It has been a while since Demetrious Johnson last tasted defeat -- 2,055 days, to be exact -- but the reigning UFC flyweight king constantly imagines what it might be like to be on the losing end of a fight again.
“You know, people say, ‘I visualize myself at this point.’ I visualize myself losing most of the time just because I've seen so many champions lose, and they don't know how to take it,” Johnson recently told Sports Illustrated. “Their whole world is upside down: ‘Oh, my God, what am I going to do?’
“You look at Ronda Rousey. You got your ass beat, grow the f--k up. It happens. It's mixed martial arts. I don't want to be like that. If I lose, I'll be like, I lost.”
Rousey, of course, enjoyed a meteoric rise to superstardom as the first female champion in UFC history. With victories in her first 12 MMA appearances – most of them inside of a round – “Rowdy” was often the subject of hyperbole, which led to a monumental fall when she suffered her first defeat, a second-round knockout loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193.
The Olympic judoka went off the grid for the better part of a year before returning to the Octagon at UFC 207. The results were no better, as Rousey was obliterated in 48 seconds by reigning bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes. Again, Rousey didn’t handle adversity especially well. She did not do any post-fight media after the event and has largely flown under the radar since then. Her biggest MMA-related announcement was her engagement to UFC heavyweight Travis Browne.
While Rousey hasn’t officially retired, many within the sport, including UFC President Dana White, seem to think she is done with fighting. Still, Johnson believes Rousey could have handled defeat more gracefully.
“Everybody f---ing loses. It's part of the sport. Grow up. Look, Ronda, you lost two f---ing fights in a row, and you made more f---ing money than the women's roster,” Johnson said. “You'll be fine, don't worry about it.”
Johnson is regarded as perhaps the finest pound-for-pound talent in the sport today, and should he win his next fight, he will break Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive UFC title defenses. But the AMC Pankration standout still remembers both of his losses, once of which was a five-round defeat to Dominick Cruz in a bantamweight championship bout in October 2011.
“When I had that feeling is when I fought Brad Pickett [at WEC 48], and I never thought I could ever lose. That was back in 2010 when I broke my hand and I lost. I cried and I cried,” he said. “Then I was like, ‘I'm never going to feel that again.’ Then when I lost to [Cruz], I cried a little bit. I was like, ‘It's part of life, you're going to f---ing lose, I'm over it.’ I came home and nothing changed. Nothing changed. Nobody said, ‘You f---ing suck, blah, blah, blah.’ When I started to win, nothing still changed. The only thing that changed is people started to recognize me more. So now that's my mindset.”