Demetrious Johnson’s record-setting run as UFC flyweight champion is over.
After a legendary 2,142-day run as champion, which saw Johnson set a new UFC record for consecutive title defenses with 11, “Mighty Mouse” suffered a stunning split decision loss to Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo in Los Angeles at UFC 227. But if the end to his historic title reign wasn’t difficult enough, Johnson also left the Staples Center on Saturday night with a pair of potential health issues that could sideline him for the foreseeable future.
“I think I probably tore my right LCL and then my right foot might be broken,” Johnson revealed Saturday at UFC 227’s post-fight press conference.
“Losing happens. Every great champion loses. I’ve lost before when I fought Dom (Cruz), I lose in the gym, so I’m fine. I’m more upset about the injuries, but other than that, I’m okay.”
Johnson, 31, said he believed he suffered the torn LCL during a scramble in either the second or third round. He attributed his foot injury to an accumulation of kicks he threw.
It was only two years ago that “Mighty Mouse” made short work of Cejudo when the flyweight standouts met at UFC 197, with Johnson winning the first match via an effortless opening-round TKO from the clinch. But the rematch proved to be a vastly different affair, as Cejudo avoided the clinch at all costs and instead worked a steady diet of takedowns and top control, completing five of his 14 takedown attempts and winning the second, fourth, and fifth rounds on two judges’ scorecards.
Johnson still outstruck Cejudo by a margin of 110-71, but Cejudo nonetheless offered the most competitive challenge of Johnson’s lengthy title reign, and ultimately did just enough to leave UFC 227 as the new flyweight king.
“The first time, we just fought. Like, it was just fighting. But this time, he was more patient,” Johnson said. “I could hear his corner just saying, ‘Three minutes, four minutes,’ and I could feel each time he would get the takedown and he would just hold, hold, hold, hold. It wasn’t like he postured, passed my guard, got his submission game going on. It was more of him just holding me, me getting off my back, starting to move his weight, but just him literally being patient, him not crossing the distance.
“I would throw the leg kick then he would get off three shots and I then would block them, it wasn’t like anything landed significantly. The stand-up numbers, I think I outstruck him. But it happens. I don’t think the judges know how to score leg kicks, but it is what it is.”
After the fight, Cejudo called for the opportunity to challenge UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw for the 135-pound title in a champion vs. champion superfight.
Johnson, though, remains the most decorated UFC titleholder in history, and considering that his series with Cejudo is now tied at 1-1, “Mighty Mouse” believes it’s only fair that a rubber match comes next.
“Of course, yeah. It wasn’t like he blew me out of the water, like I said,” Johnson said.
“First things first, I’m not going to sit here and be like, ‘Oh, I want a rematch, blah, blah, blah.’ I need to get healthy first. My health is number one and I’m not going to sign a contract if I can’t get through eight weeks of training camp to get ready for a fight; so, first things first, I’ll get home, get an MRI on my knee, my foot, see what the damage is, get that healed up, start training, go from there.”
As for the run that forever cemented Johnson into the MMA history books — a six-year reign as champion that saw “Mighty Mouse” establish a dominance unlike any other and effectively clean out an entire division — Johnson remains proud not only of what he accomplished, but also what he can still accomplish in the future.
“It was a great streak and it’s not over yet, you know what I mean?” Johnson said. “Like I said, I do this because I love it. I’ve already way exceeded my expectations. I was the guy who was in a warehouse making $10.76 an hour, running home to watch Joseph Benavidez fight Dominick Cruz. So, my dream was never to be a world champion. My dream was just to learn how to do mixed martial arts, and when I did that, I became passionate about it and this is the path that it led me on. So I’m happy with my run. I’m going to get back home, get healthy, and then go from there.”