He is, after all, one of the quickest fighters on the planet.
Just 18 months after making his debut with Zuffa at WEC 48, the 25-year old will be challenging for the UFC world bantamweight title. "Mighty Mouse" took his training to the next level, quitting his 40 hour a week construction side job upon hearing the news so he could focus on being a fighter full-time.
The AMC Pankration fighter training out of Kirkland, Washington earned his shot after a strong four fight winning streak which culminated in a unanimous decision victory over former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres this past May.
Johnson will challenge current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz for the title this Saturday night (October 1, 2011) in the main event of UFC on Versus 6 in Washington D.C. and he spoke with MMAmania.com during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission radio show about recovering from a broken leg, dealing with Cruz's unique style and what he brings to the table on Saturday night.
Gerry Rodriguez: Going into that fight with Miguel Torres, there was a considerable size difference. I remember asking you about that. Once you got in the cage, you were able to negate his attacks. What was going inside your head. Were you think, "Wow, this is easier than I thought," or was it pretty much what you expected?
Demetrious Johnson: I think the fight with Miguel Torres didn't go according to plan because as you know I broke my fibula so I couldn't execute the gameplan 110 percent like we wanted to. The gameplan was to stay on the feet and bang it out with him and I was being successful when I was on my feet so I had to resort back to my wrestling because your fibula is the bone that controls all your movement on your tippy toes and stuff and I'm always on my toes. It was tough to pull off but I came away with the victory, got the 'W' over a very tough opponent. Miguel Torres used to be the 135 pound champion and he considered at one time one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.
Ben Thapa: How do you feel about that fight, looking back on it now?
Demetrious Johnson: I think, looking back on it, I showed glimpses of my stand-up. Me and my coaches were talking the other way, "When you were moving and you were fighting Miguel Torres, you were tearing him up on the feet. I wish you had never broke your leg because you probably could have knocked him out because you were doing really well." The whole controversy thing. I apologize that Miguel Torres lost. It's not my fault. It's the judges' decision to decide who wins or loses. My job is to go out there and fight and people get mad at me because I won. You're gonna have haters in this sport and I think if you have haters, you're doing something right I guess.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you broke your leg in the fight, how long did it actually sideline you in training? When did you feel like you were back up to full speed?
Demetrious Johnson: It sidelined me for maybe 4-6 weeks. I was doing other stuff to keep training but to be full on training, it took about seven weeks to start jogging on it and after that, I was back at full time training, doing my CrossFit, my swimming and my lifting. I started doing a little movements and getting ready for the next fight depending on who it was.
Ben Thapa: With the addition of the scar tissue now, do you think you can kick harder or better with that leg now?
Demetrious Johnson: I think definitely I can kick probably a little harder with it. One of the things about when I broke my leg was it taught me how to kick a little better by aiming with the tibia, which is the bigger bone in the leg and now I think the scar tissue is good. I've been doing deep tissue massages every Friday morning after my CrossFit workouts and I think my leg is gonna be good to go.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): If you could go back in time a bit. What was your reaction when you got told that you were next in line for a title shot and this was gonna be on Versus? Were you jumping for joy? What was your reaction?
Demetrious Johnson: My reaction was like any other fight. It's just another fight against Dominick Cruz and he just happens to be the world champion. The only thing that changed really was I quit my job so I could focus 110 percent on this fight. In all my other previous fights, I was working 40 hours a week in construction while getting ready for them and since it's on Versus, it's free TV. I'm glad for that. Not everybody wants to pay to watch people fight. I didn't pay to watch Floyd Mayweather fight Victor Ortiz the other night because I'm not gonna spend $70 to watch one fight that I want to watch. I'm happy it's free on TV. All the fans are gonna be able to watch it and it's gonna be an awesome fight. I'm gonna get in there and mix it up with him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Both you and Dominick Cruz have unique styles that are very reliant on speed. Who do you think is faster between the two of you?
Demetrious Johnson: In terms of running to see who's faster, I'd say me. In long distance, it's probably me but in the cage, we'll have to find out. Everybody says that I'm a lot faster like when Joe Rogan talks about when I fight, he talks about my speed. I have very explosive speed like 'BAM!' I'm there. Dominick moves so much and he's able to make people miss and he's able to capitalize on things. That's what makes him so much faster than his other opponents. I'm like just naturally fast and I always keep a high pace so it depends on which way you look at the question.
Ben Thapa: How many advantages do you think you have over Cruz?
Demetrious Johnson: I don't want to say I have advantages over him. I think I'm gonna be able to succeed where everybody else has faltered when they fight him. Everybody gets hypnotized by him when he does all his movement and I'm gonna have hopefully the technique and the ability where Urijah Faber faltered and he wasn't on him all the time or where Brian Bowles didn't have the speed to keep up with him. I think I have the attributes and the ability to give Dominick Cruz one hell of a fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know you're very cautious and secretive about your gameplan but have you found somebody in your camp who's able to emulate Cruz's style pretty well?
Demetrious Johnson: Yes. I found somebody in my camp who can imitate Dominick Cruz's style to a T. I can actually imitate Dominick Cruz's style to a T too. The coach, his name is Trevor Jackson and Matt Hume can imitate Dominick Cruz pretty well too especially with his kneetap because Matt Hume was a college wrestler, a very good wrestler. Me and him were wrestling yesterday for like an hour straight going hard and I was like, "Man you're so fast!" and he was like, "Ain't nobody better than me, especially Dominick Cruz ain't better than me at wrestling, I guarantee you that!" Trevor Jackson, he watched 13 hours of Dominick Cruz, watching every single thing he does and breaking down everything he does and why he does it. I've been sparring him on Saturdays and Mondays and everything's been going good man. I can't wait for that fight. I think we've got his number this time and it's gonna be an awesome fight.
Ben Thapa: What was something that you did different for this fight that you haven't done for others?
Demetrious Johnson: My Rainier CrossFit team, they've been amping up my cardio for a five round fight and also getting my speed up a lot higher. People tell me, "You're getting your speed up faster?" and I'm like, "Hell yeah! You always get after it. You've just got to make sure you do the right things." I've done a lot of different things in preparing for this fight than I have in my previous fights. I've done a lot of things before that would slow me down because usually when I fought Kid Yamamoto, when I fought Damacio Page, when I fought Miguel Torres, I always try to bulk up to be stronger because those guys are not as fast as me but I wanted to be stronger so I could handle their weight. This time I did a lot of things different so I don't have to carry extra weight. I'm not worried about Dominick manhandling me. I've just got to make sure my speed's through the roof.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): : How do you envision yourself winning against Dominick Cruz on October 1st?
Demetrious Johnson: I never give predictions. I can just say I think it'll be a truly fantastic fight. He trained his butt off, I trained my butt off. I can't wait to get in there and mix it up with him. I just tell myself that it's gonna be a looooong night.
Gerry Rodriguez: No Mortal Kombat style fatality or any jumping off the cage with an elbow drop-type move?
Demetrious Johnson: Oh, well if it's in that case and if I can do that, it'll probably be like a flying suplex in the air like Zangief-style or something like that. (laughs)
Demetrious would like to thank Universal, X-Box 360, Gears of War 3, all his coaches at AMC, Matt Hume, Trevor Jackson, Brad Kertson, Steve Skidds, Curtis Laurie and his fiancee Destiny.
So do you think "Might Mouse" has a shot this weekend, Maniacs? Can Johnson he be the first fighter to solve Dominick Cruz's unorthodox puzzle?
For the full audio of the interview with Demetrious Johnson, click here.