Take a look at these statistics:
- Six title defenses.
- Owner of the latest stoppage in UFC history.
- Hasn’t registered a loss in nearly four years.
Now, take a minute to see if the average fan knows who this is.
It’s safe to say that the name that people come up with is not Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Johnson has torn through the competition and has made his way into the pound-for-pound conversations, even cracking the top five. But if this fighter is so dominant, why don’t people know who he is? The answer is simple: He just doesn’t have what “everyday” fans want and he doesn’t carry the personality that draws in the masses.
After capturing the inaugural UFC flyweight title with a victory over Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152, Johnson has torn through the opposition, including John Dodson and, in a rematch, Benavidez again. Realistically, those were the last two viable opponents for the champ. Ali Bagautinov seemed to be an okay contender, given his three-fight winning streak, but he was ultimately outclassed by Johnson and then tested positive in a post-fight drug screen. Chris Cariaso had no business fighting for a title. And given Kyoji Horiguchi’s own comments about being one or two fights away from a title shot after defeating Louis Gaudinot, the Japanese fighter was not ready to fight for a belt either, and now will be forever known as the fighter who tapped with one second left at UFC 186.
Take a look at UFCs 174 and 186, respectively. These cards were headlined by Johnson and have produced some of the worst pay-per-view buy rates of any events — numbers aren’t in yet for UFC 186, but UFC 174 did an estimated 115,000 pay-per-view buys according to the MMA Payout Blue Book.
These cards suffered because viable challengers for Johnson have been hard to come by. Johnson’s biggest opposition arguably came against Dodson and Ian McCall, in their first encounter. It’s really the same issue that came along with former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva when Silva sat atop his division. It became not a question of if he was going to win, but how he was going to do it. However, Johnson just doesn’t have the drawing power that Silva did.
The smaller weight classes have been on the back burner of the UFC for far too long. The UFC has historically failed to properly promote the flyweights. As a result, too many people focus on the lightweights and up while forgetting about the beautiful madness that comes with the smaller weight classes. This is not limited to just the flyweights, but, to some extent, the bantamweights and featherweights as well. It’s only recently that the featherweights have received more exposure, and it’s not even due to their champion, Jose Aldo. Instead, it’s because of the “Notorious” Conor McGregor. And that brings us back to the point of personality.
UFC flyweight Ian McCall once stated that Demetrious Johnson has “the personality of a piece of cheese.” While the animosity still lingers for McCall, it’s a pretty bold and seemingly accurate depiction in the eyes of many fans. As of recently, fans have been drawn to a personality matched with a particular set of skills, not just one or the other. Johnson just does not have the personality that a UFC champion needs to have, and his skill set alone isn’t enough to make fans care about his fights.
Johnson isn’t very outspoken. He’s not very flashy. The champ is simply technical and articulate. He weaves in and out and outclasses every opponent with whom he has been matched up. Johnson seems to always go for the finish, as evidenced by two fifth-round stoppage wins. No other champion has scored as many late finishes in the history of the organization.
However, Johnson’s flashes of brilliance are definitely overshadowed. He started in the flyweight tournament with a majority draw over the aforementioned McCall, followed by a unanimous decision victory over McCall to cement his place in the inaugural flyweight title picture. Johnson went on to capture the belt with the split decision victory over Benavidez. He proceeded to defend his belt against Dodson in another unanimous decision victory and then finished his next two opponents, John Moraga and Benavidez. Yet, still, Johnson was unable to capture the attention of the casual fans.
The champ has four decision victories, three submissions and one knockout since becoming a flyweight. That’s a higher finishing rate than most champions, but it still hasn’t produced the draw that it arguably should. In fact, his fighting style draws as much criticism as his personality.
In a world where fans want fighters with the knockout power of Roy Nelson, the bonus-winning style of Joe Lauzon, the trash talk of Nick Diaz and the charisma of Conor McGregor, all wrapped in a body that tips the scales at a minimum of 155 pounds, Johnson will never catch on.