Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson: Villain Or Hero?
By Ell McCullagh
It’s coming close to a week since One Championship officially announced the arrival of Mighty Mouse to their promotion, and the dust is finally beginning to settle.
Since the UFC willingly gave up the biggest draw the flyweight division had to offer. It has been commonly acknowledged that the division is coming to an end.
This can only be translated as the UFC having no faith in those left behind in a division Mighty Mouse ruled for over half a decade. It cannot be argued that the division isn’t filled with enough depth, as the organisation still continues to back a women’s 145lbs weight class which does not have enough willing participants to make a top 10 list.
The division simply isn’t good for business. The UFC as an organisation has always seemed reluctant to having a championship fight at flyweight headline a PPV, however this all appeared to change over the last 24 months.
Rumours had started circulating, and it was becoming quite clear a fight between flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw was in the works. This was instantly exciting people. The most popular podcasts surrounding MMA were all mentioning Mighty Mouse’s name and his division more than ever before. This was a buzz that the UFC couldn’t even replicate through hosting an entire TUF series. A series which wasn’t filled with inexperienced fighters but champions of other organisations. A belt holders only tournament between flyweights, where the winner would face off against the UFC’s flyweight king.
Why was this potential fight creating such a buzz? Because for the first time since September 2012, when Johnson won his title, people did not know if he could win. It would not have been unfair to consider him an underdog in this potential matchup. A fight TJ was willing to have on terms which would suit the 125lbs champ, this meant TJ going down in weight.
This isn’t a common occurrence in MMA history when talking about the all time greats looking to secure their legacy. We often see the potential all time great go up a weight for further challenges. We have seen this with Silva, Penn, DC, Conor, GSP and the same was expected and probably will happen with Jon Jones.
By TJ agreeing to come down to flyweight, it reduced the risk for Mighty Mouse, he wasn’t being asked to return to the heavier division, that had tarnished his almost immaculate record. But the outcome of the fight still remained unclear. By turning this opportunity down, opting to take continued, consistent paychecks and settling with his own validation, Johnson obstructed the division and capped its potential to grow beyond him.
Had Johnson taken this fight, there would have been a number of outcomes. Whether he would have won or not, the division would have been in a better position. The flyweight division would have either had a very legitimate champion in TJ, or an all time great in Demetrious Johnson who had done everything possible to prove the legitimacy of his weight class and those who compete at 125lbs. Not to mention the personal gain which was up for grabs. This is a fight which could have carried a PPV, a truly great main event.
Even at co-main event status, it would have been a fantastic one at that. It would have to be a magnificent matchup to top the true superfight of TJ vs Johnson. This would have only helped draw more eyes towards Johnson and his the division which he reigned over.
Instead, he opted to play the safer option and this therefore extended his ruling as champion, a great accomplishment nonetheless. Yet now the UFC is left with a division which has a great champion in terms of potential and accolades. A champion with two Golden Glove titles accompanied by a prestigious Olympic Gold Medal which was won while representing the U.S. in wrestling.
To think a division with such a champion cannot be sustained is a shock. But could this all have been different had the previous, and at that point the only champion of the division, had a little more ambition and hunger?