After four straight wins, Michael Johnson knows who he wants next. | File photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Michael Johnson returned to the Octagon in impressive fashion at UFC Fight Night “Mir vs. Bigfoot,” defeating Edson Barboza via unanimous decision.
Johnson had not competed for 11 months but showed no signs of Octagon rust, as he took the fight to Barboza for 15 minutes. For Johnson, the win was a testament to the hard work he puts in at Jaco Hybrid Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla.
“I felt really good. I felt extremely confident... I train at the best MMA gym in the world, the Blackzilians down in South Florida. I fight every day of the week. Every time I’m in there,” Johnson told Fox Sports 1 after the fight. “I just didn’t take 11 months off where I was sitting on the couch. I recovered from my injuries, I got back in the gym, I helped guys get ready for fights. I started preparing myself and it showed. I don’t believe in ring rust. I fight every day, and it’s just another day in the gym.”
Leading up to his fight with Barboza, “The Menace” had publicly questioned the chin of his opponent. While Barboza did showcase his ability to take a punch, Johnson made sure the muay Thai stylist’s chin was constantly tested throughout Sunday’s co-main event.
“It was a good one. It was a perfect game plan, except for the knockout. I’m not gonna sit here and say, ‘Oh, I wish I could have did things better,’ but I stayed composed. I stayed the pressure for 15 minutes, which was exactly what I wanted to do,” Johnson said. “I got out of here with the victory. It looks like I didn’t get touched and he’s pretty beat up from what I can tell, so, a job well done.”
Much is made about Barboza’s quickness, but Johnson believes he showcased his ability in that category. In fact, the 28-year-old implored any competitor in his weight class with doubts to test him.
“From the beginning of the week, I told everyone I’m the faster fighter. I think I’m the fastest guy in the division, and I’m willing to test that against anybody,” Johnson said. “Everybody says Edson’s the most deadly striker in the division and he’s the fastest guy. Well, I just put all that talk to rest by going out there and dominating him for three rounds. So if anybody else thinks they’re faster than me, come on and sign on the dotted line and test it.”
Johnson announced during his post-fight interview that he’d like a scrap with former lightweight champion Benson Henderson, who recently moved up to 170 pounds for a short-notice fight. It remains unclear whether “Smooth” will return to 155, or if his win against Brandon Thatch will keep him at welterweight.
“He’s been at the top of the division forever. He’s one of the greatest lightweights in the world. He just went up to welterweight and dominated. He’s the only guy open for a fight. Everybody else has got fights,” Johnson said. “It’s nothing personal. If anybody else was open, I would have called them out. He’s open. He’s ready. He’s at the top of the division so that’s the smartest choice for me.”