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Demetrious Johnson still interested in T.J. Dillashaw superfight, but not the UFC bantamweight belt

Most of the talk about a proposed superfight between UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw and flyweight titleholder T.J. Dillashaw has centered on the idea that Dillashaw would go down to 125 pounds and challenge the longest-reigning current UFC champ for his title.

That goes against the grain of most superfights, in which the smaller competitor tends to step up in weight. Such was the case when lightweight champion B.J. Penn went up and fought welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre in 2009, when featherweight champion Conor McGregor went up to fight lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in 2016, and in the next one, when light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier meets heavyweight king Stipe Miocic at UFC 226.

But Johnson, for his part, has a simple explanation for why Dillashaw would come down to his turf: DJ has no interest in defending the bantamweight title, if he was to defeat Dillashaw at 135.

“I’m going to be frank and honest,” Johnson said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “If I went up there and beat T.J. Dillashaw at 135 pounds, I have no interest whatsoever in staying at 135. People are like ‘why not?’ and I’m like I have no interest in fighting guys who walk around at 160 pounds.”

Johnson, who had a successful run at 135 pounds before the UFC instituted the flyweight division in 2012, is looking at the big picture, and he wholeheartedly believes that fighting competitors significantly heavier than he is over the long term will not help his prospects.

“That’s going to put more wear and tear on your body,” Johnson said. “You can do X, Y, and Z. I’m looking at the my longevity of my career, I want to fight another 5-6 years whether I win or lose, and I’m going to do that fighting guys my size. You look at the ‘Suga Show,’ Sean O’Malley. The guy is 5-11. My god, I mean, it’s just, it creates more, and obviously I would do it if the money was right, but I’m not going to sit here and argue with somebody who doesn’t believe I should make X, Y, and Z, who believe I should do something.”

Johnson, alas, wasn’t able to offer any hint on when the Dillashaw fight might actually happen. While he says it’s still the fight he most wants, and while he would ideally have the fight at UFC 226 along with Miocic vs. Cormier, he reports that talks have gone “dormant.”

“That’s the fight I want,” Johnson said. “That’s the fight I believe that should go down. I believe the UFC knows that’s the fight that I want. The biggest thing I’ve been really focusing on is letting Malki [Kawa] and Abe [Kawa] at First Round Management handle that stuff. I have, they’re great managers and I told them what I want and they talk to the UFC. I think the talks with Malki and those guys have kind have gone dormant.”

For his part, Johnson says he understands the UFC has other options it can look at, but still believes this is the fight to make.

“At the end of the day, UFC is a business,” Johnson said. “T.J. obviously just won the belt and he’s been the champ for maybe five or six months, and so there’s still a line of contenders he could fight in the division. You have your Dominick Cruz, Jimmie Rivera, the Cody Garbrandt rematch, so they have options for that one. Whereas for me, I have options as well and rematches and whatever. But I think TJ wants this fight because it is probably a bigger paycheck for him, and hopefully for me too, so we’ll see what the UFC wants to do.”

If the Dillashaw fight doesn’t work out, and he instead ends up rematching a prior flyweight opponent such as Henry Cejudo or Joseph Benavidez, then so be it.

“At the end of the day, it’s a paycheck,” Johnson said. “If you’re going to make as much money as you are, when you’re fighting someone else, that’s the one thing I always tell people is I would never turn down the truly rightful No. 1 contender in my division, because the UFC can actually strip you. They can say, you’re not going to fight the No. 1 contender, we can strip you. So okay, you know what, Henry Cejudo is the No. 1 contender, we deem him the legit No. 1 contender, and then I’m going to fight him again blah blah blah, if he’s truly the No. 1 contender I will fight them.”

Johnson, who announced a partnership with the energy drink Xevia on Monday’s MMA Hour, is still going through rehab for a shoulder injury, believes he’ll be ready in time for International Fight Week.

And if it does end up Johnson gets the Dillashaw superfight after all, it will be at 125, because he’s far more interested in building on his record 11 consecutive title defenses than in collecting belts in different weight classes.

“[Dillashaw] wants to make the weight cut,” Johnson said. “He wants to make the weight cut, he wants to be the champ champ and all that jazz. I don’t care about being the champ champ. I want to be the only consecutive 12-time defending champion in any mixed martial arts promotion. ... The champ champ is old news nowadays. But you know what is brand-new news? 11-time defending champion.”

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