Michael Johnson still hasn’t been given a reason for his card placement on Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 124. But that’s OK – he’s got bigger things to worry about.
Earlier this week, Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) made his feelings on the finalized lineup for the UFC’s first trip to St-Louis quite clear. As someone who was born in the city and coming off a “Fight of the Night” performance, Johnson wasn’t too happy with the fact his featherweight meeting with Darren Elkins (23-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) was slated for the night’s preliminary card.
A few days later, Johnson still believed that not being up there doesn’t make sense. But he’s ready to move on.
“I don’t even think they care to give me an answer,” Johnson told MMAjunkie Radio. “And, honestly, I’m not looking for an answer. Because there’s no logical answer or reason to that, for me, at least. …
“I’m coming into St-Louis to go to war, and that’s the only thing that’s important to me. I don’t care about the card, because I needed to voice that opinion.”
Although Johnson is certainly no octagon newbie, Saturday’s FS1-televised bout at Scottrade Center is a debut of sorts. Since joining the UFC in 2010, after a “The Ultimate Fighter 12” stint, “The Menace” has had all of his 17 fights at 155 pounds. Now, he’s trying his hand at the featherweight division.
This is the type of move that can go both ways. Dropping divisions can translate to added speed and, of course, a power advantage over smaller opponents. But it can also be depleting and even leave fighters more susceptible to damage in both training and the fight.
So far, though, Johnson only has felt the positive effects of the move. He says he’s pushed harder in this camp than he has in his previous ones. And, feeling sharper than ever, he believes Elkins might find some trouble dealing with the speed that he’s gained.
“It’s been great,” Johnson said. “No complaints. I’ve stayed dedicated and motivated and extremely more focused than my previous fights at 155. A lot has to do with me having to cut that extra weight.
“So I can’t really slack off too much. It’s been great. Everything has being going good.”
Back when the move to featherweight was still just an idea, Johnson made it clear that he wanted top-10 competition. And the request, which was ultimately granted, wasn’t entirely unreasonable.
Johnson is the No. 13 fighter in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings. Despite the fact that he’s gone 1-4 in his past five outings, all the results were against top competition. Johnson’s one win of the bunch was over contender Dustin Poirier, who’s ranked No. 11.
Johnson’s most recent losses were to No. 7 Nate Diaz, No. 3 Khabib Nurmagomedov and, more recently, No. 5 Justin Gaethje. The latter was a TUF 25 Finale barnburner that earned MMAjunkie’s Fight of the Year and Round of the Year honors.
Looking back, Johnson’s octagon record shows victories over the likes of Edson Barboza and Joe Lauzon. Johnson was, in fact, the last fighter to beat current interim champion Tony Ferguson, which he did via unanimous decision in a UFC on FOX 3 meeting back in 2012.
He has in Elkins, who’s the No. 10 fighter in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, an opponent who hasn’t lost in five bouts and won MMAjunkie’s Comeback of the Year award for one of them.
All things considered, Johnson isn’t too crazy to believe a win on Sunday will make him a player in the UFC’s 145-pound title picture.
“That’s the idea,” Johnson said. “That’s how I’m looking at it exactly. To go in here and get a tough fight against Darren Elkins, that’s incredible. I asked for one of the toughest guys in the division, and I got one.
“But I’m just excited to get in there and put on a show and get a win. And definitely throw my name in the hat for a title contender next year – or this year.”
To hear more from Johnson, check out the video above.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: St. Louis native Michael Johnson: 'No logical answer' for UFC Fight Night 124 prelim placement