Michael Johnson: Taking Over the Featherweight Division
The saying goes that ‘It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog’ and those words couldn’t be truer when it comes to UFC contender Michael ‘The Menace’ Johnson (17-12). Following on from his participation in the perennial choice for ‘Fight of the Year’ as he ultimately lost out to Justin Gaethje, Johnson is now ready to begin his assault on the UFC Featherweight Division, and true to form, he’s jumping straight in at the deep end as he prepares to face off against Darren Elkins (23-5) at UFC Fight Night 124 in his hometown of St.Louis on January 14th 2018.
‘The Menace’ has never been one to run from a top contender, as can be seen from his recent run of fights which include Justin Gaethje, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dustin Poirier, Nate Diaz, Beneil Dariush and Edson Barboza. Taking some time out to speak to SpitballingPod, he said ‘I pride myself on being a guy that’s gonna go in there and fight the best guys – that’s why I’m in the sport. I’m not here to pick the easier fights, work my way up and pad my record’. To reference the aforementioned saying, the size of the fight in this ‘dog’ has never been in question and was aptly demonstrated when Johnson went toe-to-toe with undefeated Justin Gaethje back in July, and Michael wasted no time trying to pick up where he left off as he originally had called out the consensus pick for ‘best featherweight ever’ in Jose Aldo for his first fight in the division.
Speaking on whether a loss had really set him back too much in his last fight, Johnson replied ‘There are some people on the outside telling me that it didn’t really set me back as it was still a fight of the year, which is a plus; but it’s still a loss and a loss does set you back unfortunately. I’ll take what I’ve gotta take from it, and move on. I was in a bad position and I just know that I don’t ever wanna be in that position ever again’. Fight of the night contention is nothing new for the former college football player and former college wrestler, as he has previously recorded two ‘Fight of the Night’ awards, one ‘Knockout of the Night’ award and one ‘Performance of the Night’ award; ‘That’s exactly how I fight, that’s just my fighting style. I like to go in there and put on for the fans and the crowd. That’s what I’m there for, I’m there to fight and that’s very important to me’ he explained.
A simple look down the resume of ‘The Menace’ will show you that the title credentials clearly exist within, as he has recorded a win over now ‘UFC Interim Champion’ Tony Ferguson back in 2012, but this isn’t something that the man himself reads too much into. Upon my mention of the victory, he responded ‘It’s not much of an encouragement. I’ve been in the game a while so I know how far I can go as much as within the UFC, and I can definitely be the champ. With that being said, me and Tony fought years ago and we’ve both improved, he’s got a nice winning streak and now he’s the interim champ, so my hat’s off to him for accomplishing that. I’m not too far behind’.
In terms of where the 31 year old American will fit into the division, he had no doubts at all ‘I see myself being the Champ and taking over this division – that’s the reason why I’m coming down to the division. I’m coming down to get some new faces, become the champ and take over.’
At 6’3 it looks sure to be a difficult cut for the new contender, but he remains confident that it’s something he’ll manage, saying ‘I haven’t been that low in some years, but I’m very confident that I can make the weight, and that’s part of the job’.
Motivation is no issue for Johnson and when questioned on his reasons for fighting, he paused, before explaining that there are various factors – ‘Obviously you’ve gotta do something that provides for your family and puts food on the table, there’s always gonna be a financial motivation for everything that you do in life. With that being said, I love fighting, I love the sport and I’m my own boss. I control my destiny and where I need to go, and that’s what I love. I wouldn’t say money is secondary, because it never really is, but my main motivation is really being the best and doing what I love to do’.
The goal now for Johnson is clear, he wants to win a UFC title and finally have the ultimate prize to show that all of his previous wars were all worth it. He has plenty of new faces to pit himself against en route to his planned success, but it all starts on January 14th against Darren Elkins, and we wish him the best of luck.