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Demetrious Johnson eyeing Anderson Silva’s record for title defenses, bigger paydays

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If Demetrious Johnson is still being overlooked as one of the UFC’s greatest champions, it isn’t because Johnson doesn’t carry himself that way. "Mighty Mouse," who defends his flyweight belt for the eighth time against Henry Cejudo at UFC 197 on April 23 in Las Vegas, wants to leave an undeniable mark on the game.

As in the best of all time.

And right now Anderson Silva’s remarkable feat of defending the middleweight title 10 times between 2006 and 2013 stands as a UFC record. Johnson, who is two fights away from tying Silva, wants to insert his name in the record books by surpassing Silva’s golden mark.

"It’s important," Johnson said during a Monday appearance on The MMA Hour. "It’s a goal. It’s a goal for me, and I think that me having that goal super high, or high on my priority list, is something I’m shooting for. And actually it would f*cking dope if everybody was like, ‘Demetrious Johnson, UFC champion with 15 consecutive title defenses, never got injured, beat all his opponents!’"

The 29-year old Johnson has faced a fairly diverse variety of styles during his run as the 125-pound king — from sambo champion Ali Bagautinov to karate exemplar Kyoji Horiguchi. His next challenge will be to face the Olympic gold medalist in wrestling Cejudo, who is undefeated (10-0).

Beating guys like Cejudo, who have significant moorings in a given discipline, is part of what Johnson wants to be remembered for.

"I think that’s something dope to look back when whoever purchases the company after Dana [White] and Lorenzo [Fertitta] are done, they look at see my name and think, he had 15 title defenses, look at this…why was he so successful?  What was he so good at? What made him so different than all the other champions?"

"Each time he fought he kept on evolving. He fought a two-time world sambo champion…he ended up out-punching him and out-striking him. That’s what I want my legacy to be, where I get in there with an opponent who’s superior at one aspect of mixed martial arts, I’m like, my friend, let me tell you something. This is mixed martial arts. I can take this in many different areas."

For the first time since UFC 152 in 2012, Johnson will not act as the main event for a major card. For April 23, he will fight Cejudo in the co-main, opening up for Daniel Cormier’s title defense against Jon Jones. It was Jones who headlined that UFC 152 card, as well, and Johnson said he was happy to draw more eyes on the flyweight division with the big rematch at the top.

Still, Johnson wants to be an attraction that pays like an attraction. In light of UFC 196, in which Nate Diaz made $500,000 in disclosed income and Conor McGregor bettered that by a full digit, Johnson said he’s been paying attention to the high numbers.

"You’re goddamn right I do!" he told Ariel Helwani. "Hell yeah, man. First, shout out to Conor McGregor for making seven figures, the first fighter ever to make seven figures on a UFC payout. I do pay attention to that."

Johnson said that, other than passing Silva’s record for title defenses, there are other dangling carrots out there.

"That’s another one of my goals is to inch my way closer to those big paydays," he said. "Shout out to Nate Diaz and both those guys for setting the pedestal for us fighters to get paid more. I mean, we go out there and we work our asses off — and the UFC, they work their asses off too, with promoting the fights and trying to sell tickets. 

"Obviously I’d love to see Demetrious Johnson, you know, ‘Demetrious Johnson $500,000 payout baby,’ absolutely."

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