As Michael Johnson gears up for a crucial lightweight main event with Justin Gaethje on Friday at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, he said he sees an empty spot at the top of the division.
Conor McGregor still officially holds status of UFC lightweight champion. However, the Irishman hasn’t defended the belt since he won it this past November, and is less than two months away from crossing over into the boxing ring for a heavily hyped showdown with Floyd Mayweather on Aug. 26.
Johnson (17-11 MMA, 9-7 UFC), who meets Gaethje (17-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) in the FS1-televised headliner following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, said he views McGregor’s (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) title as vacant, and he plans on going after it.
“We don’t have a champ in this division,” Johnson told MMAjunkie. “Once Conor signed that contract to go box, to me, he vacated the title. That’s how it should be. I’ve beaten two of the top guys up there. I want to make a strong case for fighting for a title or an interim title. I think that’s in my future.”
Johnson, No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, said he plans on making a statement at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale. “The Menace” was tasked with welcoming former WSOF champ and No. 7-ranked Gaethje to the organization, and the tension between the two is evident.
Although Johnson said he enjoys watching Gaethje’s brawling style, he is adamant it won’t work against him. Johnson believes he’s fighting Gaethje because the UFC newcomer thought he could take out an easy target for his first octagon appearance, but in practice, he said that’s not going to work out.
“I feel like they looked at the top 10 and were like, ‘We want Michael Johnson, he’s the easiest guy in there to fight,'” Johnson said. “I feel tested. That’s my motivation, that’s where it’s coming from. It’s his first fight in the UFC. I don’t need to make him nervous. He’s nervous enough already.
“He’s fought guys who have been everywhere around the world, who have been in promotions, who have been champions, but he’s fought them at the end of the rope. I’ve fought the best of the best in the middle of their prime. I’ve lost to some, I’ve beaten some. He’s been around the corner, but I have as well. My competition blows his out of the water.”
Johnson is coming off a second-round submission loss to No. 2-ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 205 in November. Prior to that fight, he earned one of the signature wins of his career, knocking out Dustin Poirier in the first round of September’s UFC Fight Night 94 headliner.
Chances to headline a UFC card don’t come often, and Johnson said the fact the UFC has placed him on the top of the lineup for the third time is evidence of faith in his ability. Now it’s time to transfer that into the octagon, and Johnson said that won’t be hard against Gaethje, whom he appears to genuinely dislike.
“I’m starting to release more of Michael Johnson,” Johnson said. “I think I’ve kind of played the good guy slash company role whose not really going to start much (expletive). But now I just did (some talking) to get under his skin a little bit and show my personality a little bit more. I just wanted to see how he would react and he did exactly what we thought he was going to do.”
For more on The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, as well as “The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor,” check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
view original article >>
Most of us can't understand the stress of stardom for the likes of Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, so it's no surprise that they sometimes find solace in each other. read news >>
UFC boss Dana White has told TMZ Sports that former boxer Floyd Mayweather is keen to try his hand at MMA and Conor McGregor would love to be his first opponent inside the Octagon... read news >>
UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor issued a heartfelt message to friend and inspiration Arnold Schwarzenegger after the former bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-governor underwent successful heart read news >>
Tony Ferguson has dream fights like everybody else in the UFC but he might be one of the few people who doesn't seem to care much about ever facing Conor McGregor. As it turns out, Ferguson is happy read news >>
If Tony Ferguson wins at UFC 223, a fight with Conor McGregor would be logical. But it’s not the fight in which he’s most interested. read news >>
? (Subscribe to MMAWeekly.com on YouTube) When asked about his thoughts on Conor McGregor should get the first shot at the winner of the UFC 223 main event between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomed read news >>
Most fighters will say that training is much harder than actually stepping in the cage and fighting. That certainly holds true for Artem Lobov, who trains with the most famous fighter in the world. L read news >>
You remember Conor McGregor, right? “The Notorious” hasn’t fought in the UFC since November 2016. While we wait for his return, look back. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 …20 read news >>
Ronda Rousey has been one of the hottest topics in combat sports over the last few days â€” but not for her upcoming match at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans... read news >>
We can thank Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather’s mega-boxing match last August for all this. read news >>
No. 14 ranked lightweight Evan Dunham believes champion Conor McGregor will be back in the octagon this year. read news >>
The UFC’s bantamweight roster appears to have a new addition: LFA champion Ricky Simon. read news >>
Who better to look at this fight than a man who has been in the Octagon with both of them? Other fighters have faced both, but none had the success of Michael Johnson. He details what he expects to s read news >>
“Going into the fight, a big thing that really did get rid of the jitters was being on TUF and having that exposure,” Dobson said. “We fought 20 feet from Dana White. We fought in front of a very imp read news >>
Victory FC will touch down just outside Chicago next month, and there are some solid names at the top of the bill. read news >>
UFC lightweight Joe Duffy remembers a backstage run-in with Conor McGregor and what he said to defuse an argument. read news >>