UFC Moncton: Michael Johnson May Have As Much to Gain As Artem Lobov with Win Saturday

Michael Johnson might have the more decorated record within the sport of MMA, but Artem Lobov’s public profile has never been better, making Johnson’s short-notice co-main event appearance at UFC Moncton a potentially lucrative one.

Moncton, NB — Michael Johnson could very well be the man with the most to gain at UFC Moncton. Johnson, who picked up his first win in the UFC’s featherweight division in August, stepped in on short notice to face Artem Lobov in Saturday’s co-main event. Not only did he step into a co-main event slot, however, but Johnson wound up booked opposite Lobov at a point where the SBG Ireland fighter’s profile has never been higher. Thanks, of course, to the insanity that played out between Lobov’s camp and that of Khabib Nurmagomedov over the past few months.

“A little under two weeks,” is when Johnson got the call to fight Lobov. “I accepted right away. I just had to check my weight a little bit. I had a few extra pounds to go than I usually do, but it’s all good. I’m a professional. I love fighting, this is what I do. Every chance a short notice fight comes up, I will be available to take it. The weight cut’s easy and I’m there, and now we’re here.”

Johnson revealed he was about 175lbs when he took the fight, and his body’s reaction surprised even him, as to how easily the pounds fell off. “It just happened, my weight started coming off and it felt good.”

That said training camp itself hasn’t been easy. “Literally within like a week and a half, two weeks I had just as hard a camp as somebody with a six to eight week camp did,” Johnson outlined. “I got sick, I got hurt, I was going through tough times, I was getting stressed out. All that in two weeks was a lot, but I feel good, I feel great, now I’m ready to perform.”

On Lobov’s statement that he picked Johnson because ‘The Menace’ was the hardest fight offered, Johnson replied “good for him.”

“I’m glad he chose me. Call me the Chosen One I guess, I’m the new Woodley walking around here. It’s great, Artem knows I come to fight, he comes to fight, if he wants a tough-fight fight, then that’s what he’s got.”

Looking at it with a more critical eye, however, Johnson suggested that “if anything I’m thinking he picked me because he’s looking to make a name off of me and get bigger.” After all, “I’m probably the biggest name he’s ever fought against, and he sees the output if he beats me,” he said. “But it’s going to be a long shot for him beating me. I’m fully prepared, I’m coming in here prepared for everything.”

Informed that Lobov had offered to refund any fine placed on Johnson should the short-notice fighter miss weight, the American looked amused. “Oh really, nice,” he said with a laugh, suggesting some of that Conor money might be going Artem’s way “if he can afford to let me keep my twenty percent. But we don’t need to worry about that, like I said I’m a professional, I’ve never missed weight and I’m not going to miss it on short notice.”

For Johnson, the fight isn’t his job. “I don’t consider that work at all.” Instead, “the weight cut’s my work, and that’s about finished.”

Just as Lobov might be hoping to build his name up off a win over Johnson, there’s certainly an opportunity here for ‘The Menace’ as well with Lobov’s elevated profile. When suggested this by Cageside Press, Johnson admitted that “I’d be a fool not to think about that. With all the hype going around with the thing with Conor and all the Russians and everything, and it kind of starting because of Artem, I don’t know, I’ve never paid too much attention to it but he does have a huge hype around him and a big following.”

“So vice versa, I can come in and make a big statement,” Johnson continued, since “even though his record isn’t that good he’s still a tough opponent. You look at it, we got around the same losses. He might not have fought the competition that I’ve faced, but he’s still at the top of the peak when you get to the UFC.”

“He’s doing something right to be here and still be here.”

Following his last bout, a split decision win over Andre Fili at UFC Boise, Johnson stated that he’d need an even better performance next time out. Key to making that happen on Saturday will be “staying focused,” he told Cageside Press and other outlets Thursday. “Getting my game plan. Staying sharp, moving on my feet and my toes. Coming out here looking for a finish and knowing when to attack.”

“Not getting into any bad positions like I fell into my last fight,” he added, an issue that “kind of slowed my momentum down.”

“It was really good for me to get that win,” Johnson said of the Fili fight. “I pushed the bricks off my chest just a little bit. Bout a half inch. I still got a lot to go and a lot to work. I’m on my way back up.” In that, he sees himself as a new fighter. “This is a new Michael Johnson, you can say 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, you know, however you play it. But I’m in a new mindset, and it’s only wins from here on out.”

Michael Johnson meets Artem Lobov in the co-main event of UFC Moncton (UFC Fight Night 138) on Saturday, October 27 at the Avenir Centre in Moncton, New Brunswick. The event airs on Fox Sports 1 (TSN 5 in Canada).