Demetrious Johnson Casts Eye Toward Future, Still Has Things to Prove at 125

Jeremy BotterMMA Senior WriterJune 11, 2014

Defending Champion Demetrious Johnson warms up before fighting Joseph Benavidez  for the UFC Flyweight Mixed Martial Arts title in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)
Steve Yeater/Associated Press

Demetrious Johnson is an avid gamer, and so it is a little upsetting for him that the Electronic Entertainment Expo—or E3, in the parlance of those who follow such things—is taking place in Los Angeles the same week he is scheduled to fight Ali Bagautinov up north in Vancouver, Canada.

He is not that upset, though. He has kept up with the news that comes out of E3, first as a trickle and then as a flood. He is exclusively an Xbox gamer, by virtue of his sponsorship with Microsoft, and is especially looking forward to the two new Halo games coming out later this year and 2015, respectively.

He played the new UFC game from Electronic Arts for the first time earlier this week, and noticed how the new next-generation graphics systems created a nearly perfect digital rendition of his physical form.

"They got me tattoos, my five o'clock shadow, everything," Johnson says. "It's good."

He is also interested in the new Modern Warfare game, but for Johnson, Halo is where it's at.

Vancouver is Johnson's current location. He drove up from Seattle on Tuesday and was able to get in two workouts and plenty of rest. Vancouver is very much like Seattle in terms of temperament, weather and people, and though Johnson says it is not the same as having a hometown advantage, there is comfort in familiarity, and Vancouver is familiar.

"It was nice to not have to get on a plane," Johnson says. Not getting on a plane is a good thing, because it means Johnson can spend more time with Destiny, his wife, and their one-year-old son. Family is everything for Johnson, and he is resolved to spend as much time as humanly possible with them, even during the rigors of training camps that keep him away from home more than he'd like.

Still, Johnson has a plan.

"I'm a young guy, and I'd like to have my kids early so that when I'm 45, they're all out of the house and I can spend time with my wife," Johnson says with a laugh.

Bagautinov, a Dagestani native, is the latest flyweight to attempt to wrest control of the UFC championship belt from Johnson's mighty grasp. Johnson admits that he has come close to cleaning out his division. With multiple wins over Joseph Benavidez and other top contenders, it's hard to imagine any single fighter overcoming Johnson's deft blend of speed, wrestling and power.

Johnson has a nagging desire to return to the bantamweight ranks, but he also says he is not quite through with his fellow flyweights. Not yet, anyway.

"I'd like to try my hand there again. But the flyweight division is still growing. There are still new competitors coming up, though. You've got Zach Makovsky, the ex-Bellator champion. You've got Brad Pickett. Just because they aren't at the very top, it doesn't mean they aren't great competitors."

Johnson confirms that he heard the rumors circulating regarding the in-camp conflict between Bagautinov and teammate Rustam Khabilov, but said his worries are laid to rest now that Bagautinov is in Vancouver and ready to fight.

"I wasn't too concerned, and he's here now, ready to fight. The only time I was concerned was when I thought he wasn't going to be able to fight," Johnson says. "But he's here now, and he's ready to go."

Johnson, sipping a bit of water, says that he is on weight and ready to go. He'd like to put on a show on Saturday night, and completely dismisses the notion that he is a massive favorite over Bagautinov. The oddsmakers have Johnson at 6-to-1 to beat Bagautinov. It is the first time in his career Johnson has been such a heavy favorite.

"It doesn't do anything for me. I still have to go out there and fight," he says. "So I don't pay any attention to it."