Not only did Demetrious Johnson lose his flyweight belt at UFC 227, but he also emerged from his bout against Henry Cejudo with a couple of potential injuries.
Johnson’s record-breaking title reign came to an end in a split-decision setback to Cejudo in Saturday’s co-headliner at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. “Mighty Mouse” was the only flyweight champion the UFC had ever known, and his run had established him as one of the sport’s premier pound-for-pound fighters. Johnson hadn’t tasted defeat since Oct. 1, 2011, when he dropped a five-round verdict to Dominick Cruz in a bantamweight clash at UFC Live 6.
“I’m fine. Losing happens. Every great champion loses,” Johnson said at the UFC 227 post-fight press conference. “I’ve lost before when I fought Dom. I lose in the gym. I’m more upset about the injuries, but other than that, I’m OK.”
Johnson believes he suffered a pair of injuries over the course of his 25-minute encounter with Cejudo.
“I think I tore my right LCL and my right foot might be broken,” Johnson said.
“I think the right LCL probably happened in the second or third round. I remember we were scrambling and I maybe shot and he kind of pushed me over and I rolled on my right knee. I felt a pop and I was like, ‘There goes the right LCL. Fantastic.’ And then the foot that’s from just kicking and kicking and kicking.”
Johnson posted an image of his swollen foot on Sunday. The AMC Pankration standout held an 81-to-51 advantage in significant strikes landed, including a 39-to-4 edge in leg kicks. Still, it appeared that Cejudo’s wrestling was the difference maker in their rematch (Johnson defeat Cejudo via first-round TKO in April 2016).
“The first time we just fought. This time he was more patient…I could feel each time he would get the takedown, he would just hold, hold, hold,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t like he’d posture and pass my guard, get a submission game going….It happens. I don’t think the judges know how to score leg kicks, but it is what it is.”
In most cases, Johnson’s resume would seem to warrant an immediate rematch. Depending on the nature of those injuries, “Mighty Mouse” might not want to jump right back into a trilogy bout against Cejudo.
“It wasn’t like he blew me out of the water,” Johnson said. “I need to get healthy first. My health is No. 1. I’m not gonna sign a contract if I can’t get through eight weeks of training camp to get ready for a fight. First things first, I’m gonna get home, get an MRI on my knee, my foot and see what the damage is. Go from there.”
Not every champion handles defeat as gracefully as Johnson. He was able to put things in perspective nicely in the aftermath of UFC 227.
“It was a great streak. It’s not over yet. I do it because I love it,” Johnson said. “I already way exceeded expectations. I was a guy in a warehouse making $10.76 an hour, running home to watch Joseph Benavidez fight Dominick Cruz. My dream was never to be a world champion. My dream was just to learn how to do mixed martial arts. When I did that, I became passionate about it and this is the path that it led me on.”