Though Max Holloway beat all-time great Jose Aldo in a cracking scrap to lift the UFC featherweight title in Rio over the weekend, it is the story of the UFC’s standoff with flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson that seems to be generating the most discussion in the MMA world this week.
After the promotion’s president Dana White expressed confusion regarding Johnson’s disinterest in fighting former bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw last week, ‘Mighty Mouse’ fired back, accusing White and the UFC of tyranny, bullying and mistreatment in a statement released on Sunday. The long-reigning 125-pound champ claimed that he had been forced into accepting a fight with Ray Borg, though Johnson preferred a showdown with Sergio Pettis, before the UFC did a u-turn and tried to push him into a bout with Dillashaw.
Johnson, who is one win away from breaking Anderson Silva’s record for UFC title defences, had reservations about signing to face T.J., however.
“TJ has never fought at Flyweight and is unlikely to make the weight, which would then eliminate the possibility of breaking the title defense record,” Johnson wrote. “TJ is not a flyweight or a current champion in another weight class and was KO’ed by the flyweight [John Dodson] whom I beat twice already.”
After Johnson had made his case to UFC brass, White apparently threatened to shut down the flyweight division entirely if ‘Mighty Mouse’ refused to fight Dillashaw.
At a later point in negotiations, after being given a ‘guarantee’ that Dillashaw would make the 125-pound flyweight limit, Johnson said that he was willing to consider taking the fight if the UFC met certain conditions. If T.J. missed weight, suggested Demetrious, the fight would be called off but he would still be paid his guarantee, plus Dillashaw’s.
The UFC refused to meet Johnson’s demands, adding that he must take the fight anyway and that he will not be financially compensated should Dillashaw fail to make weight.
If Johnson’s account of events is entirely accurate, one can certainly see why he chose to use the word “tyrannical” to describe the behavior of White and matchmaker Sean Shelby.
(You can read Johnson’s entire statement here.)
The UFC has come in for a lot of criticism lately over their treatment of fighters, their frequent eschewing of rankings and their commitment to making ‘money fights’ above all else, often to the detriment of deserving contenders.
Johnson’s statement has only added fuel to this roaring fire.
Unsurprisingly, a number of Johnson’s peers have come out in support of the flyweight kingpin over the last couple of days.
The aforementioned Borg was one of them.
“He is respecting the division, and the rankings, by wanting to fight me,” Borg recently told MMA Junkie Radio.
“I think it’s proper for D.J. to fight the contenders in his division,” he added. “And then eliminate, do what he’s got to do. And then super fights can happen when it’s a champion vs. a champion.”
“I agree with D.J. and a lot of people that are saying that T.J. – although he’s going to be a serious competitor and things like that – is not a contender in the 125-pound division. He’s a contender in the 135-pound division. But not the 125-pound division.”
Others expressed their admiration and support through Twitter. Although, there were also a view dissenting tweets.
Below is a sample to the reaction…
@MightyMouseUFC the ufc fighters believe you and want to support you. Enjoy your vacation and heal up, hopefully we'll talk soon.
— Leslie Smith (@LeslieSmith_GF) June 5, 2017
Most fighters think all their problems will be solved once they are champs. We all deserve respect, not just champs like @MightyMouseUFC
— Leslie Smith (@LeslieSmith_GF) June 6, 2017
— kajan johnson (@IamRagin) June 6, 2017
@MightyMouseUFC you are incredible. Best champ the UFC has ever had. Keep the moral high ground.
— Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) June 6, 2017
This a cut throat business and the image that all you fans have on how things work is 100% wrong.
— Ray Borg (@tazmexufc) June 5, 2017
— Roy Nelson (@roynelsonmma) June 5, 2017
— #UFC214 #LetsGoChamp (@criscyborg) June 6, 2017
I think I'll fight at 135 if they close it! The lack of respect for the flyweights, is shitty. That's just how shit goes!
— Tim Elliott (@TElliott125) June 6, 2017
Might not have a job after all this but I'm glad somebody spoke up. https://t.co/D3Nkzmbb4K
— Ben 10 Nguyen (@Ben10MMA) June 5, 2017
Although I really would like to see DJ vs TJ, they're doing,one of the best ever, a huge disservice treating him & the division this way https://t.co/FSYfStYMrY
— Zachary Makovsky (@ZachFunSize) June 5, 2017
— Henry Cejudo (@HenryCejudo) June 5, 2017
DJ has been promoted the same as anyone.Main events on Fox,TUF,Dana himself saying he's the best etc.not UFC's fault no one cares about him.
— Peter Queally (@peterqueally) June 6, 2017
He complains & complains but now given a chance to get what he wants and have a fight EVERYONE is excited to see, he is running from it. ?? https://t.co/qT5vkWdSiF
— Peter Queally (@peterqueally) June 7, 2017
U can have great achievments but if u grass on people that made u, u are nothing but a rat for the rest of your life #MightyRat
— Artem Lobov (@RusHammerMMA) June 7, 2017
— Jarred Brooks (@The_monkeygod) June 5, 2017