(This story appeared in today’s edition of USA TODAY.)
SEATTLE – For most new parents, the first week after their child’s birth is one of great joy, a time to celebrate a new life and the growth of a family. For UFC flyweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson, that week will include a five-round prizefight with his belt on the line.
“I’ve never gotten in the octagon, regardless of the circumstances, and not been in shape and prepared to fight,” Johnson told USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “So I’ve made arrangements. It’s not like I was in the hospital eating chicken tenders and french fries. I’m going to handle my business as a married husband and take care of my responsibilities, but I’m also going to handle my business as UFC champion.”
Johnson (17-2-1 MMA, 5-1-1 UFC), a Washington state native and resident, puts his 125-pound title on the line Saturday against top contender John Moraga (13-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) in the headlining bout of UFC on FOX 8, at Seattle’s KeyArena. The four-fight main card airs on Fox (8 p.m. ET) following prelims on FX (5 p.m. ET).
Johnson’s wife, Destiny, gave birth on Friday to the couple’s first child, son Tyren. Johnson briefly broke training camp to enjoy the occasion, but insists his 12 weeks of intense preparation wasn’t affected by the short hiatus. Incredibly, balancing his pre-fight readiness with his wife’s pregnancy might not have even been the most difficult hurdle to overcome.
It was four months ago that Johnson, 26, had shoulder surgery to repair multiple labrum tears. Still, “Mighty Mouse” insists he’s 100 percent heading into his second title defense.
“I know it’s a fast turnaround with me getting back into it, but honestly, I had a good surgeon, and I listened to my coaches and just took my time with this injury,” Johnson said. “We hammered the physical therapy pretty hard, but when it came to relaxing and healing and all that stuff, I made sure to take precautions. Now I’m back in there to fight.”
In Moraga, Johnson faces an opponent who, though relatively unknown to the casual fan after two UFC appearances, boasts an impressive blend of wrestling prowess and durability, plus knockout power. Moraga, who trains alongside UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson at Arizona’s MMA Lab, has also criticized Johnson, labeling the champ’s style as “boring” and unwilling to put on “fights the fans want to see.”
Johnson is aware of the criticism, but the even-keeled champ said this hasn’t become a grudge fight.
“I don’t let it affect me,” Johnson said. “That’s his opinion, and everybody is entitled to his opinion. At the end of the day, July 27, we’re going to step into the octagon and fight.”
On Saturday, Johnson will make the 30-minute drive from his home in Kirkland, Wash., to KeyArena, where all the variables will be put to the test. While it seems Johnson’s road to the event has been paved with pitfalls and distractions, he insists everything is going according to plan.
“My training was good, my family is good, weight is good – everything is just really good,” Johnson said. “On Saturday, I’m going to just go up the street, fight, and drive back home.”
For the latest on UFC on FOX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.