Here he comes to save the day!
When Brad Pickett was forced to back out of his UFC 130 fight against Miguel Torres due to injury, "Mighty Mouse" Demetrious Johnson swooped in to replace him.
In just over a year, Johnson has stated his case as one of the top bantamweights under the Zuffa umbrella. The pint-sized brawler discussed his current status in the division in this exclusive interview with MMAmania.com.
"I think if you look at my record, preparing for all the top guys like Urijah. I mean, I debuted against Brad Pickett. Then I had that stretch of wins against Nick Pace, Damacio Page and Kid Yamamoto. I'm hoping to add Miguel Torres to that list and I'm just going to try to do my best on May 28th."
Not bad for a glorified flyweight.
More from the AMC Pankration fighter after the jump.
"I was very honored when the UFC gave me the call and asked me if I wanted to step up and take on Miguel Torres instead of Renan Barão. When they called Matt (Hume) and Matt called me he said, '(Brad) Pickett got hurt.' I was like, 'dammit Pickett!' because I really wanted to hang out with him when he got in Vegas so I was a little bummed about that. Now I'm stepping up to take on Miguel Torres. I trained really hard for this fight and it's gonna go down in the Octagon on Spike TV."
The Washington native realizes that he'll enter his UFC 130 fight with a huge size disadvantage. At 5'9, Miguel Torres is one of the tallest bantamweights in the world. Johnson isn't losing any sleep over it, though. In fact, he sees the glass half full in this situation.
"Being 5'3 with him 5'9, there's a huge height difference. If he wants to punch me, he has to punch down which exposes his chin and if I want to hit him, I have to reach up and my chin will always be protected. It's like David and Goliath. David was a little guy and he had to throw up and Goliath had to break his posture to hit David with a good clean shot."
The two AMC Pankration gyms where Johnson trains are home to significantly larger fighters like Josh Barnett, Chris Leben and Caros Fodor. There aren't many bantamweights to work with but again, "Mighty Mouse" sees the bright side of his predicament.
"This morning I worked out two hours with a guy who's 205 and has very good knowledge of the mixed martial arts game. It helps me because it makes my body get adapted to be pushed the whole time. You see guys go against guys there own size, and that's good too, but when I'm rolling on the ground and I have a guy who's 205 pounds on me, it makes my body work and it conditions every single part of my body. Whether it's my tendons, my wrists, whatever, it's getting worked the whole time. There's not a lot of bantamweights at our gym. I walk around maybe 141 right now. I'm a small guy. It's a good benefit for me and when I get in there with guys my own size, like 5'3 or whatever, it's a piece of cake because I'm used to kicking guys in the head who are 5'10 or 5'11."
By accepting the fight on May 28, Johnson will be stepping into the cage for the fourth time in eight months. Most fighters are lucky to get three bouts a year but "Mighty Mouse" is different. If he had it his way, the former high school standout athlete would fight even more often.
"I love to fight a lot and often. That's one of the awesome things about being small is. I walk around at 155 pounds out of shape. If the UFC calls me three weeks before a fight and I can say 'yes' because I'm always training, I'm always in shape. I love to fight, this is my job ... I want the UFC to know that I'm here for those guys, I'm here for the fans. I'm hoping one day, that the UFC comes out with a 125 pound class and maybe I'll fight at 125 and 135. I don't need to drop down to 125, but I've done it before and I was very successful down there."
While wrestling and speed have been the cornerstone thus far in his brief MMA career, Demetrious is growing ever confident in his growing arsenal of submissions. He's not going to dive in recklessly just to finish a fight, however.
"For me, I'm kinda like a guy where, if you give it to me, I'm gonna take it. Like an arm bar, triangle, all that stuff. My submission repertoire is very deep but at this type of level, not a lot of guys give you the opportunity to use them unless they make a huge mistake. When I fought Damacio (Page), I'm the type of person that will grind you out until you have no where to go. His neck was exposed and I took it. I'm not gonna force it because that's when your arms get gassed or you get rolled or reversed and then get submitted. I'm smart with my submissions, I'd say."
On top of his widening array of submission skills, Johnson is putting in the time with the top trainers at AMC Pankration to continue to develop his striking. His confidence in his stand-up swells with every day spent in the gym.
"I'm getting more comfortable with my striking. It's not as pretty as I'd want it to be right now but I'm working on my striking, my boxing, my Muay Thai, my kickboxing. I'm learning how to kick a lot harder. Same goes with my ground game. I really want to get into my coach's knowledge of the ground game because he's got such a great background. All of our guys, Matt Hume was a wrestler, Trevor Jackson was a soccer player. All of these coaches come from different backgrounds, different sports. Matt Hume has gone to Abu Dhabi and beat the guys there. He's got all the skills that I need. I'm only 24 and I only spend two days a week with those guys. If I go six days with them, you can't imagine how much better my ground game will become. That's what I plan to do in the future."
One of the bantamweight's role models is UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Johnson believes he can learn a lot from the elite 170-pounder.
"This is a game of weaknesses. People think GSP is so good because he takes everybody down but they can't defend his takedowns and he's able to play his game off that. People are so scared of his takedowns and because of that, he can throw his jab, or that high kick or whatever he does. If they start to get a rhythm or a beat, he just takes them down and halts everything they do."
After much prodding, Johnson finally explained how he'd like to end the fight against the former WEC champion. The diminutive fighter showcased an ample sense of humor.
"If I could win this fight any way, I would want Miguel Torres to follow me around the cage. As he's chasing me I will run up the cage and he'll run into the cage. I'll do a backflip and as I do a backflip off the cage, I'll kick him square in the neck with a double leg drop WWF style and I'll land on my back while he goes through the cage onto the judges' table."
The UFC 130 fighter closed the interview by discussing his partnership with Xbox. Johnson is the first mixed martial artist who is associated with the gaming system and he's got big things planned for the future.
"It's a partnership between me and Xbox and it's because I'm a very hardcore gamer. I love to play video games. Xbox is really good about getting behind athletes in this area. I'm the first mixed martial artist that they've done. We've got great plans for the future and plan on doing big things for the sport. Sniping fans in the head on Call of Duty is just one of the perks. My gamertag is MightyMouseUFC. My friend list is full but no worries, you can always hit me up. Follow me on my twitter page which is MightyMouseUFC and I always post on there when I'm about to jump on Xbox. I'll just have my mic on and I'll join a chatroom and talk with fans while I'm playing. I'm straight up. You can also check out UnivsAll, they have some great training videos and some cool gear."
For the full audio of the Demetrious Johnson interview, click here. Highly recommend checking out his Georges St. Pierre impression.