UFC champ Demetrious Johnson knew belt wasn't safe even before Silva loss


UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (17-2-1 MMA, 5-1-1 UFC) will walk into the cage next week at UFC on FOX 8 to defend his belt against challenger John Moraga (13-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC), and already he knows one outcome of the fight in advance.

Win or lose, Johnson will wind down from the rigors of fight camp by spending time with his wife and, perhaps, a new son. He’ll get back in the gym and start training, like he always does. And he’ll wait for the next fight, whether it be a title or non-title fight, name opponent or otherwise.

Keep the belt or not, he’s resolved to both possibilities.

“So far, it’s kept me to a point where if I lose the belt, I don’t go into deep depression,” Johnson told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “You have fighters that say, ‘There’s no way I’m going to lose this fight.’ Then when they do lose, ‘Oh my god, I lost.’

“I don’t need to do that. I know the reality of this sport, and absolutely, I go out there and finish him. That’s possible, and it’s also possible I could lose this fight. But I trained my butt off and I did everything in my power to come out with the victory. But I know the reality of things.”

UFC on FOX 8 takes place July 28 at KeyArena in Seattle. The event’s main card airs live on FOX following prelims on FX and Facebook.

In a sport full of unrestrained optimists, Johnson very much believes in keeping a level head. He’s worked day jobs for most of his career in MMA and thinks a job at Costco is in his future when he hangs up his gloves. Working a day gig is something he’s not yet willing to imagine his life without, and perhaps because he’s king of the UFC’s smallest division, perhaps he shouldn’t.

In the octagon, his mindset of pushing hard and releasing himself from the weight of outcomes has helped him to thrive in a weight class where the action moves in the blink of an eye. He’s beaten three of the flyweight division’s best, Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson, and won four out of six under the Zuffa banner as a bantamweight.

At UFC on FOX 8, he’s a 4-to-1 favorite to retain his belt against Morgaga, who rides a seven-fight win streak and has never been stopped in the cage.

But it didn’t take Johnson watching the fighter he considers to be the greatest of all time, Anderson Silva, get knocked out by Chris Weidman to enforce the belief that his gold could be taken away in a split second.

“I’ve always felt like that,” Johnson said. “This is a sport where you have a small opportunity to take advantage of everything you can. If you lose the title, or you lose a fight, the belt has nothing to do with it. You lose a fight, next thing you know, things can turn for the worse.”

The fleet-footed Johnson has been accused of fighting to score points rather than finish, and has yet to finish an opponent in the UFC. Even Moraga has called him “boring” and accused him of avoiding a fight. But like those sudden momentum shifts inside the cage, he believes he could change minds with a finish or two. He’d be the first to stop Moraga, who’s lost but once by decision to Dodson.

Johnson is also open to a variety of possibilities when it comes to who he fights next. You won’t see him complaining about Moraga’s level of exposure or worthiness as a title contender, nor will he crow about whether he’s fighting on pay-per-view or free TV, where he’s quickly becoming a staple.

If he’s asked to return to bantamweight to fight Dominick Cruz, he won’t raise an objection. Part of the job, he said, is to be flexible.

“I don’t get to pick or choose my opponents, or ‘I’m not fighting him, nobody knows who he is; people in your company don’t even know who this guy is,’” Johnson said. “I was at that point in my career where nobody knew who I was, (and) I just did my best to fight, and (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby threw me on the main cards to fight some big names, and it just so happened to work out for me.”

The point for Johnson is not that he be in charge of the intangibles of his career, but rather all the things he’s able to control, which is how he fights. Right now, he’s going to see where that takes him. The only thing he’s expecting after next Saturday is a brief pause from his lively footwork.

For the latest on UFC on FOX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie.com Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, MMAjunkie.com lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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