It’s no secret that Demetrious Johnson was never a popular UFC champion. In his record setting run atop the flyweight division, he headlined 4 PPV events. The top selling among those? His title defense against Chris Cariaso at UFC 178, which still only drew a paltry estimated 205,000 buys.
Why it is he never clicked, however, is a topic up for a bit more debate. Many fans and pundits have laid the blame at the UFC itself and their seeming inability to turn obvious talent into a marketable headliner. In a recent interview with TMZ sports, however, president Dana White put the focus squarely on the fans themselves.
“Yeah, I mean if you look at it,” White said, when asked about Johnson’s legacy, “the kid broke the record for most title defenses. And I feel like he never really got the love and respect that he deserved from the fans. And I don’t know if he was always thrilled being here. So, hopefully he’s a lot happier where he’s headed now. You know, his longtime trainer and coach is an executive over there, so maybe he’ll be happier over there, yeah.”
To White’s point about ‘Mighty’’s possible unhappiness, recent reports cite DJ’s self described disinterest in what staying in the UFC could offer him and his career.
Demetrious Johnson says there was ‘nothing there’ to go back and fight Henry Cejudo for a third time. He beat him once already. He knew if he went back and won the belt again, he’d have to stay in the UFC.
— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) October 29, 2018
And it’s hard to shake the memory of Dana White’s comments during the UFC’s negotiations to set up a fight between Johnson and Dillashaw when both men were title holders. “Let’s see what your PPV does, you’re a partner, let’s see what you make,” White chided Johnson over reports that he was looking for a large guaranteed fight purse.
“The media claims he’s the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world,” White told TMZ back in 2017, “I think Conor McGregor is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. If you look at what that really means, what pound-for-pound means, and Conor doesn’t give a sh*t, he’ll fight anybody, anywhere, anytime. And if Demetrious is the pound-for-pound best guy in the world, then fight T.J. Dillashaw. Fight somebody that people will actually care about and be interested in, and there you go.”
Whether the blame ultimately lies with fans, the promotion, or Johnson himself, it seems like both White and the AMC Pankration talent will be happier to see the back of one another.