Demetrious Johnson likely will make history Saturday night in Kansas City, and the accomplishment probably will go unnoticed by the masses.
The UFC flyweight champion is an overwhelming favorite against Wilson Reis as he tries to tie Anderson Silva for the most consecutive title defenses in UFC history with 10. But if you were to ask the casual sports fan to name five UFC fighters off the top of their head, the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter likely would not be one of the names mentioned.
Mighty Mouse has been at the top of the flyweight division since September 2012, when he defeated Joseph Benavidez via split decision at UFC 152. Since then, his ferocious striking ability and suffocating ground game have earned him the right to be called the most complete fighter in the promotion.
But in a sport filled with trash talk, flamboyant arrogance and self-promotion, Johnson has remained quiet and humble throughout the ride.
“People are like ‘You’re the world champion, man, you must have (expletive) all over you and cocaine and getting high, how many Rolls-Royces you got?’ ” Johnson recently told Yahoo Sports. “I’m like ‘I got no Rolls, I don’t do cocaine or drugs. I’m going home, putting my kids to bed and kissing my wife and playing video games.’ ”
Maybe that’s why he’s not the face of the sport.
Or perhaps it’s because he’s fighting in the 125-pound division — a weight class not known for violent knockouts, but rather for tactical fights that usually go the distance. In fact, according to OddsShark, more than 81 percent of flyweight fights have gone the distance since the beginning of 2016. With highlight-reel finishes scarce in the class, fewer people probably take notice of fighters in the division, making it ignored by the masses.
But the promotion deserves some blame, too.
A man who has defended a title nine times shouldn’t be fighting on a free FOX card like Johnson will on Saturday night. He should be on a numbered card and be the main event. Instead, for the fifth time, Johnson will be on a non-numbered card. In comparison, all of Anderson Silva’s title defense fights were headliners on a numbered card.
UFC president Dana White also admitted following UFC 210 that he prefers paying fighters with the ability to sell out venues in different countries.
“Mark Hunt has an entire country behind him. When we do fights in Australia, he sells out arenas,” White said. That’s why you see guys like (Michael) Bisping, different fighters from Brazil, Conor McGregor. When you have guys who have countries behind them, it’s a game-changer for them. Not everybody has that luxury.”
Whatever the reason may be, Johnson definitely is getting a little ticked off by it, especially by the fact that the UFC never has given him new belts following his title defenses. The promotion has given other fighters brand-new hardware following each of their victories.
“I’m getting pissed off about that,” Johnson said following open workouts, as transcribed by MMAFighting.com. “I saw Daniel Cormier get three damn belts, so Dana White, WME-IMG, whoever writes the checks, give me eight damn belts please, and then I (already have one, so) nine if I win this one. I’ll take it home.”
Regardless of the lack of attention, it’s clear what Johnson is doing is remarkable, and a win Saturday night should put the fighter on everyone’s radar as he tries to break Silva’s record.
Thumbnail photo via Joshua Dahl/USA TODAY Sports Images