ST. LOUIS – Michael Johnson admits his first weight-cut to featherweight has been a “little rough,” but the former longtime lightweight said he’s yet to second-guess his decision to change divisions for UFC Fight Night 124.
Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) will join a new weight-class Sunday when he meets Darren Elkins (23-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) at the FS1-televised event following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. “The Menace” fought many of the elite at 155 pounds over the years but said he was ready for a fresh start. It’s not that he’s abandoning his former weight class. Johnson simply just feels he’s moving to a place where the path to UFC gold is less muddy.
“People are like, ‘Oh my god, you lost to Justin (Gaethje), and you’re running to featherweight,’” Johnson told MMAjunkie. “You guys sound like some clowns. It’s the quickest way to a title shot for me. There’s so much going on at the top of the lightweight division. Conor (McGregor) is holding it up; Tony (Ferguson) and Khabib (Nurmagomedov) are going back and forth; so you never know. Even if I knock out a couple wins, I still could not be next in line for a title shot. Nate (Diaz) could come back in. It’s a popularity contest rather than somebody who actually deserves it. Me going down to featherweight, I get two solid wins, and I’m next in line, especially with my resume at 155.”
At 31, a shift in division isn’t something Johnson could do overnight. He said the process has been a challenge but also admitted the required discipline has been advantageous overall.
“It’s extremely life-changing,” Johnson said. “I haven’t had a piece of bread in like two months. I’m dreading this cut. But it’s re-motivated me. It’s given me a new spark of life. I’m definitely rededicated to the sport, my training is going a lot harder, a lot tougher, and I don’t have that little time to slack off. I can’t afford a cheat meal here and there, I can’t afford to sneak a cookie or something or some candy. I’ve got a strict diet, with everything timed and eating right. It’s going good. I’m happy.”
The final pounds are always the most challenging to lose, and it remains to be seen how Johnson will react when he approaches the 146-pound limit for the official weigh-in. Johnson has absolutely no doubt he’s going to make the mark without major issues, and he believes beating Elkins will put everyone on notice. That said, Johnson still left the door open for a future return to lightweight.
“This is my future,” Johnson said. “I definitely think I’m going to go down here and get this title. That’s what I’m here to do. But I’m definitely not completely done with the lightweight division. I have a plan of going back up there. There’s still a few guys I’ve got some unfinished business with that I want some fights back. Who knows, I get that title around my waist at 145, then I get to call some shots at 155.”
For Johnson’s official foray into featherweight, the UFC did not provide an easy task. Elkins is No. 10 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings and in the midst of a five-fight winning streak against solid competition. “The Damage” is no pushover, but that’s exactly what Johnson wants.
“I want the best guy possible; I want the toughest guy available,” Johnson said. “Who are they? Sign them up. Sure enough, Darren Elkins said yes, and I’m blessed. He’s a great fighter, tough and durable, and I’m excited to go in there and have another ‘Fight of the Year’ performance.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: UFC's Michael Johnson has made 'life-changing adjustments' for drop to featherweight