How dominant a champion has Demetrious Johnson become? So much so that he just made it look easy against a doped-up opponent.
The UFC flyweight champion schooled Ali Bagautinov in the main event of last month's UFC 174 in Vancouver. Afterwards, it was revealed Bagautinov had flunked a pre-fight drug test for EPO.
As far as the champ is concerned, however, he doesn't care what his opponent is taking.
"I don't care if my opponents are cheating or not," Johnson said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. "I train my butt off to fight the man who is put in front of me whether he's on steroids or not. I want to play on a level playing field, but if they knew about it beforehand and didn't stop it, at the same time, I took care of business. No big deal."
Not that "Mighty Mouse" doesn't want a clean sport, mind you. But after defending his title successfully for the fourth time, you can't blame Johnson for feeling he can have his way with anyone in his weight class.
The Seattle-area resident says he's not sure whether Baguatinov, who went the distance with Johnson, even had his performance enhanced by the drugs.
"Who's to say if the EPO even affected his performance?" Johnson asked. "If you know he's on it, and you know what EPO does, who knows, maybe he would have gassed in the third round. In the fourth round I had his back and he was saved by the bell. Who knows? Third round. he could have been crazy gassed. We've watched his previous fights and by the third round he was gassed, but who knows? He still had some pep in his step come the third round."
Either way, Johnson is glad Bagautinov was caught.
"He popped before the fight, so I wonder how his drug test looked after the fight," Johnson said. "You look at that opportunity where they caught him, it seemed like his drug test during the fight was clean. So who knows who was taking these performance enhancing drugs, before the fight, then after the fight it was out of his system. So kudos to whoever caught him."
UFC 174 will be remembered for another reason: A low buy rate, one which pushed the notion the UFC is simply running too many shows to the forefront. But the champion says he's not going to make himself into someone he's not just for the sake of PPV buys.
"At first I was a little disappointed," Johnson said. "My personal goal for myself was at least 100K. That was my personal goal. But after hearing what Dana White said about it, he was like we're past that point, its not about 100K PPVs, its not a flop or a fail. I'm happy to hear me step up for me like that and I'm happy people want ot see me fight. Yes I'm known as the most technical fighter in the world and I'm going to keep that as my brand. I'm not going to go out there and have these slugfests but I'll go out there and dominate my opponent. That's what I do in my fight.
"Obviously I want to do six million buys," he continued. "I want the whole world to watch me fight. But you know if people are just tuning in to hear me trash talk are not fight fans. they just want to hear some guy who was shit talking get his ass whupped, which is what some people want to see. Everyone has their cup of tea, that they enjoy."
Johnson's MMA Hour interview went done after the news broke that John Dodson, who was considered by most the fighter with the best case for the next shot at the flyweight title, will be out of action for up at a year due to knee surgery and rehab. But it also broke before the UFC awarded the shot to Chris Cariaso, who was not on most people's short list of contenders, at UFC 177 in Sacramento.
And while that decision was raw meat for those who can't get through a week without buying into ginned-up, faux outrage, the fact of the matter is Johnson is in a position in his title reign in which there is no obvious No. 1 contender. He's already beaten most of the elite names, and the next tier of potentially worthy contenders aren't quite ready.
Maybe Johnson knew more than he was letting on Monday when he said he doesn't turn down fights.
"It's not my place on who I fight or where I fight or when I fight," Dodson said. "I'm employed by the UFC."
Meanwhile, Johnson clarified his comments toward Dodson post UFC 174, in which he said Dodson, whom Johnson defeated in Jan. 2013, wasn't next in line for the title. "Mighty Mouse" doesn't wish Dodson ill, but simply thinks he spoke out of turn.
"I wish the best, I hope he has a speedy recovery and I hope he comes back to the UFC. Prior to the fight, when I'm next for a title shot. I don't like when fighters say I'm next and that type of stuff. When Dodson was like I'm next, I'm like no, I'm not. Why should I grant you your wish? What do you offer me? I'm doing you a favor fighting you again. That's why I said straight up, dude you're not next. ... I don't dislike the guy it's just, I'm straightforward you're not next. Until the UFC calls me, you're not next."