Several years ago at the height of Demetrious Johnson’s fame as the UFC’s long-time flyweight champion, Dana White suddenly declared his intention to shut down the weight class, and now ‘Mighty Mouse’ has explained what was going on behind the scenes in the lead up to it.
“They wanted us to fight T.J. Dillashaw and I said we’ll fight him for $1 million,” Johnson recalled on ‘The MMA Hour’ show. “Then the thing was, I knew T.J. couldn’t make 125 healthy. I knew that and so did (coach) Matt (Hume). We knew that because he’s already shredded at 135…
“So Matt wanted to put it in the contract saying if T.J. Dillashaw does not make weight at 125, we fight him for his belt, and they said no. ‘We’re not doing that.’ Okay then, well, what’s going to happen and that’s when they were like, ‘We’re going to close the division.’
“So I said I’ll fight T.J. for $1 million. It’s a superfight! Let’s make it happen.’ But they wouldn’t do that and that’s when they were like, ‘We’re going to close the division.’ Well, close the motherf–ng division then!’ They didn’t do it and that’s when I came out with the letter and it was like, what do I have to do?
Johnson went on to say that it’s not really his style to rock the boat when it comes to his career, but that at a certain point he had to put his foot down with the UFC in order to have some kind of say on his fighting future.
“Everything that a champion — one of the things that I want to have happen when I’m done fighting is I want Matt to be like, ‘Out of all the people I’ve ever worked with and trained, Demetrious was the easiest person I’ve trained. He always showed up on time, never had a problem with cutting weight, no problems.’ I wanted to be the easiest champion, athlete to work with.
“I show up, ‘Who do you want me to fight? I’ll fight the next guy.’ But once they started to murky this stuff — ‘Oh, you’re going to fight this champion.’ Okay, let’s add some more money. Let’s add $1 million. ‘No, that can’t happen.’
“Okay, well then if he doesn’t make weight, let’s fight for his belt. ‘No, can’t do that either.’ Okay, so where do I have leverage here? Where’s my power in being a champion?”
OF course, White eventually backed down on his plan to shutdown the flyweight division, while Johnson eventually left the UFC after his 14-fight winning streak came to an end with a title loss against Henry Cejudo in August of 2018.
‘Mighty Mouse’ then moved on to the ONE FC promotion where he would go on to win their flyweight grand-prix after three victories in a row, though he’s since suffered the first KO loss of his career in a title fight against Adriano Moraes in April of last year.
The 36-year-old is now preparing for a rematch against Moraes at ONE On Prime Video 1 next weekend in Singapore.