Demetrious Johnson isn’t worried about UFC 186 critics. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
Not all that long ago, UFC 186 was brimming with potential.
Two championship bouts, a welterweight title eliminator and the return of a fan favorite made the April 25 pay-per-view event yet another strong offering in what is shaping up to be a banner year for the Las Vegas-based promotion.
Of course, every year it seems that at least one card falls victim to a variety of injuries, withdrawals and unforeseen circumstances. That’s exactly what happened to UFC 186: T.J. Dillashaw got hurt, Hector Lombard failed a drug test and Quinton Jackson went to court.
Suddenly, Demetrious Johnson was the last man standing atop a card that many fans are threatening to boycott because it doesn’t fit their definition of “pay-per-view worthy.”
Go ahead and save your $60, Johnson says. It won’t hurt his feelings if you choose to skip his flyweight title defense against Japanese contender Kyoji Horiguchi. When it comes to selling fights and self-promotion, Johnson maintains the same philosophy he had as a shoe salesman years ago.
“I used to work at Journeys shoe store; I was assistant manager,” Johnson said during a recent appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “And my manager was always like, ‘Hey man, make sure you push these socks.’ And I was like, ‘Dude, if somebody comes in this shoe store and they want to buy f-----g shoes, they’ll buy a pair of shoes. If they need a pair of socks, they’ll buy a pair of socks. I’m not gonna try to push a pair of socks on some dude with a drawer full of socks.
“I’ve gone through trying to push myself onto people when it comes to sales. I’ve been in the retail market before. I’m not saying mixed martial arts is like retail, but my job is to go out there and perform at the highest level of mixed martial arts, keep on winning and keep my belt,” he continued. “That’s what I plan on doing April 25. Now, if people don’t want to tune in, that’s their f-----g bad. But they’re going to miss a kick-ass fight between me and Kyoji Horiguchi.”
Johnson’s current run of excellence matches up with anyone in the sport. Since winning the UFC’s inaugural 125-pound belt at UFC 152, “Mighty Mouse” has run roughshod over the flyweight division with victories over the likes of John Dodson, Joseph Benavidez, John Moraga, Ali Bagautinov and Chris Cariaso.
For the majority of those wins, Johnson has been the headliner -- including two pay-per-view cards. Each time, the marketability of the flyweight division – and Johnson himself – remains a popular topic for debate. No matter how often – and how impressively -- he wins, Johnson is often overlooked when it comes time to rank the UFC’s top stars.
That same issue was only magnified when UFC 186 lost a number of key bouts, the last subtraction occurring when Bellator MMA was granted an injunction to prevent “Rampage” from fighting Fabio Maldonado in the evening’s co-main event. After Jackson’s day in court, anti-UFC 186 chatter reached an apex. However, part of the key to Johnson’s extended success is that he doesn’t worry about the external factors surrounding his fight.
“People have to try to use their energy to dog on content that the UFC is trying to put out,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me; I stay focused. The only thing I control is my training and my fight and that’s it.”
Johnson has good reason to remain focused. Horiguchi was a highly-regarded prospect before he signed with the UFC, and he hasn’t disappointed since his arrival. The 24-year-old Krazy Bee representative is 4-0 in the Octagon, with triumphs over Dustin Pague, Darrell Montague, Jon delos Reyes and Louis Gaudinot.
Johnson, for one, is looking forward to his matchup with the talented Japanese standout.
“If fans want to see highly technical fight between me and Kyoji Horiguchi, that’s the fight you’re going to see. It’s gonna be a sick fight. That’s all I can say,” Johnson said. “I can’t talk about me getting frustrated. I really don’t care if people are like, ‘He sucks. I’m not buying that card.’ I’m like, ‘Good for you. Go watch something else.’ That’s totally fine.”