LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although Demetrious Johnson’s reign as the UFC’s flyweight champion is approaching historic lengths, he gets only a fraction of the attention lavished on the world’s other top mixed martial artists.
The 5-foot-3, 125-pounder realizes that’s partly because he’s only a fraction of their size.
The technical brilliance of the champion known as Mighty Mouse has been too much for every contender during eight consecutive wins and a three-year title reign. Johnson (21-2-1) has little interest left in justifying his achievements to anybody who discounts them because of his weight class.
“It’s only the fans and uneducated fools out there who say, ‘Oh, you’re boring,’” Johnson said. “OK, if you say so. But you just don’t understand what I’m doing. You don’t understand the process and the technique that I bring to the table.”
At UFC 191 on Saturday night, Johnson will give a second chance to an opponent who feels he nearly ended the champ’s run.
John Dodson knocked down Johnson in their first bout in January 2013, but the champion rallied for a decision victory that fairly begged for a rematch.
Their mutual dislike has grown in recent months, with Dodson claiming Johnson’s bland personality is responsible for the flyweight division’s relative unpopularity. Johnson has responded with bemusement, claiming he’ll “kick the Chihuahua back to its porch” in their fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on the UFC’s Labor Day weekend show.
Verbal pyrotechnics aside, it’s clear the first loss has festered with Dodson (18-6), the upbeat, eccentric trash-talker who hosted birthday parties at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in his native Albuquerque before getting into MMA.
“I missed the opportunity (for) knocking his head off,” Dodson said. “I messed up with a few shots that I missed on, but I dropped him and I should have capitalized on it. ... I had way too much respect for him in that fight, and in the one coming up, I want to make sure that I see Demetrious as just another fighter, and not as the champion.”
UFC 191’s pay-per-view card also features former heavyweight champion Frank Mir against the revitalized Andrei Arlovski, Dodson’s training partner. Light heavyweight contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson takes on Jimi Manuwa.
A victory would be Johnson’s seventh consecutive title defense over the past three years since the UFC added its 125-pound division. Only three fighters in UFC history have held their belts longer: Jon Jones, Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva, whose 10 straight defenses are the record.
Dodson has remarkable punching power for his size, even stopping current UFC 135-pound champion T.J. Dillashaw when they competed on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show nearly four years ago. Johnson’s all-around game is less flashy, but more confounding.
“He has power, and I could get knocked out, but I’m going to do everything to beat you,” Johnson said. “Whatever you’re doing as a fighter, you have to make your opponents feel everything they’re doing in this sport is wrong. Whatever choice you make in this sport, I’m going to make sure you pay for it.”
Dodson briefly left Las Vegas on Monday for the birth of his first child, but returned in time to continue his campaign for public support in the rematch, attempting to paint himself as the people’s champion before he even wears the belt.
“Everyone likes my face anyway,” Dodson said. “They already say I’m the greatest of all time, so why not? They already forgot about DJ. ... Everyone wants to sit there and cheer for a character. We’re in the business of entertaining, not just being a good fighter. There are a million good fighters out there, but they just don’t make it to this level.”