Former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson is generally regarded as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in MMA history, but the criticism directed towards him during his run in the Octagon was that he wasn’t a draw for fans.
Now a member of ONE Championship, Johnson was the most dominant flyweight and arguably the most dominant fighter in MMA period between 2012 and 2018. However, for whatever reason, Johnson just never appealed to fans as a box-office draw, with his pay-per-view numbers being lower than some other champions during his time in the UFC.
When asked why he thought that was, UFC president Dana White offered a blunt assessment on Johnson’s ability to draw viewership, though he also offered praise for the former champion’s fighting abilities.
“I had a guy who was completely dominant, every time he fought he was exciting and always went for the finish, but people didn’t care,” White told ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto. “Nobody cared whatsoever about Demetrious Johnson.”
Despite Johnson’s impeccable record in the UFC, the promotion decided to trade him to ONE Championship for Ben Askren following his split decision loss to Henry Cejudo last August at UFC 227. Although the flyweight division seemed to be on its last legs during Johnson’s run, there is renewed interest in the division with Cejudo as the new champion, and that could possibly save the division, according to White.
“Henry Cejudo might be the guy that people actually care about,” White said.
It seems like White believes the problem with the flyweight division was that Demetrious Johnson was the champion, which in turn disinterested fans. But with Cejudo as the champ, White appears to at least be open to the idea of keeping 125lbs around for a little longer. A lot of that will depend on what happens when Cejudo faces Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight title at UFC 238 tomorrow night. Then we should have a much clearer picture of the future of the UFC flyweight division.
What do you think of Dana White’s assessment of Demetrious Johnson?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 6/7/2019.