When you watch UFC flyweight champion Demetrius Johnson fight, it’s a thing of beauty.
He’s miles ahead of his competitors inside the octagon. He breaks their will and their spirit. Then he crushes their hopes and dreams of dethroning him to become the flyweight champion — whether it’s knocking out 2012 Olympic wrestler Henry Cejudo at UFC in April 2016, making top contender Joseph Benavidez crumble to the mat at UFC on Fox in December 2015, or submitting Brazilian Ji-Jitsu black belt Wilson Reis without breaking a sweat.
Johnson (26-2-1) has won 12 consecutive fights and is tied with Anderson Silva for most consecutive title defenses at 10. The Washington state native is the consensus pound-for-pound best fighter in the world today. Looking at those credentials would lead one to believe he is one of the most popular fighters in the world and one of the biggest stars in the sport.
Unfortunately for Johnson, that isn’t the case. He’s fed up and is letting the world he isn’t happy with the way the UFC has been treating him.
In a statement released to MMAFighting.com on Monday morning, Johnson discusses his issues with the UFC, responds to Dana White for saying it’s “insanity” that Johnson won’t face former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw at UFC 215 in August in Seattle, and wants to fight Ray Borg.
“For years I have been a company man and kept quiet, accepting fights, doing as they asked, and always remaining humble and grateful for the opportunities provided to me through mixed martial arts. This is how I was raised through the sport. Unfortunately, UFC’s mistreatment and bullying has finally forced me to speak out. I’ve decided to speak out now as I feel like my values and character as a person and a fighter are being tarnished by an organization I’ve done nothing but sweat and bleed for over the last seven years of my life. If it takes me speaking up and encouraging other fighters to ban together to start getting fair treatment, then so be it.”
Johnson says new UFC matchmaker for the lower weight divisions, Mick Maynard, called him and offered the fight against Borg. The one and only 125-pound champion made a suggestion of Sergio Pettis because felt the younger brother of former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis brings better credentials to the table. Johnson claims Maynard got back to him and said White told him that Johnson had no choice but to take the Borg fight. Johnson agreed to it, but wanted future guarantees in terms of pay-per-view points. UFC president and head matchmaker Sean Shelby refused and told Maynard to tell “Mighty Mouse” he wouldn’t be getting PPV points for any future fights.
To make the matter worse, Shelby talked to Johnson and told him smaller fighters can’t make them any money.
“UFC Matchmaker Mick Maynard called and offered the fight vs. Ray Borg. I thought [Sergio] Pettis was a more marketable name and on a longer winning streak. Mick went back to Dana, then came back and told us that I had no choice, it was going to be Ray Borg, not Pettis, and there were no other options. That was the command from Dana and company. This would mean that my only chance at PPV points at flyweight was vs. Ray Borg. I said OK, but it’s not fair to make that my only chance at PPV points, when Cody Garbrandt is saying he wants to come down and fight me at flyweight, which was the fight I wanted. We told Mick that to be fair we would take the fight, but [we] want PPV points for future fights at flyweight. Mick agreed and said it was fair and didn’t see any problem with that situation. Mick spoke to Dana and [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby, who then told him to deny giving me any future PPV points for all of my future flyweight fights. Further, I still had to fight Ray Borg and they were giving me no other choice. I accepted the fight with Ray and decided to deal with the unfair situation and despicable treatment by Dana and Sean after I succeed in breaking the consecutive title fight defense record in my next fight vs. Borg. Mick thanked me for accepting the fight, knowing that I was being screwed over and mistreated by Dana and Sean.
“I wanted a reason for not being allowed any future PPV points. Sean Shelby called and told us how smaller fighters don’t sell, that UFC can’t make stars of anyone, and that a fight between Cody and I wouldn’t be a sellable fight. We disagreed. I think a fight between Cody and I would be popular if it was even given a small serving of the marketing efforts put into other big fights.”
Johnson then went on to explain why he feels the UFC hasn’t promoted him properly.
“UFC has failed to market and promote me appropriately. Prior to my last fight, where I tied the record for the most consecutive successful title defenses, we waited to re-post UFC’s social media posts about me from their Facebook page. There weren’t any posts until a few days into fight week, then, there were a total of two posts. In comparison to others who they promote across their social media platforms, they failed to do their job in promoting me and that monumental event. In my recent conversations, Sean and Dana have confirmed UFC’s lack of desire to put any effort into promoting us.
“In addition to the above, I want to address the lack of marketing and promotion of the flyweight division, even though Dana will claim otherwise. I would challenge that the UFC doesn’t even market the division. It’s been three years since the UFC launched three new divisions in two years (2012 to 2014) where they focused most of their marketing efforts to grow female mixed martial arts, which I understand. But, we are now three years post-launch, and the company continues to do the bare minimum in marketing the division well past the launch of these other divisions. As a fighter, I pay very close attention to the amount of marketing that goes into and around my fights and I can tell you that you’d be hard pressed to find much that has been done to promote me outside of TUF 24, which was minimal in comparison to other fights, fighters and shows. With me, the UFC chooses not to market the best fighter in the world and arguably the greatest fighter of all time. I can’t think of any other sports organization in the world that has the best player in the sport where the league, or the organization, doesn’t market that player to their loyal fan base to sell more of their product. Look at my track record for showing up to fights. Look at my track record of finishing fights. Look at my track record of getting fight night bonuses. Ask yourself if you think that if the UFC decided to truly put marketing dollars behind me that they couldn’t sell me or my fights.”
Johnson said that he and White discussed the situation. He said White became angry and told him that he would fight Dillashaw next, regardless of what he feels. White went on to say on a UFC-run podcast that Johnson was “insane” for not wanting to fight Dillashaw. Johnson believes Dillashaw should have to fight at flyweight. He also expressed concerns that Dillashaw wouldn’t make weight and wanted to be compensated if it doesn’t happen. Even with Maynard fighting for Johnson, Shelby and White wouldn’t budge. Johnson said he’s been bullied throughout his UFC career.
“After telling Dana my reasons, Dana angrily told me that I am fighting TJ, once again, with no other option or say in my career, and against the plans we had previously laid out. He went on further to say that if I didn’t take the fight against TJ, and drop Borg as the opponent, he would get rid of the entire flyweight division. He said, this is for TJ and I’m taking away TJ’s opportunity. That fact that he feels that what I should do in my career is for TJ, tells where his priority lies.
“Sorry Dana, my career is about Demetrious Johnson and my goals of fighting the best current flyweights, breaking the record of title defenses, going after the bantamweight champion after I have broken the record, and making money for my family. My career is not about doing for Dana’s buddy, who is neither a bantamweight champion or flyweight contender. We ended by disagreeing and left it there. The next day, Dana went to the media and announced that I was fighting TJ Dillashaw, in an obvious attempt to bully me in the media and tarnish my reputation. I posted a short statement letting people know that I had not agreed to the TJ fight, but had already agreed to fight Ray Borg, as demanded by UFC.
“Dana put up an interview stating that it was “insane” that I didn’t want to fight TJ, that “he makes the matches and that is the match he is making,” and, “You tell me why DJ doesn’t want to fight TJ,” trying to make it as though I am scared or ducking TJ Dillashaw.
“Mick spoke to me to try to change the offer from Ray to TJ. I told Mick that I thought TJ should fight once in the division first, prove he can make the weight and get a win at that weight, then fight me if I wasn’t already busy with Cody. Mick agreed that it made the most sense.
“Later Mick called again, as mandated by Dana, to try to make the fight with TJ and drop Ray. We told him that we didn’t think TJ would make the weight and the fight would be off since it would no longer be a title fight without TJ making weight. Mick said they guaranteed that TJ would make weight. We told him that since it was guaranteed by TJ and UFC was demanding and putting me in a bad circumstance, then it is fair that if TJ didn’t make weight, the fight would be off and I would still get my guarantee, plus TJ’s guaranteed pay. Mick said that Ray would be on the card and he could fill in if TJ didn’t make weight. We said, oh, then which one do I train for? I thought TJ guaranteed he was making weight. Is it a world championship with the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on earth, or an amateur tournament where I don’t know who I’m fighting until I get there. Obviously there was no guarantee and they just wanted to push me to do something that they knew wasn’t a good choice for my career. The “guarantees” that they made had nothing to back them up and they were unwilling to give a real guarantee to compensate me for all the damage I put on my body preparing for a fight that may not happen. The fact that they said Ray will be a backup shows the lack of respect they have for what we go through in preparing for a fight at this level.
“Mick went back to Dana and Sean, then came back and told us that they don’t agree with my request and I have to fight TJ with no guarantee to make weight or financial incentive if he doesn’t make weight. This is typical of the unfulfilled promises and bullying that has gone on through my UFC career.”
It’s hard to disagree with Johnson. It’s pretty evident that has been the case regarding Johnson and a lot of the fighters for a long time. It should be pretty easy to promote Johnson. He doesn’t snort cocaine, hit pregnant women with his car and run away, doesn’t drink, flash money all over the place or refuse to do media to build up a fight. He’s a devoted husband and a father of two, media friendly and willing to do anything to help promote the UFC.
The UFC promotes their favorites, such as Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones. And look at what happened? They became the biggest stars of the sport and it is by no accident.
The UFC has a great marketing team. If they put a fourth of their promotion into Johnson and the lower weight classes as they do McGregor, Rousey and Jones, Johnson and the other fighters can become some of the biggest stars of the sport.
He shouldn’t have to fight Dillashaw next. DIllashaw should prove he can even make the weight. And if he misses weight, he should get Dillashaw’s compensation.
At this stage of the game and for what he’s done for the sport, Johnson should be able to call his own shots. Other top fighters are, so why not Johnson? He isn’t asking for much.
It’s a shame how the UFC treats the best fighter on the planet. Hopefully White and UFC management realize this soon and start giving Johnson the respect he rightfully deserves. If not, he could be gone like the way he fights — in a flash.