Exclusive: Michael "The Menace" Johnson Talks About the Blackzilians and His Upcoming Fight With Danny Castillo
Michael Johnson is on a two fight winning streak and has shown vast improvements since he was a finalist on season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter. The last time fans saw him he was busy defeating The Ultimate Fighter season 14 lightweight winner Tony Ferguson at UFC on Fox 3 this past May.
Johnson joined hosts Mitch Ciccarelli and Bryan Levick yesterday on the debut episode of BJPenn.Com Radio and told them what he’s been up to over the past few months.
“Since my last fight I’ve been down here in Florida training,” Johnson told BJ Penn.Com Radio. “I kind of have a chip on my shoulder because I wanted to finish him, but I’ll take a unanimous decision over a tough fighter like Ferguson. I’m getting ready for my fight with Danny Castillo at UFC 151 in a couple of weeks and staying on the same path. I’m working my way towards the lightweight title.”
Johnson’s next fight will be against Castillo at UFC 151: Jones vs. Henderson on September 1st. He knows that Castillo presents a tough challenge for him, but he feels he is ready to finish this fight and show fans what he is made of.
“Danny’s tough, he’s a real tough fighter who comes from a good camp,” said Johnson. “He’s riding a three or four fight win streak and is one of the guys in the division that I need to get past to make a name for myself. I see his wrestling as his strength, but other than that I feel like I can go in there and beat him up. I’m going to stop his takedowns and in an ideal situation I’ll go in there and get a knockout. I have a chip on my shoulders from not finishing my last two fights and I’m ready to go in there and let my hands loose.”
A win over Castillo will be his third straight victory and should begin to open the eyes of Joe Silva and UFC President Dana White. Johnson told the listeners whether or not a win over Castillo will put him in the top 10 or at the very least close to it.
“Hopefully, that’s what I am shooting for,” Johnson explained. “Like I said this is the year that I want to get into the top 10, if not I want to be a couple of spots away. My last two fights were against awesome opponents and it’s hard to go on a streak in such a loaded division. I have Danny ahead of me and I’m not going to lose my focus on that fight, I plan on finishing him and putting on a dominating performance. I would like to go on to fight a guy like Joe Lauzon or another guy who is close to the top. I want to make a name for myself and get on one of the great main cards and show everyone I can compete in this division, I have no plans on dropping down to 145 like a lot of the guys have been doing.
Recently Mike Van Arsdale left his position as a coach with the Blackzilians and moved back to Arizona to be closer to his family. Mario Sperry has stepped up and taken over the role as head coach. Some were happy to see Van Arsdale go including Melvin Guillard, but Johnson was not one of them.
“Absolutely not, Melvin has his own opinion and I’m not going to go into great detail about that,” Johnson stated. “Things go back pretty far with Melvin and Van Arsdale, but I was bummed out to see Van go, he’s a great coach and he’ll always be a friend of mine as well as a coach to me. It’s a business just like any other business and people leave and sometimes things just aren’t working out for a particular person. I’m definitely not happy, but Mario’s a great guy as well and we’ll continue to stay on the track we are on.”
Many fans and journalists have criticized some fighters for leaving their previous camps and joining up with the Blackzilians. Johnson has a message for all of the haters and explained that he is better now than at any point in his career.
“I have improved tremendously since joining up with the Blackzilians,” offered Johnson. “Before The Ultimate Fighter I was training in Springfield, MO which is where I started my career. I was part of a great school there, but in order for me to fight at this level I need to train with the best guys in the world. I was with Jackson’s for a bit, but I wasn’t getting the attention that I needed so I made my way down to Florida and teamed up with Rashad and all these other guys. Haters are going to hate, that’s their job. They will always find something to hate on, if we don’t have them that means you aren’t doing anything right. As long as we keep succeeding they will find other things to hate on, everyone has seen improvements in our team. They can sit on their couches, eat their Cheetohs and play around with their mouses all they want! We’re out here trying to make history.”
The subject of his time on The Ultimate Fighter came up. Johnson explained that being cooped up in the house may not be for everyone. He went over what he felt were the biggest lessons he learned during his time on the show.
“The experience, to be able to compete at a high level in the UFC,” said Johnson. “Everyone thinks they are a fighter, they think they can be great at MMA until you actually learn from a real dedicated fighter like GSP, Koscheck or the guys they brought into help out. It changes your mind really fast; it had some people second guessing themselves on whether or not they really wanted to compete in MMA. Being in the house was crazy, but if I could go in a house for 8 weeks before a fight and be cut off from the outside world not by my choice, but because I had to do it, that would be great. The house helps because you have no outside distractions and it also helps see who is mentally tough enough to handle being in a house with 13 other guys.”
Being that he is a lightweight and also a huge fan of the sport, it was only normal to ask him his opinion on Saturday night’s UFC Lightweight Championship fight between Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar.
“It was a great fight, just like the first one,” Johnson assessed. “It was back and forth, so hard to call. For me as a fighter I was pulling for Frankie, but it doesn’t really make me bias, but I thought Frankie won. It would have been great if they had given Frankie that fight so they would have to have a tie breaker. To see a fighter lose a fight like that is heartbreaking. I really like both guys and get along with both of them. They are the best in the world at what they do, but I don’t see how they give a guy the win off of leg kicks. To tell the truth that’s the only area that Henderson dominated in that bout. Even those went away late in the third round until the end of the fight. We’ve been having problems with the judges and they say all the time to go in there and finish the fight so it doesn’t become an issue.”
Johnson finished his time on the show off by telling everyone why he feels he has what it takes to break into the top 10 and what skills he possesses to make that happen.
“Not many people have really seen it yet, but I feel as though I’m one of the top strikers in the division,” said “The Menace.” “I know it really hasn’t shown yet, but I plan on showing it in my next fights. My heart and determination and how much I don’t want to lose. This is the toughest division and I want to be here with the best athletes in the world. It’s just so stacked, the top ten guys in the division are hard to compete with, but it’s time for someone else to make a run at it. I’m going to keep working hard until I get there and once I do I will work even harder.”