Saying John Dodson is eager to get back to work is somewhat of an understatement.
The charismatic former flyweight title challenger is well-known for operating at an energy level foreign to most human beings, but his live-wire nature is something he's had to keep in check over the past several months. The Albuquerque native has been tending to an injury he suffered during his preparation to face Scott Jorgensen at UFC on Fox 9 in Sacramento, Calif.
With Dodson fresh off a lights out performance in his previous showing at UFC 166, and the former bantamweight contender dropping down to make a run at 125 pounds, their tilt figured to hold heavy implications for a potential title shot. Yet, Dodson's injury forced him to withdraw from the fight, and he was forced to the sidelines while the flyweight title race played on without him.
While the Jackson/Winkeljohn-trained fighter certainly felt the pull to jump back into the fray as quickly as possible, Dodson knew patience was going to be a key factor, and rushing his return before his knee was ready would only lead to more problems. With his fighting future in mind, the season 14 winner of The Ultimate Fighter decided to make the best of his time away from the cage and give his body the necessary time to heal properly. And fortunately for Dodson his return to action is drawing near.
The heavy-handed flyweight has targeted a summer return and just the thought of getting back to work gets his blood pumping.
"I just want to fight," Dodson told Bleacher Report. "I don't really care where I come back in the division, I just want to fight. I know that might sound a bit off, but I'm coming off a serious injury. I'm trying to push through it and I'm going to come back strong. When I get back I'm going to run over whoever I have to in order to get to that title. Whoever they put in front of me I'm going to put them to sleep.
"I'm hoping to get a fight in either May or June. I'm in the gym right now and I'm testing out my knee. I'm helping [Nick] Urso get ready for his fight in April and I'm trying to push myself to the limit to see how far I can really go to see if it is going to hinder me in anyway.
"I have to make sure I'm doing things right and come back right," he added. "I can't just sit there—take those little ins and outs—and hope to just pop through this. Taking that route will only minimize my chances to have a long-standing career."
Despite Dodson's time on the sidelines, his stock in the flyweight title picture hasn't diminished. "The Magician" is clearly one of the top fighters in the 125-pound collective and will be back on the radar for a championship opportunity upon his return to action.
While it's unlikely he will be tapped for a title shot in his first fight back, Dodson could realistically be one win away from earning a rematch with champion Demetrious Johnson. The two men squared off at UFC on Fox 6 back in January of 2013, and despite Dodson putting "Mighty Mouse" on the deck with power shots twice in the second round, Johnson's non-stop push and endless cardio turned the tide in the later rounds.
Johnson emerged with the unanimous decision victory and Dodson faced the reality of coming close to his goal but ultimately walking away empty-handed.
More than a year has passed since the two top flyweights collided in Chicago, but Dodson hasn't forgotten how things played out under the lights in the United Center. He has used the potential rematch with Johnson as motivation during his rehabilitation and is in search of two specific results when that opportunity presents itself again.
He wants to have the flyweight title strapped around his waist and he wants to put the current champion down in order to get there.
"Being out has sucked, but I want to make sure I'm in the best possible shape I can be in to come back and get the wins I need to earn a shot at the title," Dodson said. "I want to knockout D.J. That sounds bad but I want to put him to sleep. Nothing against him, it's just how I want to win the title.
"It's the best motivation I have right now. I have to make sure I keep up on my cardio up and everything else to make sure I can push through 25 minutes with him if I have to. I have to make sure I can go all out for 25 minutes, balls to the wall, throwing everything I have with power and purpose."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.