Johnson’s only job to capture UFC title

Winning an Ultimate Fighting Championship title typically cements a fighter’s place in the sport of mixed martial arts and positively affects the remainder of his career.

For Demetrious Johnson, just getting a title shot has completely changed his life.

Upon learning he would face UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, Johnson made the decision to quit his job and become a “full-time fighter.”

“I thought, it’s a title fight and Dominick’s on a different level than anybody else, and I thought I owed it to the fans and myself and my family and all my training partners to train full time,” Johnson said.

The lightning-fast 25-year-old will fight the equally elusive Cruz tonight in Washington, D.C., in the main event of the UFC on Versus 6 card. It marks the first time a UFC belt will be up for grabs live on cable.

Johnson comes into this fight off his first training camp where he didn’t spend the day working at his construction job before training at night.

“I would go in the morning and run the machines, drive a forklift, dump scrap, carry (equipment) to the warehouse. I mean, it was a (labor-intensive) job and I did it for all my fights,” Johnson said. “I’d get home on Sunday (after a fight) and it wasn’t like, ‘Whoo, let’s go out and party.’ I had to wake up and go to work the next morning on Monday at 6 a.m. (after) I broke my leg against Miguel Torres.”

Despite suffering that injury during his last fight in May, Johnson won a somewhat controversial unanimous decision, vaulting him into this opportunity.

He might be one of the most anonymous fighters to get a shot at a UFC belt. Johnson never has been on a main card at a UFC event and was on one main card during his stint in World Extreme Cagefighting.

But after dropping his first WEC fight, Johnson has reeled off four straight wins, including two in the UFC, and put himself in position to challenge for Cruz’s belt.

Listed generously at 5 feet 3 inches, Johnson is the shortest fighter in the UFC. “Mighty Mouse” goes into the biggest fight of his life as a 5-to-1 underdog, a line that doesn’t surprise him.

“It’s just the way the world sees me. That’s the story of my life. Every fight I’ve come into I’ve been an underdog, and it doesn’t bother me at all,” Johnson said. “I look forward to getting in there with Dominick and just showing the world what I got.”

Cruz, 26, is an established star, especially coming off his title defense against Urijah Faber in the main event of UFC 132 in July. But he remembers when he was in Johnson’s situation.

“He’s considered an underdog, and I know how that feels,” Cruz said. “I came up very similar as him early in my career where I was working a full-time job and trying to juggle that at the same time as my fight career, and then you have all these naysayers that say you can’t do it, you can’t beat so-and-so or this guy’s the next one coming.

“I went out there and did it, so I just understand that that’s something he brings to the table and keeps in his mind all the time.”

Johnson plans on enjoying his time in the spotlight no matter how it turns out.

“In the back of my head, I can go out here and get absolutely destroyed, and the next thing I know I fight again and get destroyed again and the next thing, you know, I might be back in the warehouse working somewhere,” he said. “I’m going to go out there, and what do I got to lose? I’m going out there and (I’m going to) try to make a name for myself.”

The card, which airs live at 6 p.m. on Versus (Cable 38), also includes a heavyweight matchup between 6-10 Stefan Struve and 5-11 Pat Barry, the largest height discrepancy between two fighters in UFC history.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.

Covering The Cage Videos
UFC 236 Press Conference Highlights
UFC 236 will feature a pair of interim title fights. In the main event, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway will face lightweight contender Dustin Poirier and middleweights Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum will collide in the co-main event. UFC 236 will take place in Atlanta, Ga., on Apr. 13.
Jon Jones retains light heavyweight belt at UFC 235 - VIDEO
Jon Jones retained the UFC light heavyweight belt when he earned a decision over Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC 235.
Kamaru Usman crowned new champ at UFC 235 — VIDEO
Kamaru Usman became the first African-born fighter to claim a UFC belt when he defeated Tyron Woodley to become the promotion's new welterweight champion.
UFC 235 Official Weigh-in Results - VIDEO
All 24 fighters competing at UFC 235 at the T-Mobile Arena on March 2 stepped on the scale prior for the official fight card weigh-ins. All four fighters competing in the title bouts slated for the event made weight.
UFC's Jones says he has no shame after recent drug test results are released - VIDEO
Though recent drug test results still show trace amounts of Turinabol in his system, UFC light heayvweight champion Jon Jones says he has no shame and is hiding nothing as he prepares for his UFC 235 title bout against Anthony Smith.
Anthony Smith stays level-headed prior to UFC 235 title fight - VIDEO
Despite UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones being in the spotlight for drug test discrepancies and other outside the cage struggles, Anthony Smith says he is tuning out the noise and remaining focused on the challenge of beating the reigning champion in the cage.
UFC 235 Media Day Highlights
Highlights and staredowns from the top three fights on the UFC 235 fight card taking place at the T-Mobile Arena on March 2.
UFC 235 press conference highlights
UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman have a heated exchange and Ben Askren enjoys his time on the stage by interacting with UFC president Dana White.
UFC president Dana White talks UFC 235 and more
UFC president Dana White joined Heidi Fang and Adam Hill to discuss the UFC 235 card set for Las Vegas on Mar. 2 at the T-Mobile Arena and also spoke on Colby Covington and Khabib Nurmagomedov's and Conor McGregor's disciplinary measures given by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Full version available on Facebook at Review-Journal Sports
Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman Have Heated Exchange At UFC 235 Presser - VIDEO
UFC 235 opened with Jon Jones returning after his meeting at the Nevada Athletic commission, Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman arguing on stage and Ben Askren making his UFC debut.
NAC Chairman says it's time to tone down MMA smack talk ahead of fights
After announcing the fines and suspensions given to Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov for their involvement in a melee at UFC 229 in Las Vegas, Nevada Athletic Commission Chairman Anthony Marnell said it may be time to address "mouthy fighters" smack talk and conduct leading up to a fight.
Jones, NAC Chairman issue statements following Jones' licensing approval for UFC 235
The Nevada Athletic Commission issued UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones a conditional one-fight license to compete at UFC 235 taking place at the T-Mobile Arena on Mar. 2. Jones had to reapply for a license in Nevada after failing a drug test which led to UFC 232 being moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, California.
UFC donates $240,000 to Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada
UFC presents Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada with $240,000 donation and promises to grant more wishes as the partnership goes forward.
Benavidez on his new contract, future of the UFC flyweight division
UFC flyweight Joseph Benavidez, who is booked to fight Dustin Ortiz at UFC Fight Night 143 on ESPN Plus, discusses his role as an alternate for the title fight between T.J. Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo, his new 4-fight contract and the future of the 125-pound division.
Covering the Cage: Jones, Nunes win at UFC 232
Amanda Nunes defeats Cyborg in the women's featherweight division and Jon Jones returns to UFC as the light heavyweight champion. Covering the Cage host Heidi Fang and Adam Hill recap the UFC 232 main and co main events.
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing