A win over Borg would put “Mighty Mouse” at 11 consecutive title defenses, an extraordinary mark that would eclipse the hallowed UFC record currently held by both Johnson and Anderson Silva. After that, many observers believe Johnson will look elsewhere for his next pursuit, perhaps signing on for a superfight against the UFC’s 135-pound champion. But Johnson isn’t in a hurry to flee the division he has reigned over since its inception, and if the money isn’t right for a superfight, he would be more than willing to continue propelling his title defense record to unimaginable heights.
“One guy, a friend of mine said, ‘10, that’s obtainable; 11, that’s obtainable; 15 is f*cking legendary,’” Johnson said this week on a UFC 215 media conference call. “He goes, ‘why don’t you just go to 15?’ You know what, why not? I mean, I’m 31 years old, I feel good, and you’ve got a lot of new, young, up-and-comer guys coming up in this division, so why not just keep on doing it as long as I can? It’s not like 135 is going anywhere. When I get 35 or 36 or 37 years old, when I’m tired of dieting and not having Oreos the week before my fight, then I’ll go up to 135. But right now, I’m focused on setting the record as high as I can.
“That’s what a lot of people don’t realize,” Johnson added. “A lot of people, they get the belt, they become the champion, and they think that’s the hardest thing to do in the sport. No, it’s very hard to rack up three or four or even 10 consecutive title defenses, and making weight every single time, and making sure you don’t miss your flights, you do all your interviews, et cetera, et cetera.”
Nonetheless, UFC 215 presents an interesting situation for Johnson, who battled hard against the UFC to ensure that Borg, and not bantamweight contender T.J. Dillashaw, received a shot at the title. While Borg supported Johnson throughout his clash against the brass, the challenger also hasn’t been shy about speaking with his own brand of confidence, telling reporters that he will happily grant Johnson an immediate rematch after his victory at UFC 215, and promising just days earlier that he would put an end to Johnson’s UFC career.
To that, Johnson could only laugh.
“He ain’t retiring sh*t,” Johnson said. “I’m just getting started. I’m 31 years old, I’m feeling better than ever. Training is going easy and I’ve fought the hardest-hitting and the most athletic guys in this division. He’s a tough competitor, and we’ll see where his mouth is after the fight night.”
In truth, Johnson’s run as a UFC flyweight is without parallel. “Mighty Mouse” is unbeaten across 13 contests since the UFC introduced the division to its ranks in 2012. Over that time, Johnson has effectively gotten as close as any UFC champion in history to cleaning out his weight class, all the while cementing himself as one of the all-time pound-for-pound greats in the sport.
Johnson is currently ranked No. 2 on the UFC’s official pound-for-pound rankings, behind only Jon Jones, who could be soon facing a multi-year suspension for a potential USADA violation at UFC 214. But as someone who has been called everything from overrated to the GOAT in his time as champion, Johnson knows that labels like that are fleeting and interchangeable, always at the mercy of last weekend’s fight results, so he remains content to continue quietly adding accolades to his trophy case while others argue about the merits of what he has done.
“That opinion’s always going to [change], whether Jon Jones is innocent or guilty, whether GSP comes back and blows the brakes off Michael Bisping, et cetera, et cetera,” Johnson said. “So for me, I don’t care what the public thinks, because like I said, it always changes — their opinions and their perception of the sport and what I have done. But for me, in my heart, I know what I have done.
“I have gone out there, I’m the champion, finished multiple title fights. I’m always going out there looking for the finish, whether the opponent the dangerous or not. I’ve gone five rounds with people and I don’t even have to submit them. I could just coast my way to the scorecards, and I’m still looking for the finish and getting a one-second armbar. So for me, I’m just going out there doing what I do best, and it’s up to the world, the public, to open their eyes and recognize talent, instead of just recognizing the bullsh*t of the drama talking.”
That philosophy will be on display again in Edmonton’s Rogers Place at UFC 215. And while Borg has pinpointed various reasons for why he will pull off the upset of the year — such as having former Johnson opponent John Dodson as a primary training partner in camp — Johnson knows that the best in his division have already tried and failed 10 times to accomplish what Borg is hoping to do, so he is confident in where he stands.
“Anybody can go out there and watch 50 minutes of me and John Dodson,” Johnson said. “Obviously me and John Dodson have shared the Octagon, and [he and Borg] do have different skillsets. I would say I’ve grown from my last John Dodson fight, as you can see from the first John Dodson fight to the second John Dodson fight. Even though they knew what I was going to bring to the table, I was able to shut his whole entire game down. And like I said, after I got done with that fight, I was prettier than a motherf*cker, even though I fought the hardest hitting guy in the flyweight division.
“So I’m not worried about it at all. I’m looking forward to it and seeing what Greg Jackson has come up with this time, and seeing if I can stop what Greg Jackson is trying to do.”