When Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall faced off in March, it marked the first flyweight bout in the UFC’s 19-year history. Three months later they will partake in another UFC first: the first flyweight division main event.
Johnson (14-2-1) and McCall (11-2-1) will do battle and vie for a shot at the flyweight championship against Joseph Benavidez. The bout will headline an 11-fight card Friday, June 8 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
Their March fight – part of the UFC lightweight tournament – ended in a draw, prompting the rematch. Johnson blames himself for not getting the victory.
“I took a risk with a flying knee and let him grapple with me and manhandle me,” Johnson said. “I walked away from that fight, sat down, and looked at the tape. I was disappointed. I could’ve been fighting for a world title right now, but stuff happens.”
The 25-year-old Johnson said weight also was an issue. He didn’t have a problem cutting the weight, but says he simply cut it too fast and too early.
“I need to cut the weight a little harder so I can be as big as possible,” Johnson said. “I was small the entire time at 134 pounds. When McCall arrived he was 144 pounds, and then he cut the weight and made the limit. I adjusted my diet and training this time and we will be just fine.”
During his amateur days, the diminutive Johnson was nicknamed “Mighty Mouse”.
“I’m 5-foot-3, have a small compact frame, and my ears stick out,” Johnson explained. “I would always train with bigger guys and was always the smallest one. The name just came.”
It was tough for short wrestlers to have any type of career after college, so one day he watched The Ultimate Fighter and said thought it was a perfect fit. Until then, though, Johnson worked a lot of jobs, most of them tough, and says he wouldn’t mind doing it again when his MMA career is over.
“I worked construction – carrying concrete three stories at a time,” he said. “I also worked at a recycling plant and at Red Lobster. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. Once my house is paid off it wouldn’t bother me working a 9-to-5 again, not at all. I got here through hard work, and I’ll always bust my butt inside and outside the cage.”
The hard worker from Kentucky now faces a tough challenge in McCall, with a title shot at stake. And though he’s tempted to look ahead, he’s focused on the job at hand.
“I can’t worry about Joseph [Benavidez],” he said. “Once I beat Ian McCall then I can start thinking about Joseph. I’m going out there to beat Ian, and I know he’s coming with his best as well. I expect an awesome fight, but don’t be mistaken, I will come out victorious.”