“Look what Conor is doing now,” Johnson told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “Conor isn’t even in the sport of mixed martial arts, technically. He’s a champ and he’s not even ready to defend his belt. Where’s Ronda at? Exactly — nobody knows. Where’s my black ass at? I’m still out here trying to defend my title, I’m still trying to represent this company as the greatest combat sport on the planet Earth.”
The UFC wants Johnson to defend his title against former bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw this summer. Johnson isn’t interested. He’d rather fight for the belt against someone from the flyweight division who has worked his way up the ranks. Johnson wanted Sergio Pettis as a foe, but ended up agreeing to face Ray Borg.
In his mind, there is no reason to have rankings in every division if they don’t mean anything. Johnson wants the UFC to be a true sport, based on climbing the ladder.
“If not, you’re basically lying to the public and selling wolf tickets like Nick Diaz would say,” Johnson said.
Johnson, 30, has 10 straight title defenses, which is tied for the most in UFC history with Anderson Silva. In his next title defense, Johnson has a chance to break that record. And he won’t do it against Dillashaw, someone who has never made 125 pounds before.
“Mighty Mouse” said he wanted some guarantees if Dillashaw could not make the weight — that he’d get his full purse, Dillashaw’s purse and the fight would be cancelled. The UFC responded, Johnson said, by saying Borg would be ready to fight as a last-minute opponent if Dillashaw missed weight. Johnson refused, questioning the UFC’s understanding of how fighters prepare for a fight.
“What is this?” Johnson said. “Is this f*cking amateur hour? This is the shit 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?”
Johnson wants to make it clear, too, that isn’t about Dillashaw personally. He would feel the same way about any other bantamweight contender coming down and jumping into a title fight. Johnson said he would perhaps make an exception for bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt if the money were right since that would be a champion vs. champion superfight.
“It’s just the principle of a bantamweight coming down and skipping the line,” Johnson said.
The court of public opinion is split on Johnson taking a stand. On one hand, close MMA followers do want to see the UFC stick to the rankings. On the other, Johnson has mowed down everyone in the flyweight division and Dillashaw is a fresh face, not to mention a former champ in another division.
The talks of Johnson ducking Dillashaw and the questioning of his legacy as one of the best fighters of all time is ludicrous, Johnson said. He doesn’t care about the opinion of fans, who “don’t know sh*t.”
“When somebody says you’ll tarnish your legacy, I say, ‘My legacy is in the back of my car,’” Johnson said. “My two children that I’m putting time and effort into. When i’m done my mixed martial arts career, the only people who are gonna remember me and respect what I did and how I lived my life are my two children. That’s my legacy, ladies and gentleman.
Johnson spoke on this situation on The MMA Hour and also sent a statement to MMA Fighting on Monday, explaining what he feels are UFC bully tactics. Johnson said the UFC threatened to close the flyweight division if he didn’t fight Dillashaw.
“I’m just tired, I’m exhausted,” Johnson said. “I just felt this is the right time to do it, this way people understand my character and where that comes from, why I put my stance down, why I’m not fighting any bantamweight that comes down here and wants to get a title shot.”
The other thing bugging Johnson is Dana White’s usage of the media and social media to get his point across. He said he and the UFC president spoke at the UFC Athlete Retreat last month and the last he heard about the situation was from White on the UFC podcast Unfiltered. White said Johnson was fighting Dillashaw and he — not Johnson — was the one who decides the fights.
“I love fighting for the UFC,” Johnson said. “It’s an amazing company. I’ve done a lot of great things and they’ve done a lot of great things for my career.
“But I’m f*cking tired of seeing things about my career on Twitter. A phone call would be nice. Discuss it before you go out there saying all this stuff.”