Demetrious Johnson is on the verge of becoming the greatest champion in UFC history, yet it hasn’t prevented the organization and president Dana White from mistreating and bullying him, according to the flyweight star.
“Mighty Mouse” is one title defence away from breaking the record for most consecutive title defences set by Anderson Silva and is the consensus top pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts today. In fact, Georges St-Pierre recently told Sportsnet he believes Johnson is the “pound-for-pound the best of all time.”
Johnson, unbeaten since the UFC introduced its flyweight division in 2012, has made 10 successive title defences since winning the inaugural 125-pound belt that year. He is expected to face No. 3-ranked flyweight contender Ray Borg later this year, however the champ has been under pressure from White to take a different fight.
A bantamweight title bout between Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw scheduled for UFC 213 in July recently fell apart when Garbrandt suffered a back injury. Dillashaw, left stranded without an opponent, offered to move down to flyweight to challenge Johnson. This idea piqued the interest of White although Johnson was hesitant to accept.
White said last week on the UFC Unfiltered podcast it was “insanity” for Johnson to turn down a fight with Dillashaw.
“At the end of the day, you know how I am with that stuff, unfortunately for D.J. you don’t make the fights around here. I do,” White said. “So that’s the fight we’re pushing for. That’s the fight.”
This public callout didn’t sit well with Johnson.
“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,” Johnson wrote in a fiery 1,900-word statement published Monday morning by MMA Fighting. “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 [sic] together to start getting fair treatment, then so be it.”
Johnson had several concerns with the proposed Dillashaw bout. First of all, Dillasahw, a former 135-pound champion has never competed at flyweight so there’s no guarantee he would make the weight. If Dillasahw couldn’t make weight it would “eliminate the possibility of breaking the title defence record,” Johnson explained.
Second of all, according to Johnson, the UFC told him that even a hypothetical champion versus champion superfight with Garbrandt wouldn’t do well on Pay Per View so Johnson surmised taking on Dillashaw “would have no monetary upside.”
Lastly, he had already agreed to the matchup with Borg, “which UFC tyrannically demanded, while denying me any future PPV points,” he said. Initially, Johnson had tried making a case to UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard that a fight against rising star Sergio Pettis, the division’s No. 6 contender, would be more marketable than one with Borg.
“After telling Dana my reasons, Dana angrily told me that I am fighting T.J., 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 T.J., and drop Borg as the opponent, he would get rid of the entire flyweight division. He said, this is for T.J. and I’m taking away T.J.’s opportunity. That fact that he feels that what I should do in my career is for T.J., tells where his priority lies.”
Johnson went on to explain he was open to a fight with Dillashaw as long as the UFC made certain monetary guarantees should Dillashaw miss weight. The UFC didn’t agree to Johnson’s terms.
“Dana has made an effort to bully me in the media as well as in private, in order to get what he wants, even though it is not what is best for me or the sport,” Johnson said.
Johnson also expressed his frustration over the lack of overall support he has received from the UFC over the years.
“UFC has failed to market and promote me appropriately,” he said. “Prior to my last fight, where I tied the record for the most consecutive successful title defences, 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, [UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby] and Dana have confirmed UFC’s lack of desire to put any effort into promoting us (the flyweights).”
It’s generally uncommon for athletes in professional sports to be so openly critical about the organization that signs their cheques, yet this is an increasingly common trend among UFC athletes. Conor McGregor, Nick Diaz, and Silva are among the dozens of fighters to publicly rip into the UFC for various reasons in 2017 alone.
“With me, the UFC chooses not to market the best fighter in the world and arguably the greatest fighter of all time,” Johnson added. “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.”