Demetrious Johnson is already knows where he wants to have his historic next Ultimate Fighting Championship title defense, but the question of when it might is presently clouded by minor injury concerns.
At “The Ultimate Fighter 24” Finale in Las Vegas on Dec. 3, Johnson earned his ninth successful 125-pound title defense in the Octagon, defeating Tim Elliott via unanimous decision. On the undercard, Johnson’s rival Joseph Benavidez earned a close split decision over 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo, which seemingly has firmed up a Johnson-Benavidez 3 bout headed into 2017.
Monday, Johnson spoke with MMA journalist Ariel Helwani on “The MMA Hour” and said that he expects to face Benavidez for a third time next year and would prefer to do so in Las Vegas. If Johnson retains his title next time out, it will give him 10 consecutive successful defenses of his UFC flyweight title, tying him with Anderson Silva for the UFC record.
“This is my job. The UFC calls and says, ‘Hey, this is who you’re going to fight,’ it’s OK,” Johnson told Helwani. “The only thing I ask is that I fight in Vegas. I want to break the record in Vegas. That’s where I think I perform my best and I have my best weight cut … This is the first time I’m saying, ‘I’m fighting in Vegas. I’m not fighting anywhere else.’”
Excluding UFC 207 on Dec. 30 mere weeks from now, the UFC’s next scheduled Las Vegas date is UFC 209, set for March 4 at the T-Mobile Arena. However, the typically active Johnson, who was scheduled to make an additional title defense in July against Wilson Reis before pulling out due to an undisclosed injury, wasn’t sure if he’d be able to pull off the three-month turnaround due to a possible lateral collateral ligament injury.
“That might be too soon. I’m going to go get an MRI possibly Tuesday or Wednesday,” Johnson revealed. “I think I might have had a little tear in my LCL in my right knee. It happened in the first round of the fight when we were grappling, I heard a little pop and I think I might have a pop or tear in the LCL.”
If Johnson’s self-diagnosis is reasonably accurate, “Mighty Mouse” may not be out of competition long, as first-degree LCL injuries typically require two to four weeks of healing time.
“I had a tear in my left knee, I know the feeling of it. It’s still swollen right now, when the swelling goes down I’ll have an MRI to make sure.”