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Johnson deserves high praise despite bland persona

By Daniel Austin, Calgary Sun

Demetrious Johnson poses on the scale during weigh-ins for UFC 186 at Metropolis Friday in Montreal. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

Demetrious Johnson poses on the scale during weigh-ins for UFC 186 at Metropolis Friday in Montreal. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

MONTREAL - 

Demetrious Johnson may not sell as many pay-per-views as other UFC champions.

His flyweight title defences might not generate the same buzz as a Conor McGregor fight or sell out arenas like a Jon Jones slugfest.

That’s probably something that worries the folks at the UFC, whose job it is to generate revenue, but it’s not entirely clear why it’s a topic of conversation among both media and fight fans.

The guy produces in the octagon — that should be the end of the story.

It’s not, though, and Johnson has come under fire in certain circles for not talking trash or doing more to drum up interest in the cards he headlines.

“I think people are just looking for content and drama,” said Johnson, who’ll be defending his belt for the sixth time when he takes on Japanese stud Kyoji Horiguchi in the main event at UFC 186 Saturday night. “I just answer questions, that’s it.”

Johnson’s in-octagon pedigree isn’t up for debate. He’s regularly called one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and has used his lightning-quick speed to beat nearly every challenger at the top of the flyweight division.

For one reason or another, though, his dominance doesn’t seem to have resonated with fight fans. The UFC 174 card Johnson headlined in Vancouver last year drew the least pay-per-view buys of any of the organization’s 2014 events, while this Saturday night’s event in Montreal is rumoured to be plagued by slow ticket sales.

It’s not fair to lay that at Johnson’s feet, especially since he only became the Montreal headliner when TJ Dillashaw’s title defence against Renan Barao was pulled off the card when the bantamweight champ got hurt. Canadian star Rory MacDonald’s fight with Hector Lombard was also removed from the card, leaving Johnson to take the heat — from some in the media, at least — for sluggish sales.

It’s not an opinion that’s shared by Johnson’s fellow fighters.

“The main event with DJ, he’s a super talented guy and people don’t give him enough credit for it,” said Canadian Chad Laprise. “In my opinion he’s one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

“I don’t know what it is, he doesn’t talk any trash and he lets his skills do the work for him, so I’m definitely a really big DJ fan.”

BISPING TAKING SHOTS

The fighters who’ve been assembled at UFC 186 have generally been pretty respectful of one another throughout fight week, with one notable exception.

Michael Bisping seems to have taken it upon himself to spice things up. The Englishman has twice stood face to face with his opponent on Saturday night, CB Dollaway, and has unleashed a barrage of insults both times.

It doesn’t seem to be bothering Dollaway too much, though, as the American mostly just laughed it off both times.

“I’ve never had any issues with him, but now that we’re fighting there’s going to be some tensions or whatever,” Dollaway said. “Whatever he’s gotta do to get ready ... I know I’m ready, I don’t need any extra motivation.”

By Bisping standards, the trash talk has been relatively tame, but the crowd at Friday’s weigh-in ate it up.

Other targets include Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva. The three fighters each beat Bisping in the past and have each admitted to using testosterone replacement therapy, the controversial procedure that’s since been banned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and UFC.

“Those cheating scumbags, they’re all cowards,” Bisping said. “Every one of them that took any type of steroid or performance enhancing drugs, they’re cowards.

“They can lie to the media all they want, but when they’re alone at night in their bed with their own thoughts, they know that they’re f---ing p-----s.”

daniel.austin@sunmedia.ca

@SUNDannyAustin

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