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Original Issue

Demetrious Johnson

The UFC's best pound-for-pound fighter is out to set the record for title defenses. Now he just wants to get paid accordingly

RONDA ROUSEYmay or may not fight again. Conor McGregor may or may not get in a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr. The light heavyweight fight between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier may or may not live up to the billing and the bile.

But here's a UFC topic freighted with no uncertainty: Demetrious Johnson is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the game. The flyweight champ has defended his belt 10 times, and when he fights next—potentially this summer in Seattle, his base of operations—it will be to break Anderson Silva's record for successful title defenses.

Nicknamed Mighty Mouse, the 5'3" Johnson, 30, is a peerlessly versatile fighter who is smart and savvy—and direct. As champion, he doesn't need attention. He just wants to get paid.


What does this title defense—and the record that would come with it—mean to you?

DEMETRIOUS JOHNSON: I want this really bad because I want to have the most [title defenses]. I hope it's my biggest payout. But in reality I could lose, I could get knocked out, I could get finished.


That's an interesting way to look at it. If you say it means the world to you, are you setting yourself up for disappointment?

DJ: Yeah, absolutely. I visualize myself losing most of the time just because I've seen so many champions lose, and they don't know how to take it. Their whole world is upside down. You look at Ronda Rousey. You got your ass beat, grow the f--- up. It happens. If I lose, I'll be like, I lost.


How big a deal is going up one weight class [from 125 pounds to 135]?

DJ: It's not a big deal. But every time I've had injuries, it's been at 135. I've broken my leg, my rib, my hand at 135. Had labrum surgery after all my fights at 135. Everybody said, "You need to go do a superfight." Fighting [bantamweights] Cody Garbrandt, or T.J. Dillashaw or Dominick Cruz—I would do that. I never said I wouldn't. UFC just won't pay me what I'm asking for. I don't want to get paid $400,000 a fight when I know I can get $1 million.


What do you think of McGregor fighting Mayweather?

DJ: If it happens, it happens. I'm not getting hyped up until I know they're both together. I'd rather see Mayweather fight the winner of Canelo [Alvarez] and Triple G [Gennady Golovkin]. And I'd rather see Conor defend his belt. You have a dude who is champion, full blown, healthy as f---, who is not defending his belt?


Did you have a job when you first started training?

DJ: Oh, yeah. I worked full-time at a place called Caraustar [in Tacoma, Wash.]. We recycled paper, made V board out of it. If you buy a TV, a new couch, you see these little V-shaped boards. I never thought I would quit and become a world champion. It's funny, because when my coach called me to say, "Your first pay is going to be six grand. Can you make the fight?" I'm like, I got to see if I can get a day off from work.

Anybody else would be like, F---, yeah, this is my dream. I'm following my passion, blah, blah, blah. Your dreams can lead you down a very dark road. I wasn't oblivious to that. I live in reality.


When did you stop having to ask your boss?

DJ: When I was getting ready to fight for the world title against Cruz [in 2011].


Your boss was cool about it?

DJ: He was cool. I told him, "If you are not going to give me the day off, I won't fight." He goes, "I would fire you if you don't fight."


You're a good husband?

DJ: I like to think of myself as a good husband. My marriage [to Destiny], I'm doing it once. My mom was divorced and married multiple times. My wife's mom has been divorced and married multiple times. So has her dad. We want to break the cycle. I might not be going out and buying gifts every f------ week, but I make sure the dishes are washed. I make sure I'm helping with the kids, that I'm involved. Being honest.


What kind of a dad are you?

DJ: I'm a good dad. I'm an evolved dad. You know, you see a lot of guys when they're in training camp, they go off, do their own thing. But I'm in the midst of it. Swim lessons? I'm there. Changing diapers, teething, doctor's appointments, I'm there 24/7.


You got 10 more years?

DJ: I got five. If I'm fighting 10 years from now, I didn't make enough money in the UFC. I'm going to make it, save it, then when I'm all done, Thank you, part ways. I pretty much put away 35% of all my earnings in retirement accounts. That's my philosophy. Five or six more years, I'm ready to move on. I'm already starting to work on my exit plan.


Do you like where you are now?

DJ: Right now I'm the greatest fighter on the f------ UFC roster. I have never missed weight. I've never bashed my company. I'm always on time. I'm the same person when I'm up here as I was when I was down here. I'm never going to change. When I lose, I'm never going to change.

• For L. Jon Wertheim's full interview with Demetrious Johnson, go to