Demetrious Johnson’s name has never broken through to the mainstream in the way other longtime UFC champions like Chuck Liddell, Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva did during their title reigns.
Johnson’s place in history can be secured, however, with a victory over Wilson Reis in the main event of the UFC on Fox 24 card in Kansas City, Missouri, on Saturday night.
The bout headlines a network television card, which also features a women’s strawweight bout between Rose Namajunas and Michelle Waterson, that airs live at 5 p.m. Four fights from the preliminary card also will air on KVVU-5 at 3 p.m.
A win would give Johnson 10 consecutive defenses of the UFC flyweight title and tie him with Silva for the organization’s record. He is currently tied with St. Pierre at nine.
It’s a mark Johnson has talked about since first winning the belt in September 2012.
“For every champion, after you win the belt, you want to defend it as many times as possible,” Johnson said this week. “I want to beat his record.
“I’m sure there’s never been a champion that just said, ‘Hey, I’ve got the belt and I don’t care if I lose it in my next fight.’ Everybody wants to keep it as long as they can. I like being champion.”
Johnson, 30, is a massive minus-800 favorite to retain the belt. He has dominated all challengers at 125 pounds and has wins over all the top contenders, creating an opening for Reis to get a title shot despite a resume that may have a few gaps as UFC officials continue to search for worthy adversaries to perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Despite the betting number and the shot at history, Johnson isn’t feeling any pressure. When he first started fighting, he just wanted to find out how good he could get at it.
“I’ve already exceeded expectations,” he said.
Still, a loss would be incredibly disappointing.
Reis was supposed to get a shot at Johnson in July, but the champion had to pull out of the fight with a knee injury. Their paths will finally cross on the UFC’s first card in Kansas City.
While Reis has won six of eight fights in the UFC, he hasn’t fought any of the top three fighters in the division and has never knocked out an opponent.
It’s a big step up in class, but Johnson doesn’t think it will be easy.
“He comes from a great gym and he has great wrestling and jiu-jitsu,” Johnson said. “And he’s big for the division. We knew about him because we were preparing to fight him the last time. He went off and had two good fights. Now we’re just looking forward to actually making it happen.”
Contact Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.
UFC on Fox 24 main card
— Demetrious Johnson (25-2-1) vs. Wilson Reis (22-6), for Johnson’s UFC flyweight title
— Rose Namajunas (6-3) vs. Michelle Waterson (14-4), women’s strawweights
— Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (24-4, 1 No Contest) vs. Robert Whittaker (18-4), middleweights
— Jeremy Stephens (25-13) vs. Renato Moicano (10-0-1), featherweights