Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz (right) has never lost at 135 pounds. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Johnson, nicknamed “Mighty Mouse,” takes his life’s work seriously.
“This is my job,” the diminutive dynamo says. “I wait four months to fight, and then I get a chance to fight. It could be 15 minutes or it could be 25 minutes, or it could be a minute of my life. I owe it to the fans. I owe it to the UFC. I owe it to myself. I owe it to all my family.
“I’ve been in the gym, in and out every day, working my butt off and killing my body to get me ready for a fight and I break a bone ... I mean, if it’s a bone I can’t continue with, like my fibula, which is the bigger bone in your [lower] leg, or my femur, then, obviously, I can’t fight; if it’s a bone that I can’t continue fighting with and I know its going to cause more damage to keep fighting, then hey,” Johnson adds. “But [otherwise], I’m there to go balls to the wall, to go big or go home. Regardless of if I break a bone or whatever, I’m going to keep on going. I don’t give a damn. Adrenaline is a hell of a drug. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Johnson has grown accustomed to being the underdog, though Cruz will be the toughest and most accomplished fighter he has faced to date. Describing the champion as a hard worker who has beaten the best of the best, Johnson admits Cruz’s unique style of fighting gives everybody problems.
“I don’t think he has any weaknesses,” he says. “He’s a very well-rounded champion. He knows his game, and he never strays away from his game plan, so, you know, I’ll try to go out there and kind of take it to him and put him under a lot of pressure and see what happens. All I can do is gain from this fight. I have nothing to lose. I’m the new kid on the block. I’m going to try to go out there and make a name for myself.”
Johnson has no doubt that Cruz’s constant movement and unorthodox angles will be an obstacle in the Octagon.
“He’s always making people adjust to him, and that’s why I think he seems a lot faster than other people think he is. It’s funny, because he tells you exactly what he’s going to do,” Johnson says. “He says, ‘I’m always going to make people adjust to me, and, when they adjust to me, I’m always going to keep them guessing.’ And I just can’t be guessing. I have to solve the puzzle as fast as possible.”
Although he aims to build a name for himself, Johnson likes to keep information about his training under wraps.
“My coaches and my teammates and all my training I’ve done up to this fight has been just insane. I don’t need to post videos on the Internet to show people my training camp or what I do,” says Johnson, who, outside of training can be found playing Xbox with fans online, snowboarding and playing paintball. “I actually like it better when people don’t get to see my training camp because, then, they’re always guessing [as] to what I’m doing getting ready for a fight. I like to keep that blanket over my training camp and then people can get little sneak peeks and stuff, but I’m not that person that posts all of my stuff on the Internet.
“I’m a hard worker, and, when I step in the Octagon, you’ll see how hard I work because you’ll be, like, ‘Damn, this fool don’t get tired. He’s got crisp combinations. He’s got awesome wrestling. S---, I wonder what his training camp looks like,” he adds. “And I leave the imagination up to them to think how I train in the gym.”
Now regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, Cruz will carry a nine-fight winning streak into the match. His last three fights -- wins over Joseph Benavidez, Scott Jorgensen and Urijah Faber -- have all gone the five-round limit. Cruz has never lost at 135 pounds.
“We both have our own unique styles that give our opponents trouble, and, obviously, his style has been more on display because he’s been in the limelight a lot more than I have being the reigning champion,” Johnson says. “I try to go out there and make sure I’m sharp, I’m fast, my energy level is through the roof and put on a good show for the UFC and the fans. I know a lot of people are doubting me for this fight against Dominick Cruz, and I understand.
“But, you know, I’m a hard worker,” he adds. “I’m going to come out there and do my best and I believe in my coaches, I believe in my skill and I’m hoping to go out there and put something on the table that Dominick’s never seen before. I’m pretty sure he’s not worried about what I can do, because everyone in the world is, like, ‘Well, I’m not sure. I don’t think Demetrious is better than Urijah or Joseph Benavidez,’ but I’m going to go out there and put it all out there and leave my heart out there and see what happens.”