Once upon a time, a disclosed million-dollar paycheck was virtually unheard of for a fighter competing under the Ultimate Fighting Championship banner.
While such payouts are still quite rare, they have begun to surface a little more frequently in recent months -- but only for the promotion’s biggest stars. This summer alone, Brock Lesnar, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz all earned $2 million or more for their work in the Octagon.
While Demetrious Johnson doesn’t possess the sheer star power of any of those three, his accomplishments in the UFC are nearly unrivaled, and he and Jon Jones are two of the fighters most often mentioned at the top of pound-for-pound lists. “Mighty Mouse” is open to big fights outside 125 pounds -- including one against current bantamweight king Dominick Cruz -- but he also hopes his work in the flyweight division will eventually yield more lucrative rewards.
“I’m gonna keep on fighting the flyweight division. I’ve beaten the best guys already,” Johnson said on UFC Tonight. “I’ve beaten 1 and 2 and 3, I’ve beaten 1 and 2 multiple times, No. 2 is at bantamweight. Right now it’s about building that wealth, keep on making this money. Eventually if that big fight presents itself….I’m searching for that seven-figure payday.”
The reigning 125-pound champion was supposed to face Wilson Reis at UFC 201 on July 30, but a knee injury forced him to withdraw from that contest. Johnson plans to resume training soon as he awaits the winner of “The Ultimate Fighter 24” at the show’s finale on Dec. 3.
“The knee, it’s one of those things you’ve got to let it heal,” he said. “ I’m hoping to get back to training Sept. 13 and get ready for Dec. 3.”
While the crop of flyweight cast members on “TUF 24” features champions from a number of notable regional promotions, the season isn’t likely to produce a challenger more dangerous than the likes of Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson or Henry Cejudo, all of whom Johnson has handled with relative ease in recent outings. Still, the AMC Pankration product claims that he will not lack for motivation when a new challenger emerges.
“It’s a paycheck. I always tell people, if you’re not going to take your opponent seriously, always take your paycheck seriously,” Johnson said. “Because the next time you fight, if you didn’t take this guy seriously, your paychecks aren’t going to have as many zeroes behind them. So for me I’m always focused, I’m a self motivated person and I’m ready to go out there and beat whoever the winner is.”
As far as Cruz, Johnson says he has talked with the 135-pound titlist about a future matchup. Before the UFC introduced a flyweight division, Cruz defeated “Mighty Mouse” handily in a five-round encounter in a championship bout in 2011. It remains Johnson’s only defeat in the Octagon to this day.
”It was definitely a tough fight. Obviously I’ve been [improving] leaps and bounds [since] that... I’d rather submit my legacy by having 14 title defenses [at flyweight].
“Dom’s not going anywhere. He’s gonna be at 135. I’ll hop up there and if the money’s right we’ll do it. Me and Dom have talked about this occasionally, and we want to make big money.”