UFC on FOX 8 main-eventer and flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson holds the dubious honor of being the only current champ to never have headlined a pay-per-view event. But that could change soon, according to UFC President Dana White.
“[Johnson] has been on a lot of big cards,” White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “He’s going to fight on FOX again, and we’re in the building phase of that division. So the answer is yes.”
The 125-pound division made its debut in March 2012 with an unofficial four-man tournament to crown the UFC’s inaugural flyweight champ. Although delayed by a botched score early on in the competition, Johnson won the title this past September with a split call over Joseph Benavidez and in January defended the belt with a unanimous score over John Dodson.
When he won the belt, Johnson (17-2-1 MMA, 5-1-1 UFC) played second fiddle to light heavyweight champ Jon Jones and Vitor Belfort, who headlined UFC 152. But he went on to main-event UFC on FOX 6 in Chicago. A reported 5.2 million viewers tuned in to watch him beat Dodson opposite four college basketball games, an NBA game and the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
For his second attempted title defense, which takes place July 27 at Seattle’s KeyArena, the UFC hopes Johnson’s Pacific Northwest roots will pack the house, and FOX viewers will continue to be won over by the flyweight’s speed and athleticism against challenger John Moraga (13-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC). This time around, the summer event airs opposite drag racing, baseball and soccer.
Lighter-weighted title bouts are one way to bolster the strength of UFC cards broadcast on FOX, which now is in the second year of a seven-year deal with the fight promotion. However, they aren’t believed to have the same potential windfall for champions, who typically share in the profits of pay-per-view events.
For his part, Johnson has said he’ll continue to perform at his best, whether on pay-per-view or network TV.
The UFC’s flyweight division, however, has the smallest roster of any division in the UFC, and most observers say that’s a reflection of a lack of interest in smaller fighters. White, though, said he’s happy with the number of fighters in the class.
“I loved the last fight; the last fight was awesome,” he said.
Johnson, however, has yet to finish an opponent since taking the belt. White once railed at fans who booed his fight with Benavidez, but said it’s a “fair question” to ask whether a knockout is the missing ingredient with flyweights.
“Benson Henderson has had fights that have gone to decisions,” he said. “Demetrious has gone to decisions. As long as it’s an exciting fight, there’s all different styles of fighters. Some guys go in there to knock people out, some guys pull off submissions, and some guys go to decisions but have exciting fights.
“The last fight with Demetrious was an awesome fight. So I don’t know the answer to that question.”
For the latest on UFC on FOX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Demetrious Johnson)