When the MMA history books are written, the sport will be divided into two distinct eras — no, not the pre and post-Zuffa era, but the pre-Conor McGregor Era and the Era After Conor McGregor Dun’ Changed Everyone’s Bum Life. Whether you like him or not, the truth is that the featherweight champion is ushering in a new era of the sport where titles and championships take a backseat to “money fights” and a fighter’s ability to promote themselves takes precedence above all else. It may not be a paradigm shift that the MMA “purists” out there are too keen to accept, but come on, we’ve been headed down this path from the moment that Chael Sonnen was given a title shot against Jon Jones.
Ever since McGregor’s record-breaking payday for his record-breaking rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202 was revealed, we’ve begun to see champions from nearly every division shift their focus from top contenders to money fights at an astounding rate. Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has recently started demanding them. Michael Bisping will be making his first middleweight title defense against Dan Henderson for that exact reason. Hell, even Tyron Woodley is turning down fights to try and set them up and he won the welterweight title like last week.
Oddly enough, flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse”Johnson is about the only guy we haven’t heard calling for money fights lately despite arguably being the champion most deserving of one. In the past four years, Johnson has defeated every contender placed before him and not a one of his 8 title defenses have even been close. He is the only champion in the history of his division, the pound-for-pound greatest fighter EVER in many people’s eyes, and has become so dominant that the UFC is being forced to match him up with run-of-the-mill contenders like Wilson Reis just to keep him busy.
Thankfully, it looks like Mighty Mouse has finally started to sense that the winds of change are upon him. In a interview with Submission Radio, Johnson discussed the divide that has begun to form between “earned fights” and “money fights” in the UFC, and suffice it to say, we should probably start getting hyped for his long overdue rematch with Dominick Cruz.
I think you see a lot of guys who are starting to come out and say, ‘no I’m not going to fight that guy, even though he’s the number one contender because I want a better paycheck,’ and you’re starting to see a lot of champions do it. I understand why they’re doing it; because the UFC have made it a point – champions don’t get paid the top dollars.
And you’ve got a guy who can come out, who’s never lost – I have nothing against GSP, but I like to keep it real – you have a guy that hasn’t been active in three years and he’s (probably going to make) way more money than any champion on the roster – probably same as Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz – but that’s what the UFC has started to do.
And you’re starting to see a lot of people say, ‘if I don’t get this title shot, this is not a sport at all,’ and I think we’re starting to lose that mystique to where you have two of the best fighters in the world, going out to fight each other to become the champion. But now, everybody is like, ‘I don’t want to fight the number one contender, I want to fight the guy who everybody likes to watch fight, so that I get that big pay check.’ Trust me, I’m about to jump in that boat too, but I will never turn down a fight and I’ll just fight anybody.”
Given how positively McGregor’s recent payday was received by his fellow fighters, it’s hard to blame Johnson for wanting to get that “red panty night” of his own, especially given how overlooked he’s been for the majority of his career. While Johnson’s next defense against the winner of this season’s The Ultimate Fighter has already been set in stone, who would you like to see him face next to start stacking them Benjamins?