Number one has two down, and three to go for a six-figure contract.
(Do the math; it adds up).
The fighter ranked first by both coaches on The Ultimate Fighter: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck, Michael “The Menace” Johnson, picked up his second win of the competition on Wednesday night, defeating Aaron Wilkinson with a rear naked choke in the third round. The native of Springfield, Mo., also had the opportunity to fight in front of boxing legend Mike Tyson, who visited the UFC Training Center on this week's episode.
Johnson took time this week to talk to UltimateFighter.com and Bleacher Report.
In the show the week before, Georges St-Pierre made it sound like Alex Caceres chose his fight with Jeff Lentz pretty much on his own, that it was Alex who went to Georges and said, “I want to fight Jeff.” Is that pretty much how it went with you, too, when you picked out Aaron for this fight?
It was about the same. I said something to Georges about, ‘Hey, I think this fight would be a good matchup for me…what do you guys think?” They gave me their opinion, they discussed some things, and they came back and said it was a good matchup.
In the buildup to the fight, you talked a lot about making a first impression and establishing yourself, and that’s why you wanted to fight Aaron. Given how tough that fight ended up being, do you think you had the right approach going into the fight?
Yeah, I definitely had the right approach going into the fight, but it was a tough one. I underestimated him a little bit, but it was an exciting fight as everyone else watched.
What was the thing that surprised you most about Aaron?
How strong he was. I didn’t expect Aaron Wilkinson to be that strong. I knew he had good boxing and great stand-up. I wasn’t expecting his wrestling ability. I did not know he considered himself a grappler at all. I was expecting primarily I striker; I wasn’t expecting the grappling game.
Did you know which gym he was from over there, that he was from Wolfslair?
Yeah, I knew he was from Wolfslair. We had talked briefly in the house, when we were getting to know each other.
So, you didn’t think, in the back of your head, “Oh, he probably spends some time with Rampage, might have picked up some wrestling there.”
No, I did not think that. I didn’t really think he would be working on his wrestling. We were expecting predominantly striking.
On the show, when they were looking back at the fight, Dana White seemed to take a lot out of the fact that you kept looking over at where he was sitting with Mike Tyson in between the second and third round, and seemed to think that Tyson being there was part of what motivated you to come out like you did in the third round and just take Aaron out.
I was glancing over there quite a bit. I was just looking to get my head straight, and Dana and Mike Tyson just happened to be right next to each other. I was kind of looking at them to see what their thoughts were on the first and second round, seeing what their reaction was. Having Mike Tyson there might have motivated me a bit more in the third. I needed to show him a little something more.
Were you surprised at all by how, after struggling with Aaron for two rounds, how easy you made it look in the third round?
No. I knew he was tired. I knew he was wearing down, and I just kept thinking about focusing and going hard for this last round, whether it had to be one minute or it had to be five minutes. I was really confident in my conditioning and my cardio. I knew that I still had energy left. It was just one of those things where I had to work harder than he was in the third.
When we talked last week, we talked about the reactions of the people who you watch the show with, and how they hadn’t seen a whole lot of you on the show so far, because the fight with Pablo Garza got clipped, and they didn’t show you much last week. I’m guessing things changed a bit once they got to see you.
They definitely did. I had family and friends wondering, “Why are they not showing you?” I was telling them, “I have no idea. Maybe it’s because I’m not there for the camera. I’m there to fight. I’m not there to run around and say, “Come over here, look at me.” Then, this week, I had my fight, so it was all about me, and they were a little relieved, but also a bit nervous.
What’s it like to watch your family and friends watching you in the fight? They see you’re having trouble in the first round, and you know what happens.
It’s hard to bite my tongue and not tell them, “Hey, don’t worry about it, I win.” I just kind of sit there. My family and friends are my biggest critics. Everybody has got that tough love; they tell me if I’m doing something wrong. It’s definitely hard to bite my tongue when my family and friends are watching, and I know the outcome, but they don’t.
So, when they saw you win, what was the reaction like?
They were ecstatic. They all loved it. It was a huge surprise to everybody; they had no idea, just like everybody else, wondering, “Where’s the Michael Johnson they saw in the elimination fight?” They’re seeing this different fighter, and then in the third round, it turned into the kind of fight I had in the elimination fight.
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