The greatest pound for pound fighter in mixed martial arts appeared recently on Submission Radio for an interview about fighting and money. Demetrious Johnson’s next fight had been scheduled vs. Wilson Reis at UFC 201, but he pulled out three weeks beforehand due to an injury.
Johnson was asked for his thoughts on being scheduled to fight the #6 contender, and champions ducking fights.
“Doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “My paycheck is exactly the same. I think you see a lot of guys who are starting to come out and say, ‘no I’m not going to fight that guy, even though he’s the number one contender because I want a better paycheck.’ And you’re starting to see a lot of champions do it.
“And I understand why they’re doing it, because the UFC have made it a point – champions don’t get paid the top dollars. You’ve got a guy who can come out, who’s never lost – I have nothing against GSP, but I like to keep it real – you have a guy that hasn’t been active in three years and he’s [probably going to make] way more money than any champion on the roster – probably same as Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz – but that’s what the UFC have started to do.
“And you’re starting to see a lot of people say, ‘if I don’t get this title shot, this is not a sport at all.’ I think we’re starting to lose that mystique to where you have two of the best fighters in the world, going out to fight each other to become the champion. But now, everybody is like, ‘I don’t want to fight the number one contender, I want to fight the guy who everybody likes to watch fight, so that I get that big paycheck.’ Trust me, I’m about to jump in that boat too, but I will never turn down a fight and I’ll just fight anybody.”
Johnson is aiming for a superfight rematch with bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, but believes “it’s not the right time.” Johnson currently has eight straight title defenses and is scheduled to next fight the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 24: Tournament of Champions.
“Let’s say I beat the Ultimate Fighter winner and I’m like, ‘alright, I’m gonna go fight Dominick Cruz.’ And then you go, ‘okay, sweet, he’s finally doing a super fight,’ said Johnson. “But let’s say I beat the Ultimate Fighter, I defend it again – that’s nine. I do it again. There’s ten. I’m on the verge of breaking Anderson Silva’s record. I break Anderson Silva’s record, I have eleven consecutive title defences, I’ve broken the record.
“Maybe then everybody’s like, ‘you’re the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world,’ and then I’m like, okay, Dominick Cruz has defended his belt multiple times, he’s built his name up, he’s been active, and I’m like – BOOM – alright, now it’s time for the super fight. I think if I go that path, it’s gonna be way better and sell way better and do way better numbers than if I was like, okay, I’m gonna fight you now Dom.”
Demetrious has his price for the superfight – two million dollars.
“Actually, I think two million dollars is fair,” he said. “I think it’s two million dollars. Obviously, we don’t have the same fanbase, you know, we’re not prom king or prince or duke or whatever like Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz are. But I’ll tell you what, our skillset and what we’ve done in the past as mixed martial artists in this sport – s***, Dominick Cruz has defended his belt more times than Conor McGregor has and Conor McGregor is more active than Dominick Cruz. So that right there, just what we bring to the table as athletes and what we’ve done in this sport, I think that deserves two million dollars, especially since the UFC got bought for 4.2 billion dollars. WME-IMG have the cash to front this fight.”
Johnson was asked if he had spoken with the new UFC owners.
“Yeah, I’ve spoken to them before,” he said. “But we never spoke about, you know – s***, they just got a hold of the company. They haven’t seen me perform yet. So with that being said, obviously we got the Ultimate Fighter fight first, and if everything goes well in that fight, then hopefully we fight again. And when I break the record, you know, we go talk and I’m like, ‘yo, you guys want a super fight? I believe this is truly a super fight to where I am the smaller guy going up to 135, and you’re going to have a guy that walks around at about maybe at 165, coming down to 135 to meet at 135, and we are going to fight and this is truly a super fight. If you guys want this fight to happen, this is my price. If you don’t, I’ll keep whooping ass at 125.’
“That’s how a negotiation goes for me. Like, this is what I want. You guys have an agenda; this is my agenda. If you guys have a problem with me wanting to retire eventually one day from putting my body on the line for seven, eight years for this company, alright, then let’s make it happen. If we don’t see eye to eye, then okay. I can keep doing other things that are going to make me successful.”
Mixed martial arts is a sport in which you have the fight because anything can happen, but Johnson was undeterred about the superfight timetable.
I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I mean, if it happens it happens. That’s how I live my life. If I lose this fight against a tough fighter, oh well. S*** happens. You’re going to lose. And I see people who are like, ‘oh, I gotta do it now and make it happen so I get the big dollar.’ Yeah that’s their take.
“But for me, like one of the things that stood by me that Eddie Alvarez said in his interview with Ariel Helwani, he says, ‘I’m f***ing rich.’ He goes, ‘I’m absolutely rich.’ And Ariel Helwani goes, ‘what do you mean by that?’ He goes, ‘I got a beautiful family, I got a beautiful house, I got a wife that loves me. … I’m rich.’
“And I was like, you know what, that’s right. Being rich isn’t always about money. So for me, I’m already successful. I have already exceeded my expectations of how far I was supposed to make it in this sport. I was a guy that was working nine to five, watching Joseph Benavidez and Dominick Cruz battle it out in the WEC cage. So now for me to be like, oh man, I gotta make sure to make this happen and this and that, then I’m getting away from the values of what got me into this sport in the beginning, which is just learning a craft, mixed martial arts and fighting the best fighters in the world. And if the time is right and if we lead up to that point and it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be.”
Johnson was asked if he felt pressure seeing the big purse drops that fighters like Luke Rockhold and TJ Dillashaw suffered after losing a fight. Dillashaw’s next fight was at UFC 200, where he made $25,000 to show and $25,000 to win vs. Raphael Assunção. On the same card, Sage Northcutt made $100,000 in beating Erick Montaño, who was coming off a loss in his UFC debut.
“I think that’s with anybody,” said Johnson. “I think the only person who will ever lose in a fight and still end up making a million dollars, is Conor McGregor – that’s just because of how his contract is structured or whatever. But you got a guy like Luke Rockhold, where he was a champion and then he lost and now his pay isn’t what it used to be when he was the champion and he’s a little upset about that. I totally understand that. It totally makes sense. Same thing with TJ Dillashaw. I was mind-boggled when I saw that, how Sage Northcutt made more than the champion of the 135-pound division. So I mean, that’s just to show you.
“Don’t get me wrong, it is about the money. It is absolutely, 110 percent about the money. Because if there was no money on the line for these fights, I wouldn’t be f***ing fighting. I’d be in the gym, still training and having a good time, but I wouldn’t be pushing my body to 185 beats per minute, making sure my body is 110 percent healthy, making sure I’m getting my diet on and making sure I’m gonna cut out alcohol, drinking, and all that stuff. So there’s a lot that goes on the line when it comes to athletes getting ready to fight.
“You look at the NFL. Those guys want more money because we have a short opportunity to make as much money as possible. I’m only thirty now and I had ten years. I’ve fought for the UFC since 2011. So what is that? Essentially, five years I’ve competed in the UFC and I’ve been the champion for almost four years. I can’t retire right now. So if I was an NFL player and I played four years and won the super bowl four years in a row, I guarantee I can f***ing retire. You’re starting to see a lot of fighters like, ‘we want more money so we can be able to retire eventually,’ instead of, we get to 30 years-old and we’re like, ‘alright, I think Costco has openings.’”