The story of UFC 227 is as much about the fight which didn’t get made as the ones which were signed.
The highly anticipated potential superfight between longtime flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and bantamweight titleholder T.J. Dillashaw never quite made it past the discussion stages earlier this year.
And as such, Saturday night’s card at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles features a double bill on top with both champions defending their belts. Dillashaw puts his bantamweight title on the line against the man he knocked out last November to claim the crown, Cody Garbrandt; while Johnson will seek to extend his UFC record of 11 consecutive title defenses when he rematches Henry Cejudo.
Should DJ retain, the calls for a super fight are going to start all over again, regardless of whether Dillashaw or Garbrandt leave LA with the gold. And “Mighty Mouse” says he’s still game for the challenge ... if the money is right.
“If the money’s right, I’ve always been up front in talking about these super fights,” Johnson said during a UFC 227 conference call on Tuesday. “Everyone keeps talking about these super fights. If the money’s not there, if the compensation’s not there, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. That’s up to my management if that happens. My management knows what I want, the UFC knows what I want, so for me, I show up to fight the number-one contender in the flyweight division and I’ll continue to do that. So, who knows, if something comes to the table I’ll do it.”
In the meantime, Johnson gave his version of why the fight with Dillashaw didn’t come about this time around. DJ says he was ready to take the fight before he had to undergo shoulder surgery earlier this year. But by the time he was up and running and ready to undergo a full camp, the UFC had already gone in the direction of Dillashaw-Garbrandt 2, and he wasn’t offered the Dillashaw bout.
“When they offered it to me, I accepted it, I got injured, and I got the surgery,” Johnson said. “And then, when it came time again, from my understanding, from my management’s standpoint, is that TJ got an offer to fight Cody with a brand-new deal. So god bless him for taking the new deal to fight Cody. ... Basically, before I got injured, I was going to be fighting him, and then they moved on, and they went to Cody and TJ.”
Garbrandt, for his part, has indicated a willingness to fight Johnson as well, should he beat Dillashaw at UFC 227. But like the flyweight champ, he says the UFC needs to pay up to make this fight happen.
“If they go out and compensate us, I’ll be more than willing to fight ‘Mighty Mouse’ at 125 pounds,” Garbrandt said at a Monday media lunch. “If they don’t want to pay us, I’ll stay at 135 pounds and clean out my division, and (Johnson) will keep doing what he’s doing. No ill words toward ‘Mighty Mouse.’ I think he’s a great, great fighter. But they’ve got to compensate us for that. I think it’s going to be a great fight.”