HISCOE’S TAKE: Point by Point Analysis of Demetrious Johnson’s specific gripes with UFC

By Mike Hiscoe, MMATorch contributor

Demetrious Johnson (photo credit Jayne Kamin-Oncea © USA Today Sports)

Demetrious Johnson issued a long and detailed public statement yesterday regarding his grievances with how UFC has treated him. I’ve pulled some key quotes that I have thoughts on below. (You can read the full statement in yesterday’s Monday News Digest.)

“I thought [Sergio] Pettis was a more marketable name.”

I totally agree with this. Ray Borg has looked good lately, but has had trouble making weight and the Pettis name is far more recognizable to casual fans.

“We told Mick that to be fair we would take the fight, but [we] want PPV points for future fights at flyweight.”

I’m interested in the “points” aspect of this. My understanding is that champions automatically got PPV points after reaching a certain threshold. Perhaps because Johnson has been champion for so long, he did not have that as part of his original championship contract. Perhaps, and more likely, UFC treats each champion differently. Johnson hasn’t headlined a pay-per-view that has done more than roughly 200,000 buys, with most being in the low 100,000 range. Of the fighter contracts that have leaked in the past, the points usually kick in at a higher threshold than Johnson has even come close to reaching.

“Sean Shelby called and told us how smaller fighters don’t sell, that UFC can’t make stars of anyone, and that a fight between Cody and I wouldn’t be a sellable fight.”

What an absurd thing to say, and from Sean Shelby of all people. Johnson vs. Garbrandt isn’t going to do a million buys, but it would likely do better than any fight of Johnson’s career, and Garbrandt really doesn’t have a track record to go off of, so who knows how sellable it could be?

“UFC has failed to market and promote me appropriately.”

This is where he started to lose me a bit. I feel UFC has made an ample attempt to market Demetrious Johnson. He just hasn’t connected and you can’t fully blame UFC for that. Johnson was scheduled to headline UFC 152 to crown the first UFC Flyweight Champion and tickets went on sale with Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez as a main event. The UFC 151 cancellation happened and Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort ended up headlining, but there was an attempt to market Johnson and the flyweights early on. Johnson also headlined shows with support from the likes of “Rampage” Jackson and a pre-megastar but still very popular Conor McGregor. The “Rampage” show barely surpassed 100,000 buys and the McGregor show did the aforementioned 200,000 buys. Johnson has also headlined four UFC on Fox shows with mixed results in TV ratings. Perhaps UFC hasn’t put the promotional muscle behind him that they have given to others, but he has certainly been put in positions to be a draw.

“Look at my track record for showing up to fights. Look at my track record of finishing fights. Look at my track record of getting fight night bonuses. Ask yourself if you think that if the UFC decided to truly put marketing dollars behind me that they couldn’t sell me or my fights.”

He’s right. No UFC fighter has been as active and as dominant as Johnson has in the past five years. Unfortunately that doesn’t always translate to dollars.

“First, TJ has never fought at flyweight and is unlikely to make the weight, which would then eliminate the possibility of breaking the title defense record.”

I agree with this. While a Johnson-Dillashaw fight is very appealing Dillashaw has zero track record of making 125 and it’s a very risky fight to make for a championship.

“He went on further to say that if I didn’t take the fight against TJ, and drop Borg as the opponent, he would get rid of the entire flyweight division.”

These kinds of threats are silly. Johnson later said on “The MMA Hour” this afternoon that he told Dana White to go ahead, which is a smart move because even Dana White isn’t petty enough to scrap an entire division over a contract dispute. I think.

“The next day, Dana went to the media and announced that I was fighting TJ Dillashaw, in an obvious attempt to bully me in the media and tarnish my reputation.”

This is not the first time White has tried something like this and I completely believe that’s how it went down.

“We told him that since it was guaranteed by TJ and UFC was demanding and putting me in a bad circumstance, then it is fair that if TJ didn’t make weight, the fight would be off and I would still get my guarantee, plus TJ’s guaranteed pay.”

That’s a lot for Johnson to ask and he wouldn’t get that in a million years. That said, he should be offered some incentive to take the risk of fighting Dillashaw beyond the commission-mandated fines.

I hope this gets sorted out as it would be a shame for a contract dispute to prevent Demetrious Johnson from breaking the title-defense record but that could be exactly what UFC wants.


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