LAS VEGAS -- How much media is too much? For Demetrious Johnson, the question is a difficult one to answer.
Four years spent atop the UFC flyweight division has given Johnson a healthy understanding of the responsibilities expected from UFC headliners. There is a difference, though, between the type of media expectations placed on Johnson and those placed on a top-level draw like Conor McGregor.
Rarely was that workload more obvious than on Thursday, when McGregor admitted to having lost himself in the game of promotion over the course of a three-year sprint toward superstardom, then attempted to compromise with the UFC on a lightened media schedule for UFC 200.
Johnson read McGregor's heartfelt statement on Facebook and sympathized with his fellow UFC champion, because if Johnson had to do what has been asked of McGregor, he would be burned out too.
"It's totally different ballgame," Johnson said. "Totally different. Conor is on Conan. He's on The Late Night Show. He's doing huge things. I'm just going to California, doing a lot of media, and then I'm back out here. I agree with Conor. At the end of the day, it's about winning the fight. You can do as much media as you can, but how much media is enough media for [the UFC] to sell the fight?
"That's where Conor is getting at. Like, how many interviews do you need to do?"
Johnson isn't the first fighter to ask that question of McGregor.
Prior to UFC 189, the UFC's original carnival barker Chael Sonnen expressed concern that McGregor's media obligations had "crossed the line of being too much." The same sentiment was also heard around Ronda Rousey before Rousey lost her title to Holly Holm and promptly vanished from the public eye, and Johnson believes fans underestimate how difficult the promotional aspect of the fight game can be, particularly for fighters who prefer to stay active like McGregor rather than sideline themselves for extended breaks.
"It takes a lot of energy," Johnson said. "It truly does. It takes energy to sit here and answer the questions, answer politically correct, think of the right things to say so people think you're intelligent. All of that stuff. It takes a lot of energy that could be well spent chilling at home, relaxing, just closing your mind away from it.
"They did the World Tour when he fought Aldo the first time. He does all this flying around, then he gets back home and now he has to get his body back acclimated to the different time zone and all that stuff. That's a f**king lot of work a fighter has to do. It's like, dude, I just want to fight. I just tweeted out and I just saved you guys $10 million. We broke headlines. We broke [headlines] from LeBron James and the NBA playoffs. So I understand where he's coming from. Don't get me wrong. Like I said, we love doing interviews over and over and over, but there comes a point in time where it's like you guys are asking the same questions over and over and over. Just grab that guy's sound bite and re-paste it."
Of course, the irony of the present situation is not lost on Johnson.
The firestorm created by just two social media posts from McGregor and his subsequent removal from UFC 200 has effectively overtaken fight week ahead of UFC 197. Instead of answering questions about his opponent Henry Cejudo or his eighth straight UFC title defense, Johnson is spending a majority of his time fielding questions about the Irishman -- which speaks to his broader point about the point doing of media in the first place, as well as McGregor's claim that the controversy generated by this public push-and-pull with the UFC has promoted UFC 200 better than any press tour could.
"It's always about, you have to look at the return on investment," Johnson said. "So let's just say, you know, the headlines that have been going on, everybody is talking about UFC 200. People are now like, f**k, who cares about UFC 197? It's all about UFC 200. So you look at the return on investment of us sitting here doing all this stuff right now.
"How much is it going to reach? How many of those people are going to actually turn around and purchase the pay-per-view? Whereas, I know the return on investment of me sitting in my hotel room just relaxing, focused, drinking my water, getting my eating on time, making sure everything is good and I'm feeling good to go in there. I'm sure that return on investment is way higher than this.
"He's coming from f**king Iceland," Johnson continued. "He's in the middle of camp. So you've got to think: he's coming from Iceland, he's in the middle of camp, he wants to prepare properly this time. So he's going to leave from Iceland, probably fly to New York, New York to Vegas, so there's that travel time that could be well spent actually training. Then he's here. You're not going to have his training partners. His coach might have to come with him. Then he's got to find a location to go train at. Then he's got to find the right food to eat. Then he's got to get the right sleep, then he's got to answer all these interviews.
"So I totally understand where Conor is coming from. One-hundred and ten percent, because I'm a big fan of not breaking camp. Once I'm in camp, dude, if you want me to come out and do stuff, okay, let's do it right when we announce it, then boom, let's get it done."