter less time in prison.
In his defense, his attorney said Johnson is a stand-up guy who had too much to drink and was mad about his girlfriend tracking him with GPS.
Standing in a red jail jumpsuit, and significantly smaller than he once was, Johnson said he was ashamed and embarrassed of the explosive ending to a 7-year relationship.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I take full responsibility for my actions."
His friend of 25 years asked the judge to hold Johnson accountable but offer him mercy.
"Lavar is not the guy that a lot of people perceive because of his fighting career," his friend Gary Davie explained. "He just happened to be good at it, made some good money at it and pursued it. Or the guy that was labeled negatively because of this incident. Lavar is a man with serious flaws, incredible potential and self worth."
Three speakers and countless letters written to the judge described the former fighter as respectful, level headed and a great role model.
"I had the opportunity to invite Lavar to speak to a middle school in a farm labor community, and to see the impact that he had on young children and to listen to him share his story and be honest and encourage those kids to be honest with themselves and know that no matter what type of situation is you can fix it," Johnson's friend Carlton Jones testified. "That's the type of person Lavar is."
Before handing down his punishment, the judge reminded Johnson of his past history which includes violence and alcohol, and the current case that resulted in great bodily injury.
"It does appear there were times when Mr. Johnson could have stopped this offense," Judge Glenda Allen-Hill told the court. "That he could have not inflicted the amount of damage that he inflicted on his victim, but he did not."
Johnson had hoped to get a 3-year sentence but was instead sentenced to 5 years in prison.
His attorney said Friday was a long awaited, difficult day.
"He was very emotional," attorney Gerald Schwab said. "He's emotional about the whole situation. The people that came in to talk to him have known him and loved him like a brother."