While everything is pointing towards a flyweight superfight between current champion Demetrious Johnson and bantamweight titleholder T.J. Dillashaw sometime this year, the 125-pound clash has yet to be booked.
If something went awry and “Might Mouse” was unable to defend his flyweight strap opposite “Killashaw” it would be extremely unfortunate. Johnson has carved out a nice spot in mixed martial arts (MMA) history as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of all time who defended his belt a UFC-record 11 times, but the 31-year-old remains on the outskirts of mass appeal. No matter what he does, “Mighty Mouse” can’t seem to establish himself as a popular champion capable of banking mad money and countless pay-per-view (PPV) buys.
With that said, a potential superfight opposite Dillashaw could help Johnson finally break into the mainstream and force casual fight fans to pay attention. And according to former UFC champion and all-around MMA enthusiast Michael Bisping, a matchup with Dillashaw may finally allow “Mighty Mouse” to fight someone on his own level.
“That is kind of frustrating because Demetrious Johnson, I’m telling you, he probably is the pound-for-pound best,” said Bisping during a recent edition of his Believe You Me podcast. “When you look at the way he performs, you think, ‘Yeah, he’s pound-for-pound the best,’ but then you look at his opponents and it’s like, I can look fantastic if I’m fighting my daughter. I can do crazy s**t. I can pick her up and suplex her and put her in an armbar. I could pull off the sickest submissions if I was doing it against a 12-year-old girl.
“I’m not saying that Demetrious’ former opponents are like that of a 12-year-old girl - maybe 15. You see the point I’m making. Some of the competition has been very, very good but that’s always been the classic, cliche, knock on his career, that the competition hasn’t been as good. Then we hear about T.J. vs. DJ and it’s like, ‘Wow, here’s an opportunity where Demetrious Johnson can prove that he can beat somebody like T.J. Dillashaw.’”
While Bisping went on to say he was “only having a bit of fun,” he makes a valid point. Johnson has been absolutely dominant since entering the UFC flyweight division back in 2012, but the talent pool is drastically shallower than many other UFC divisions. “Mighty Mouse” has had to get past the likes of Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, and Henry Cejudo, but defending his title against fighters such as Ali Bagautinov, Ray Borg, Wilson Reis, Chris Cariaso, Kyoji Horiguchi, and Tim Elliott, does little to grab the interest of casual fight fans worldwide.
Luckily, a superfight title defense opposite Dillashaw could help Johnson pad his marketability and allow him to walk away with the biggest PPV payday of his illustrious career.
“Another knock has been that he hasn’t been a proven draw,” said Bisping. “He hasn’t sold big pay-per-views. I don’t think that’s Demetrious’ fault. I think that’s just the trend that we see in combat sports. Super light weight classes like that have always had a hard time drawing at the box office. But him against T.J., that’s an interesting fight. That’s a fight that gets people to sit up, take notice, give him respect, and essentially, earn them both a lot of money.”
Only time will tell if UFC is able to get both Johnson and Dillashaw to sign on the dotted line. If the two were to collide later this year it would probably come at UFC 226 in July during the promotion’s International Fight Week, as a champion vs. champion matchup is already headlining the event with heavyweight titleholder Stipe Miocic defending his strap against light heavyweight king Daniel Cormier.