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Demetrious Johnson: UFC threatened to fold flyweight division if I don’t fight T.J. Dillashaw

Demetrious Johnson doesn’t want to defend his UFC flyweight title against T.J. Dillashaw this summer for a number of reasons. He made that known to UFC president Dana White last month at the UFC Athlete Retreat.

According to Johnson, White replied that the UFC wants to make that fight and Dillashaw wants it. Johnson said White asked why he was denying Dillashaw the opportunity. That, Johnson told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, set “Mighty Mouse” off.

“You done f*cked up,” Johnson said of his thoughts at the time. “I’m done.”

Johnson believes he’s looking out for his own career and owes nothing to Dillashaw. He said he was stunned that White would ask him to put Dillashaw over himself.

“F*ck that,” Johnson said. “This isn’t TJ Dillashaw’s career. This is my career. This is how it’s going to f*cking happen.”

Since then, Johnson said he’s had some back and forth through his manager and coach Matt Hume and personally with UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard. One of the most recent things Maynard relayed to Johnson’s team, per Johnson, is that the UFC will fold the flyweight division if he doesn’t take the fight against Dillashaw.

“Mighty Mouse” said he’s ready to call the UFC’s bluff.

“I said close the mother f*cking division then,” Johnson said. “Because if somebody is willing to do that, that just shows you that they have no interest whatsoever of working with the champion. I never missed weight, always showed up on time, did all of my interviews on fight week, traveled to Australia in coach two times for the flyweight division. I’ve done a lot.”

Johnson, 30, tied the record for most title defenses in UFC history back in April with 10. One more successful defense and he’ll have broken Anderson Silva’s record. The Washington native is regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world and on the short list of the greatest of all time.

The UFC initially wanted Johnson to defend the belt against top contender Ray Borg in August. Johnson wanted Sergio Pettis next, because he’s a bigger name, per a statement Johnson sent to MMA Fighting on Monday morning. But Johnson did eventually agree to fighting Borg.

When UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt pulled out of a title defense against Dillashaw at UFC 213 on July 8 in Las Vegas, the UFC moved to put together Dillashaw and Johnson. Dillashaw would drop down to flyweight for the first time to challenge the longtime champ.

Johnson said no. Johnson said he wants to preserve the integrity of the flyweight rankings and not fight someone who has never competed in the division. Dillashaw has never made 125 pounds and if he misses weight then the fight won’t be a title defense, so Johnson won’t be going for the record.

In response, Johnson told the UFC that if Dillashaw misses weight he still wants his full purse as well as Dillashaw’s purse and the fight would be off. The UFC, Johnson said, told him that wouldn’t happen, but Borg would be on the card and ready to fight Johnson if Dillashaw missed weight.

“Mighty Mouse” said he felt like that was a show of disrespect to the preparation process of MMA. How could he agree to a fight against someone he hasn’t trained to compete against?

“What is this?” Johnson told Helwani. “Is this f*cking amateur hour? This is the sh*t you do at smokers and amateur shows. … This is supposed to be the pinnacle of mixed martial arts and this is what we’re negotiating?”

With no agreement seemingly close, Johnson said the UFC tried to leverage him by saying it would close up the division he has prevailed over since its beginning in 2012. Johnson said he’d move on and get another job, move up to bantamweight or go fight for another promotion if that is the case. He won’t budge.

“I respect the UFC saying, ‘Hey, we’re gonna close your f*cking division, take T.J. to fight,’” Johnson said. “Sounds good. Here’s my stance: Go ahead and f*cking close it. Like I respect them being honest and straightforward with it. But don’t expect me to be, ‘OK, I’ll take the TJ fight if you’re gonna close my division.’ No, no, no, no. That’s not how it works. What have I been doing the last five years in this division? Trying to make it the best division in the world.”

Johnson said he believed Maynard when he was told the UFC would do that. He had no reason not to. Johnson thinks the UFC is willing to do it.

“I had to believe him,” Johnson said. “I was standing my ground. I’m a black-and-white type of dude. If you say something, I believe you’re gonna do it. When he told me that, I was like, ‘Alright, if that’s how you guys want to treat me and say that and close my division after I’ve been playing ball the whole time and defending my title, go ahead.’ They showed they had no interest in having that division.”

A request for comment sent to the UFC on Monday afternoon was not immediately returned.

Johnson and the UFC disagree about the money-making potential of the flyweight division, Johnson said. Johnson believes if the UFC put more money and resources into promoting the division, it would sell better. He has had a hard time drawing pay-per-view buys as champion and the UFC has not given him a share of the pay-per-view revenue in any of his fights.

The UFC did promise to give him pay-per-view points against Dillashaw. But Johnson doesn’t plan on backing down. He believes he’s doing the right thing for himself, the division and the sport, trying to make the rankings matter.

Johnson said he doesn’t know how the UFC will take it. He maintained that it has nothing to do with Dillashaw personally and he’d have the same take if it were another 135-pounder coming down.

“I have no idea,” Johnson said. “I’ll tell you what’s gonna happen: I’m not fighting another bantamweight. I’ll tell you that.”

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