Demetrious Johnson is widely considered to be one of the greatest fighters of all time, but during his run with the UFC, he certainly wasn’t paid like it.
After becoming the UFC’s first-ever flyweight champion by beating Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152, Johnson went on to become one of the most accomplished fighters in promotional history, setting the record for most title defenses (11) and climbing to the top of the pound-for-pound fighter list. But despite his many accomplishments and the UFC itself dubbing him the best fighter in the world, the promotion apparently didn’t see fit to pay him like it.
During a recent live stream on his YouTube channel, prompted by Francis Ngannou’s recent departure from the UFC and Dana White’s comments about it, Johnson went in-depth on his own exit from the company and his pay during his reign as UFC flyweight champion.
“When I fought Dominick Cruz [for the bantamweight title] I was under contract, I was fighting for $14,000 [to show] and $14,000 [to win],” Johnson explained. “I lost to Cruz, so I made 14K. Then I was about fight Eddie Wineland and that didn’t go through so I fought Ian McCall in Australia, and I was on the same contract. Then, I got a new contract when I fought Ian McCall for the second time, I think I got bumped up to $20,000 and $20,000.
“I beat Ian McCall and then I fought Joseph Benavidez. Then I was still on that $20,000 and $20,000, so when I fought John Dodson I made $23,000 and $23,000. Then when I fought John Moraga, I think it was $23,000 and $23,000 so it probably went $26,000 and $26,000. Then when I fought Joseph Benavidez, I think it was $30,000 and $30,000. Then I finally got a new contract as champion, and I think it was $125,000 and $50,000, but I couldn’t get pay-per-view points. That’s where a champion makes the most bang for their buck, the pay-per-view points. Because if you get on a card with Conor McGregor and he does 2.1 million buys, you just do the f****** math. You’re going to make a s***load of money. I never got the opportunity to do that.”
Johnson has been pretty open about his issues with the UFC, which largely centered around pay and respect. Things really began to deteriorate in 2017 when the UFC wanted to book a superfight between Johnson and then bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, but Johnson felt the promotion was bullying him. And as he explained once again, the UFC’s unwillingness to open up the checkbook was a big part of the problem.
“So, when they tried to stiff-arm me into fighting T.J. Dillashaw, I was like, ‘Yeah, pay me a f****** million dollars, and I’ll do it,” Johnson said. “This is a super fight, let’s make some super money.’ They never wanted to do that. That’s why I came out with that, basically pushing back, because when does a champion have leverage? When does a champion get what is due to them? Going back to my seventh or eighth title defense, you’ve got f****** CM Punk over here who is making 500 bones and it’s his second fight in the UFC. That’s where that chip on my shoulder came from.”
Johnson’s issues with the promotion soon came to an end as, after losing his flyweight title to Henry Cejudo in 2018, Johnson was traded to ONE Championship, where he has remained ever since.
Johnson recently reclaimed the ONE flyweight title with a sensational knockout of Adriano Moraes at ONE on Prime 1, and “Mighty Mouse” will look to do it again when he faces Moraes in a trilogy bout at ONE Fight Night 10 on May 5.
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