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Demetrious Johnson on UFC 210 knee controversy: ‘It’s a stupid rule’

UFC 186 Media Day Photos
Demetrious Johnson
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES — The controversial ending to Saturday night’s UFC 210 fight between Gegard Mousasi and Chris Weidman struck a chord with UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.

Johnson, you may recall, had his own controversy about knees and grounded fighters in his very first flyweight title defense against John Dodson at UFC on FOX 6.

That bout turned on a knee landed by Johnson when Dodson appeared to have his hand on the mat, which would have technically made Dodson grounded under the rules at the time.

“I’ve had the same thing happen when I fought John Dodson for the first time,” Johnson said Monday. “He was playing that game. When you play that game you’re just asking for trouble.”

Unlike Mousasi-Weidman, which was called off after Mousasi kneed Weidman after a confusing sequence, Johnson and Dodson fought through their incident and Johnson went on to win via unanimous decision after they went the distance.

And while Johnson has nothing personal against Weidman, it’s clear, even four years after Johnson-Dodson 1, that “Mighty Mouse” believes a fighter who puts his hands on the mat is likely to get burned.

“I like Chris Weidman,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to make it personal. I’m just saying, you’re playing with fire when you’re doing this.”

If it was up to Johnson, who is looking to tie Anderson Silva’s UFC record with his 10th title defense on Saturday against Wilson Reis at UFC on FOX 24, MMA in North America would follow the style in Japan, in which knees to the head of a grounded opponent are kosher.

“You gotta take a look back at this sport of mixed martial arts,” Johnson said. “If a man can hold his hands down on the ground and stop my actions, to progress to finish, you gotta take a look at the rules. I think it’s a stupid rule. I think PRIDE and DREAM had it correct that you can knee them in the head if they’re down like that.”

Whether or not a fighter gets docked a point, the fighter who puts his hands down to try to prevent the knee is likely to get drilled anyway. So, Johnson asks, why take the chance?

“A true downed person is someone with their knee down,” Johnson said. “It’s unfortunate. You’re playing with fire when you play that role. ‘Big’ John McCarthy, every time he’s got me, he goes, ‘if you put your hand down, if you’re going to play that game, expect to get kneed in the head.’”

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