Despite earning three straight victories in UFC on FOX headliners, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson doesn’t think he’s above competing on the network-televised event series.
Johnson (19-2-1 MMA, 7-1-1 UFC) most recently appeared in the main event of UFC on FOX 9 this past Saturday, Dec. 14, when he scored a highlight-reel knockout win over top contender Joseph Benavidez (19-4 MMA, 6-2 UFC) at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena.
The performance marked the first knockout victory of Johnson’s UFC/WEC career – and perhaps sent the message that it’s time for spectators to dish out some cash to see “Mighty Mouse” showcase his talents. Johnson, though, doesn’t see it that way.
“I like fighting on FOX,” he told MMAjunkie. “I don’t want to say I’ve graduated from there. It’s a great platform for me to get noticed by everybody, and I could do a lot more growing up on FOX as well.”
With seven of his nine UFC fights airing on some form of free television, Johnson’s been exposed to free- and cable-TV audiences more than a lot of athletes on the organization’s roster. Certainly more than most champions.
All of MMA’s great PPV draws had to start somewhere, and for Johnson, the FOX platform is his building block. While the likes of Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva have recently been the UFC’s major PPV draws, they have twice as many octagon appearances as Johnson. The champ is confident he’ll be in their company some day, but he isn’t necessarily in any rush to get there.
“[Pay-per-view] is a product of me fighting on FOX and hoping they like me,” Johnson said. “I know when GSP first came out, nobody knew who he was or liked him. But then eventually people started to grow to love him, and everybody loves GSP now.”
For Johnson to continue his rise, he needs to continue to build his legacy off the names of others. While Benavidez provided a known name, the burgeoning division doesn’t offer many others have that same type of recognition. The winner of an expected UFC 169 fight between John Lineker (23-6 MMA, 4-1 UFC) and Ali Bagautinov (12-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) could be next in line for the champ.
If that’s the case, Johnson just wants to see a quick fight with an injury-free winner so he can get back in the cage and resume his career, whether it’s on FOX or on PPV.
“I would love to get back in there maybe April,” Johnson said. “But it’s all up to the UFC. [Lineker and Bagautinov] fight Feb. 1, so hopefully somebody gets knocked out, and I can get back in there earlier.”
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