USA Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive show news, updates, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
USA Insider Love Island

Johnny Fires Back at His Love Island Games Critics: "If Anyone Deserved to Be There, It Was Me"

Johnny Middlebrooks came under fire from the moment he entered the Love Island Games villa, but now he's clearing the air. 

By Shameika Rhymes
Johnny Middlebrooks3 poses for a photo

Love Island Games may have crowned its winners in Justine Ndiba and Jack Fowler, but runner-ups Johnny Middlebrooks and Aurelia Lamprecht have been the topic of conversation on social media, especially Johnny.

RELATED: Love Island Games Winners Talk Life After the Show, Holiday Plans & Competition Advice

Love Island Games brought Middlebrooks face-to-face once again with his ex, Cely Vazquez. The Love Island USA Season 2 runner-ups found love on the show and dated after the series ended before breaking up in 2021 in what proved to be a bitter split. Add in the fight to win the $100,000 and kissing, connections, and drama, things got hot and steamy in the first season of Love Island Games. Johnny spoke with USA Insider to set the record straight and address his critics.  

Johnny fires back at his haters

With viewers of the show having said online that he didn’t deserve to be in the finals, Johnny is firing back.

In an interview with USA Insider Johnny shared that he in fact did deserve to be there because, he said, he went through a lot to get to the finals.

“It was challenging to get there. I walked in there from day one on my back foot, like I felt no one really had my back, and it was my own fault because I came in there, I kissed my ex and it kind of put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. I came in there with my chin up on my chest, and people don’t like that because it’s a threat, it’s intimidating, like this guy is really here to play and I don’t want to compete against this guy,” Johnny shared.

RELATED: Love Island Games Finalist Aurelia Was Shocked to Learn About All the Johnny Hate

“Even my guy Ray, because I took Imani from him, he didn’t have my back," he continued. "So, I knew the entire time that I had to stay out of the bottom. I had to win something to stay out of the vulnerable couples and the entire season, I was never vulnerable because of that,” he explained.

Johnny and Jess did win one challenge and Johnny was flagged as being vulnerable. “They were trying to get me out of there, and it was a fight. It was a fight the entire time. I see a lot of people saying they don’t feel like I deserved to be in the final, but if anyone deserved to be there it was me, and Callum both because he also had to win in order to stay out of the box," he said.

Johnny went on to share that some of the alliances he made in the villa are what helped some of the couples. “A lot of people had immunity the whole time because they had their friendships and skated their way through, but I can’t fault them for that because it’s a way to play the game," he explained. "So, at the end, finally being at the finale, it felt so incredible to make it through after all of the adversity, so it felt really deserving.”

Johnny addresses the playboy allegations

Love Island Games Johnny Middlebrooks2

Despite how Johnny came in biceps blazing, kissing his way into the villa, he said he did care about the ladies he came in contact with and connected with.

“I want to clear the air in the sense that people think that I was just in there with zero empathy for the girls’ emotions or compassion. That wasn’t the case at all," he explained. "Even with the whole Liberty and Jess thing, where it seemed like I randomly picked Jess over Liberty, that’s not what happened. Liberty and I were kidding and stuff all through the villa, which they highlighted so much, but they didn’t show the conversations that Jess and I had, speaking for hours about really deep, important things. Liberty and I were very surface-level because we had an attraction to each other. But when I randomly had to recouple, I went with Jess because our communication was stronger than what I had with Liberty.

"I had to go with who I felt connected with, not just physical attraction,” he said, adding that Jess was shocked because she didn’t want to hurt Liberty’s feelings. Ultimately, "there were a lot of misunderstandings,” he said. 

Nacho-gate explained

Cely revealed after Johnny’s arrival to the villa that they broke up over him not paying for her nachos at Cheesecake Factory while on a date when they were still together. He wanted to clarify, that’s not how it went down.

“I was shocked when she said that on the show. It’s not even about the nachos, but anything Queen Cely says is law and if she says it’s true — but realistically that’s just not what happened," he explained.

RELATED: Our 5 Favorite Moments from Love Island Games’ Deleted Scenes Special

"Our breakup was pretty ugly, so I didn’t want to talk about it in full length. But ... literally just to prove to people, I went to my bank account and went to my bank statement and found the day we were there and I found my receipt for the nachos. So, people were saying $50 is enough to pay for nachos. This happened in Hawaii, she put me on blast about a trip that she paid for, that was her Christmas gift to me. She left that part out, I got her ring, shoes, and clothes, and I got her [family] Christmas gifts. At Cheesecake Factory, I'm sitting there with her and I'm like, 'Wow, baby, this is amazing. Thank you so much for, you know, bringing us here. This is incredible.' And really what I said to her, and if this makes me a brokee, then OK, but we've been dating for four or five months at this point.

"I basically said to her, ‘Hey, so how do you want to do food this week?' Like, 'Do you want me to do breakfast and lunch? You do dinner?’ Then she said ‘You don’t care about me.’ I was saying it just like the conversation couples have and it’s just for the week, and I paid for the nachos, but after that, a whole cascade of things happened leading to our breakup,” Johnny shared.

He also said that since the incident happened three years ago, he didn’t want to rehash the whole situation while on the show since they had both moved on.

“But, if anyone thinks that two people that love each other would break up over nachos, you got another thing coming," he said.

Is Johnny dating anyone?

Love Island Games's Johnny Middlebrooks

Aurelia already shared that the two were keeping in touch, but because of the distance, they weren’t really dating.

“We have to be realistic in the sense that we’re probably not going to see each other for a very long time, but we still entertain that connection we have with each other,” Johnny said.

But when it comes to him dating closer to home, it’s not really on his mind right now: “I’m not really dating around at all right now. I just gotta deal with all this I got going on right now. I’m not putting energy into other areas outside of what I have to deal with Love Island Games, like putting out the fires from the smoke we catch from watching the show."

Catch up on Love Island Games streaming now on Peacock.