Of the two men stepping into the Octagon on Saturday night (Sept. 22, 2012) to vie for the inaugural UFC flyweight title, Demetrious Johnson most definitely had the tougher road.
A former title challenger at bantamweight, "Mighty Mouse" had a controversial draw against Ian McCall in the semifinal tournament earlier this year in a bout several people argued that he'd lost.
Johnson silenced the critics in the rematch, soundly winning two of the three rounds to earn his title shot.
The AMC Pankration fighter will be stepping into the Octagon opposite Joseph Benavidez in the co-main event of UFC 152, but that wasn't always the case. Before the UFC 151 cancellation fiasco, he was slated to be the main event. Instead, he gave way to UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones.
Unbothered by the controversy, the 125 pound scrapper talked about his upcoming title opportunity during a recent appearance on Bloody Elbow Radio. He discussed what he's learned from his prior title fight experience and the dangers Joseph Benavidez brings to the table in this interview.
Check it out:
Matt Bishop: You had a pretty long camp for this fight, right?
Demetrious Johnson: Yeah, I never take time off between fights. I had the hernia scare and I had to give my body a chance to heal up. I brought in some great fighters like Bibiano Fernandes when he was preparing for his One FC main event.
Matt Bishop: Can you talk about that medical issue. I recall there was talk you needed surgery following the second Ian McCall fight earlier this year but now we're ready to roll.
Demetrious Johnson: It was a great fight against McCall. I was pretty banged up and bruised. I felt like my right hand was bothering me. I'd broken it twice before and I wanted to make sure it was totally 100 percent healthy. My main thing in my life is my health. I don't care about anything else other than my health because when I'm 45, I still want to be able to enjoy my life.
With the whole hernia scare, I had severe pain in my nether regions. I got it checked out and what it turned out had happened is the tubes that you would get cut during a vasectomy, they were really swollen and he thought it was a hernia. I went and got a third opinion and that doctor realized the problem and prescribed an anti-inflammatory. Everything worked out just fine and I just needed to give my body a rest.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your head coach Matt Hume recently took an important matchmaking role with One FC. Is he still able to work as much with you in your training as normal or has he had to delegate some of the training?
Demetrious Johnson: No, no, no, he's there for this training camp. Prior before, when he was working with Dream, he had to go in and out because they were really inconsistent with their shows. Matt has his handful of guys like me, Tim Boetsch and Caros Fodor that he wants to work with and he's got his One FC thing going on but he's also a family man. He's there and my other coaches help me out who reside int he gym.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Bibiano Fernandes recently came over to your gym to work with you guys part time and he's one of the best bantamweights in the world. How has that been having such a talented grappler pushing you in training whenever he's in town?
Demetrious Johnson: Oh it's been nice. The first time I ever rolled with Bibiano, I had been in this sport for four years which is not that long compared to Bibiano and I've rolled with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts before and when I went against Bibiano, he's legit. Let me tell you, 100 percent legit Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. He's been a huge help to my camp and he brings a totally different training method to the gym because he's fought so much overseas and he gives a different look for us in camp. It's great to work with someone so highly ranked.
Matt Bishop: What concerns you the most about Joseph Benavidez's game as you prepare to take him on?
Demetrious Johnson: Nothing scares me. I'm not scared to fight the man at all. He's pretty well-rounded and he's a tough guy. I'm just looking to go in there and put my skills to the test and try to implement my gameplan. He's going to have plenty to worry about. Joseph is a great fighter. I'm just ready to go out there and fight.
Matt Bishop: You're coming off these two fights with Ian McCall and that was quite a saga. How happy are you to have that in the rear view mirror now so you can go full steam ahead for the belt?
Demetrious Johnson: I'm very happy to have that thing behind me. I'm happy that those fights went down the way they did because I learned a lot in those fights. I fought twice against a very tough opponent and my last two opponents were the number one ranked fighters in the world at bantamweight and flyweight. I think it's good to happen because it prepares me for this title fight against Joseph. I know I can go harder and get better.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This will be your second title fight. You fought Dominick Cruz last year. What can you take from the last five round fight that could help you this time around against Benavidez?
Demetrious Johnson: Just having that underneath my belt, I know Joseph experienced the exact same thing. He fought for the WEC belt against the same opponent Dominick Cruz. We both came up short but we both put forth our best efforts. Me and Joseph probably gave him the best fights he's ever had in his life. Just the experience knowing that I can go 25 minutes hard against a significantly bigger opponent, it gives me confidence to go in there against Benavidez in the Octagon.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Before Jon Jones got added to this card, Michael Bisping was saying he was the "real main event." How do you respond to that?
Demetrious Johnson: Well Bisping is just trying to hype up his fight and he's got a right to do that. He wants to get more eyes on him and he'll get a bigger bonus if more people tune in. Maybe he's trying to get under Brian Stann's skin. This is an inaugural division getting a championship crowned and it's an incredibly important fight.
Matt Bishop: I hear through the grapevine that you do a good British accent. Is there any way you could grace us with a Bisping impression?
Demetrious Johnson: (laughs) It's pretty hard to do because Bisping cusses a lot. Here's a good story. Me and Joseph and Michael Bisping met up in Toronto for the first press conference and we went to watch Coldplay. He found it humorous that Joseph and I were cool with each other, that we liked each other and were hanging out. At the concert he was like, (British accent) "Look at these two fags. Look at them sitting there. Are you gonna make out? Huh? I swear to God it's like you're gonna go bump uglies together. For God's sakes, you guys are gonna fight pretty soon. Get after it you two!"
He's honestly a nice guy. I like him a lot. He was cracking me and Joseph up and he's a great guy.
You can follow Demetrious Johnson on Twitter @MightMouseUFC
So what do you think, Maniacs?
How do you like Johnson's odds of becoming the inaugural UFC Flyweight Champion? Can Mighty Mouse pull off the upset on Saturday night?