At the moment, it doesn’t appear as though any more challenges exist for Demetrious Johnson in the flyweight division.
After steamrolling Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo in less than three minutes in the UFC 197 co-headliner on Saturday night, the champion has defeated virtually everyone of note in the flyweight top 10. As far as “Mighty Mouse” is concerned, all paychecks are created equal, and that alone is enough for him to continue living up to the lofty standard he has set.
“When I truly say this is how I pay my bills, I take that very seriously,” Johnson said at the post-fight press conference. “I don’t care if it’s Henry Cejudo for a second time, Joseph [Benavidez] for a third, or [John Dodson] for a third. This is how I pay my bills. I don’t need any motivation to fight a brand new person or anything.”
Cejudo was never competitive against Johnson. Although he landed an early takedown, Johnson quickly returned to his feet and took control. The champ changed the course of the fight by blasting his foe with a knee in the clinch that literally took Cejudo’s breath away.
“I did believe i was gonna dominate the clinch coming from a wrestling background. I felt really strong. It was that first knee that he hit me with. It was that one knee that really did it,” Cejudo said. “When you get hit to the body, you don’t worry about your face no more. I just started trying to protect my body, hanging my head down. I underestimated his clinch and he hit me to the body on both sides. The plan was to take him there and slowly wrestle him, but that knee was the difference.”
From that point, it was academic, and Johnson put his reeling adversary away 2:49 into round one, the second-fastest finish of his professional career. As his stranglehold on the division grows stronger, the superlatives used to describe his place in the sport do the same.
“I think he’s ridiculously, incredibly talented,” UFC President Dana White said on Fox Sports 1. “He went in against an undefeated Olympian and made it look easy. He continues to attack you. If you give him any small space he’s gonna hit you with something. He’s awesome. I agree with [UFC analyst] Joe Rogan, he’s the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world.”
According to Johnson, the best is yet to come.
“I don’t believe I’m at my peak yet,” he said. “I believe I”m still getting better. I went through a lot of stuff in this camp. I got a root canal. I thought I had a stomach ulcer. My coaches are always pushing me to become a better martial artist. Hopefully I can get back to the gym, get my blue belt in Brazlilian jiu-jitsu and keep chugging along.”
The upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter” was supposed to produce the next 125-pound No. 1 contender, but tryouts for the reality show were recently canceled. White was non-committal regarding the possibility of Johnson’s next foe still emerging from a “TUF” cast.
“We’re working on that. When we were doing the tryouts we were gonna see what was out there,” White said. “The big question is, who in the world can beat Demetrious Johnson? That’s the question. We’re working on it.”
Perhaps a more interesting possibility is a return to bantamweight for Johnson, who lost a five-round verdict to Dominick Cruz in a bid for the 135-pound strap in October 2011. That was also the last time “Mighty Mouse” tasted defeat in the Octagon. While Johnson isn’t opposed to a rematch with Cruz, he still has his sights set on a milestone at 125 pounds.
“I’ve never shied away from that fight with Cruz. My biggest goal is to break that title defense record of Anderson Silva,” Johnson said. “I believe I can do it. For me to go off and detour on a different route, [something] is gonna have to really make we want to do it. I fought at 135 before. I’m a small guy. I’m not afraid of that fight.”
With challengers scarce at 125 pounds, White hinted that the promotion is doing its best to make life at least a little more difficult for Johnson. He wouldn’t say if a change in weight class was part of the plan.
“We’ll see. Obviously something needs to be done with this guy because he’s beat everybody in that top 10, some of them more than once,” White said. “We’re working on that.”