UFC president Dana White on Friday said that should Demetrious Johnson successfully defend his belt at UFC 174 on Saturday night, it was likely that a rematch with John Dodson is next on tap for the flyweight champion.
Johnson did defend his belt in Vancouver, dominating Russian challenger Ali Bagautinov for the duration of their five-round headliner.
But to say that he’s thrilled about the prospect of a rematch with Dodson would probably be about as far from the truth as one could get.
It’s not that he would decline a fight with Dodson, but Johnson believes the 125-pound class is too deep and talented for Dodson to already jump back to the front of the line of challengers.
“It’s up to the UFC, (but) there’s a lot of challengers in this weight class that I need to fight. Dodson, I overcame him. He’s a challenge, (but) there’s plenty of guys,” said Johnson at the UFC 174 post-fight press conference. “There’s a guy in the division that has a win over me (in Brad Pickett), (there’s) Zach Makovsky; I’m just looking for new challenges.”
That might sound like he’s avoiding Johnson, but in truth, they’re only three fights removed from their first fight.
Johnson defended his belt for the first time by winning a unanimous decision over Dodson at UFC on FOX 6 in January of 2013. He has since defeated John Moraga, Joseph Benavidez (for the second time), and Bagautinov.
Dodson has fought just twice since that first meeting, stopping Darrell Montague and Moraga. Perhaps more pertinent than his victories, however, is Dodson’s lobbying for the rematch in this day and age when callouts seem to go a long way towards making fights happen.
“They can keep on giving Demetrious Johnson whoever they want to make him look like a better champion, make him look like he can be a spectacular fighter and cement his name in that division,” said Dodson recently.
“It's gonna make me look better when I knock him out.”
Johnson, however, doesn’t by into the gab game. He’ll fight Dodson if that’s who is standing before him in the Octagon, but feels like that’s a challenge he’s already overcome.
“I’m not trying to avoid that fight. Obviously, it’s up to the UFC to make that decision,” said Johnson.
“This division is rich of great athletes and great fighters and I’m just letting you guys know that Dodson isn’t the only person in this division. There’s tons of people in this division.
“Ali Bagautinov, nobody never heard of him, and he took a lot of shots from me today. He won three fights in a row. He didn’t run his mouth to get here. He went out there and he beat everybody the UFC put in front of him. I respect him for that.”
He continued, “There are a lot of guys in this division. It’s a rich, full, talented division and these guys present challenges to me. Tonight, I faced a new challenge and I overcame it. I’m ready to do it again next time I fight.”
UFC president Dana White didn’t attend the post-fight press conference on Saturday night and doesn’t often announce a winner’s next fight so soon after the event, so it’s not clear yet if the UFC has determined Dodson is next or if someone else will get a shot at Johnson first.