If you haven’t heard the statement that Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is the pound-for-pound greatest fighter on the planet, then obviously UFC 191 was not on your watch list. Time and time again, the flyweight champion has recently been referred to as the pound-for-pound best. A lot of fans certainly would disagree, however. The statement also seems to show a complete disrespect to current featherweight champion José Aldo, who hasn’t lost a fight in a decade.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
The year was 2013 and, up until his exit from the sport, Georges “Rush” St-Pierre was considered one of the pound-for-pound greatest mixed martial artists, trailing at times to former middleweight kingpin Anderson “The Spider” Silva, the aforementioned Aldo and former light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones.
The landscape has changed drastically since then. Silva would end up losing not once, but twice to current middleweight champion Chris Weidman. GSP had some close calls in his last two title defenses and ended up walking away from the sport in 2014 after defeating Johny Hendricks. And in 2015, Jones made his exit after a run-in with the law and then some. The field has never looked so different.
Here is the 2013 UFC.com Pound-For-Pound Top 10:
1. Jon Jones
2. Georges St-Pierre
3. José Aldo
4. Anderson Silva
5. Cain Velasquez
6. Renan Barão
7. Demetrious Johnson
8. Anthony Pettis
9. Chris Weidman
10. Benson Henderson
…and here is the 2015 poll:
1. José Aldo
2. Demetrious Johnson
3. Chris Weidman
4. Ronda Rousey
5. T.J. Dillashaw
6. Fabricio Werdum
7. Robbie Lawler
8. Rafael dos Anjos
9. Daniel Cormier
10. Cain Velasquez
Notice that in two years, only four fighters (Aldo, Johnson, Velasquez and Weidman) remain in the debate. Also of note is that other than Aldo, the other three fighters have significantly changed their position on the pound-for-pound ladder. So why all the comparisons? What am I getting at? Do I really think that Mighty Mouse is the pound-for-pound best? Maybe.
Or maybe not. The fighter who should hold the title of pound-for-pound best at this time is probably the featherweight champion, Aldo. And if Aldo is victorious against Conor McGregor at UFC 194 later this year, don’t be surprised if the pound-for-pound king follows in the footsteps of GSP and exits the sport for good.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the flyweight kingpin.
Johnson draws a strong comparison to the aforementioned St-Pierre. That in itself is an accomplishment. However, the stronger comparison is that the two fighters have “boring” fights. Their fights aren’t the slobberknockers that mainstream fans want. Blood is not being spilled all over the canvas when either man competes. Yet, both fighters fought their fight and kept on winning. The problem is, this is a business of entertainment. As recent events have shown, Johnson, due to his size and that reputation for “boring” fights, just doesn’t have the drawing power that even GSP carried.
Keep this in mind: Up until UFC 189 this past July, a welterweight title fight had not ended in a finish since UFC 94. I’ll say that again. No finishes since UFC 94, when B.J. Penn was fighting at welterweight against GSP and his corner threw in the towel. GSP was criticized time and time again for his inability to finish fights — his next seven title defenses went the distance. However, while most fans were begging for the finish, watching GSP fight was a thing of beauty and every title defense featured a pretty well-known opponent with a solid fan base.
Now, let’s compare that to the era of Mighty Mouse.
Johnson became the inaugural UFC flyweight champion and has defended his belt seven times. In those seven fights, he has gone the distance only three times. He has three submission victories, including the latest finish in UFC history and a brutal knockout of Joseph Benavidez when the pair met for their rematch. Yet, Johnson isn’t drawing the fans like he should. He isn’t even drawing at the same level as GSP.
To put all of this into perspective, three of Johnson’s seven title defenses have been shown on Fox, providing fans with plenty of free exposure to the flyweight champ. However, his pay-per-view numbers have not produced numbers the UFC brass would be proud to boast about.
So what is missing? Why can’t the flyweight champion get any recognition? That’s a good question, and the UFC and Johnson need to figure out the answer.