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Demetrious Johnson open to third fight with Joseph Benavidez

Esther Lin photo

LOS ANGELES -- Demetrious Johnson seeks his eighth successful defense of his UFC flyweight title on Saturday night, when he meets undefeated Henry Cejudo in the co-main event of UFC 197.

With a victory, he'd come within two of Anderson Silva's record for successful UFC title defenses. And as it turns out, "Mighty Mouse" is coming up on a problem Silva also faced at one point during his seven-and-a-half year middleweight title reign: If he defeats Cejudo, Johnson will pretty much clean out his division.

So what's the solution for the only 125-pound champ the company has ever known? Johnson said Monday he wouldn't say no to a third fight against Joseph Benavidez.

"You look at Joseph, his only losses are to me and [UFC bantamweight champion] Dom [Cruz], and he's beat everyone else since then," the champ said.

Benavidez's situation exemplifies the difficulties in booking Johnson's challengers. Benavidez lost to Johnson via split decision at UFC 152 in the bout to crown the inaugural champion. A 2013 rematch was a first-round knockout for the champ.

Other than that? Benavidez has done his own solid job cleaning out the opposition, going 8-0 against the rest of the flyweight pack. He's won five straight since the second loss to Johnson, with wins over former title challengers John Dodson and Ali Bagautinov in that stretch.

"The man's won four or five in a row," Johnson said. "He's finished guys, he's fought the best of those guys. I'm not taking anything away from Henry Cejudo. Do you guys want to sell pay-per-views? Then we need to find the most famous fighters in the flyweight division and it's going to be Joseph Benavidez. After that it's John Dodson and after that it's Ian McCall, and he hasn't been active at all. After that, I don't know who."

Johnson knows that a third fight with the same opponent he's already twice beaten could be a tough sell. But as far as he's concerned, that's the UFC's puzzle to put together, not his.

"Do we let Joseph keep beating guys who could potentially be a challenge?" Johnson asked. "That's not my problem, that's the UFC's problem. My job is to fight. That's where the UFC does there thing, and with me, I do what Demetrious Johnson does. I focus on staying healthy, going to the gym, and I go out there and fight."

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