It wasn't long ago that Demetrious Johnson had no idea who Henry Cejudo was. Cejudo only landed on Johnson's radar due to some negative press.
"For me, you look at the beginning of his career, the man couldn't even make weight," Johnson said at the EA Sports UFC 2 launch party in Las Vegas recently. "That's how I found out about Henry Cejudo to begin with. 'Oh, Henry Cejudo misses weight again.' I'm like, who's this guy who keeps missing weight. When the UFC signed him, I was like, 'Great, you guys signed another guy who can't make 125.'"
Cejudo missed weight in the two fights prior to being signed by the UFC. Then, at UFC 177 in August 2014, Cejudo was forced out of his fight with Scott Jorgensen the day of weigh-ins due to a medical issue. The UFC made Cejudo go up to bantamweight, where he picked up a win against Dustin Kimura before coming back down to flyweight.
The former Olympic wrestling gold medalist has not had trouble making weight since then, reeling off three victories in a row. Johnson will defend his flyweight title against Cejudo in the co-main event of UFC 197 on April 23 in Las Vegas.
"Mighty Mouse," who has held the title since its inception in 2012, is not sure Cejudo has the credentials to warrant a title shot at this point, but he's not going to complain about it.
"There's guys out there who have fought way tougher competition and have finishes and knockouts on their résumé," Johnson said. "But since he's a gold medalist in Olympic wrestling, he's undefeated ... the man is about to fight for a world title and it's his fourth fight in the UFC. That's how the business runs."
Johnson (23-2-1) and Cejudo (10-0) went face to face for the first time earlier this month at the "Unstoppable" press conference. The champ said that Cejudo told him "no excuses" during their staredown. Johnson visibly had a change of expression on the dais and made a funny face while pointing at Cejudo with his thumb when the two faced the crowd.
"I was just like, OK, whatever," Johnson said. "I mean, I'm the type of fighter who has never made an excuse. I fought with a broken rib, broken leg. This man has won before and he said he had a fish taco and that's why he had a poor performance. He's the only one who has said something about a bad performance."
In Mexico City last year, Cejudo explained that his showing against Chico Camus was lackluster due to an illness from eating a bad taco.
Johnson, 29, has defended the UFC flyweight title seven times. He's eyeing Anderson Silva's record of most consecutive title defenses (10) and Cejudo is in his way right now. Even if "Mighty Mouse" doesn't necessarily think he should be.
"This is the easiest sport to get famous real quick in," Johnson said. "Nobody can walk onto the NFL and be like, 'Yo man, I got all this stuff!' Oh, OK, that's perfect. Let's see you do it.
"The man has 10 fights in his total career. That shows you how fast you can jump and get to the pinnacle of this sport real, real fast. I've been here for a long, long time."
Johnson, a Washington native, has been a pro MMA fighter since 2007 and has not lost since Dominick Cruz beat him in a bantamweight title fight in 2011. That's a streak of nine straight wins.
"Mighty Mouse" has emerged as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. There's no doubt about that. However, he has not become the financial draw of some of his champion peers and he's OK with that. Johnson understands those numbers drive the sport and that's probably why Cejudo -- a marketable former gold medalist -- will be standing across the Octagon from him next month.
"It's always about bringing in the numbers, the viewership," Johnson said. "That's what gets you the money. But it is one of the easiest sports to do it. ... That's where the sport is at. I could say it does bother me, but at the same time, I'm nobody. I can't change anything."