Former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson casts light on his negotiations with the UFC: “They tried to stiff-arm me”

By Josh Evanoff - January 18, 2023

ONE flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson has reflected on his own negotiations with the UFC.

Demetrious Johnson, ONE Championship

Francis Ngannou recently made headlines for joining the rare club of champions to leave the UFC on their own accord. The last fighter to accomplish that feat was the legendary B.J. Penn. ‘The Prodigy’ left the promotion in 2004, having just become welterweight champion by defeating Matt Hughes.

Nearly 20 years later, ‘The Predator’ joined that exclusive club by leaving the promotion as heavyweight champion. Since then, Ngannou has cast light on his talks with the UFC. Despite being offered $8 million, he turned the offer down, as he had factors that were more important, such as securing health insurance, having a fighter advocate, and more.

If there’s a high-profile former champion who’s experienced his own battles with the UFC, it’s Demetrious Johnson. ‘Mighty Mouse’ fought in the promotion from 2011 to 2018, with most of that time spent dominating the flyweight division.

Following a split-decision loss to Henry Cejudo, the former champion was traded to ONE Championship in exchange for Ben Askren. Nearly five years on from that trade, Johnson reflected on the end of his own UFC tenure, as well as how much money he made in the company.

Demetrious Johnson, ONE Championship

“When I fought Dominick Cruz [for the bantamweight title] I was fighting for 14 [thousand] and 14 [thousand]” stated Johnson during a recent live stream. “I lost to Cruz, so I made 14k… I fought Ian McCall in Australia, and I was on the same contract. Then, I got a new contract when I fought Ian McCall for the second time, I got bumped up to 20 [thousand] and 20 [thousand].”

He continued, “…When I fought Joseph Benavidez, I think it was 30 [thousand] and 30 [thousand]. Then I finally got a new contract as champion, and I think it was 125 [thousand] and 50 [thousand], but I didn’t get pay-per-view points. That’s where most champions make the bang for their buck, is the pay-per-view points. If you get on a card with Conor McGregor and he does 2.1 [million pay-per-view] buys, you just do the f*cking math. You’re going to make a s*itload of money.”

“I never got the opportunity to do that. So, when they tried to stiff-arm me into fighting T.J. Dillashaw, I was like, ‘Yeah, pay me a million dollars, and let’s do it. This is a super fight, let’s make some super money’, they never wanted to do that. That’s why I ended up pushing back, because when does a champion have leverage? When does a champion get what is due to them? Going back to my seventh or eighth title defense, you’ve got f*cking CM Punk over here making 500 bones and it’s his second fight in the UFC. That’s where that chip on my shoulder came from.”

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