The list of unhappy fighters in the new ownership era of the UFC continues to grow even longer. Now added to the list is perhaps the greatest fighter currently competing, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.
Johnson released a statement on his recent treatment, which I advise you go read. Seriously, I’ll wait.
For those who couldn’t be bothered to click the link, here’s the short version… The only man to ever hold the UFC flyweight championship took aim at how the UFC treated him for not taking a fight with T.J. Dillashaw. He also discussed contract issues and lack of promotion from his bosses. Johnson has long been quiet about his treatment in the UFC. It’s out of character for him to react the way he did. So, when Johnson spoke up, you knew it was going to be something monumental.
Johnson is completely in the right, too. The flyweight division itself hasn’t received much of a push from the UFC since the inaugural flyweight tournament that crowned Mighty Mouse as the champion. This isn’t a crime so much as the UFC not pushing the champion of the division who is arguably one of the greatest fighters to ever step inside the cage.
Yes, he’s one of the greats. Johnson’s displays have been nothing short of extraordinary. He gets better with every fight. His striking is technical and brutal all at once. His grappling is a perfect mixture of offense and defense. It’s amazing what he has accomplished. Once he gets this next title fight in line, a win gives him the UFC record for title defenses.
Georges St-Pierre hasn’t accomplished this. Ronda Rousey hasn’t, either. Conor McGregor? Nope. Demetrious Johnson has done it.
The lack of promotion of Johnson is the most absurdly stupid mistake the UFC can make. For the company to step out and tell him he isn’t promotable is laughable. Even if you take his skills out of the equation, Johnson has done a fantastic job of marketing himself.
Video-game streaming is something people do as a hobby. It’s extremely hard to break into it as a money-making venture and becoming a “Twitch celebrity” with a following. Johnson,, however, ran full-steam ahead and broke into the business to become an extremely popular streamer. Other fighters have tried to follow in his footsteps. As of this writing, Johnson sits at 103,595 followers on the video-game streaming site Twitch. This is an insanely big number for someone like Johnson, who doesn’t devote his entire life to streaming.
Mighty Mouse has done a tremendous amount of work on his own to become a marketable fighter. It’s admirable that he has gone this route instead of the usual trash-talking brashness the UFC has taken to in recent years. Now, imagine if the company used its marketing department, with people who went to school to specifically for marketing, and pushed Johnson with not only his performance in the cage, but how he is outside of the Octagon.
It’s sad that the best promotional material for Johnson doesn’t come from the UFC marketing department, but instead from Reddit, Twitter and YouTube fans. This is downright deplorable.
The UFC likes to push a connection with Xbox and sometimes advertisements for video games, so why not use someone like Johnson to appeal to average video-game nerds? It’s shameful that perhaps the best fighter in UFC history goes largely unnoticed. To even go as far as to threaten closing the entire division over Mighty Mouse’s choice to not fight Dillashaw just goes to show the UFC’s lackadaisical attitude towards promoting him.
A guy with thousands of Twitch followers and some of the best combination of striking and grappling on the planet is marketable. So what is the UFC’s problem? Is it a disdain for the lower-weight guys? What makes Johnson less promotable than, say, UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic? Does a hundred pounds really make that big of a difference to people? The notion is ridiculous. Boxing’s greatest strengths in the past decade have been in the lower weight classes, closer to Johnson than to Michael Bisping or above. If boxing fans enjoy the smaller guys, then why can’t MMA fans do the same?