UFC Philadelphia: Michael Johnson Explains Why Featherweight Is the Right Division For Him

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Looking to hit the featherweight limit for the third time in the promotion ahead of UFC Philadelphia, Michael Johnson explained why featherweight is the right division for him.

Wilmington, DE — Always a menace in the octagon, Michael Johnson will look to make it three wins in a row at UFC Philadelphia this Saturday. Johson (19-13) last fought in Moncton, New Brunswick in Canada last October. There, he took on Artem Lobov, earning a unanimous decision in the co-main event. Onward continues the march as he takes on the returning Josh Emmett in Philly, a card properly UFC on ESPN 2.

Johnson was better known as a lightweight earlier in his UFC run, which means during weight cut time, there are always questions. Not to worry ahead of UFC Philadelphia, he told reporters including Cageside Press. “I feel good. I feel great. Focused. Ready. Ready to get in here, get this victory. Get this weight off first. Tonight, a little bit tomorrow. And come in ready for war.”

It’s the fight before the fight, “the only fight that matters right now,” he acknowledged. “The weight cut just is what it is. It’s just part of the job, it’s what we got to do. I don’t even think of the fight this week. I got think of the weight. That’s the weight cut. I need to get that out of my mind, then after that I can focus on the fight like I have to.”

He tries to put it out of his mind. “If you think about things way too much, you’re going to go crazy eventually. It’s going to eat you up inside.” Instead, Johnson surrounds himself with his coaches, friends and family to keep his mind off the fight as he cuts weight. Plays games. Does anything but dwell on the obvious.

If you’re wondering why he’s bothering with the cut down to featherweight, well there’s a reason Michael Johnson feels it’s the best weight class for him. “I just feel good,” he said simply. “I thought I was going to have a little trouble making the weight, but it’s been pretty good. I don’t think I really lost much power, at all. I’m still faster than all these guys. They can’t really compete with me on my feet, at all.” He feels his movement gives him an edge, saying “that’s where I feel I’m the best at in this division.”

As an added bonus, he no longer has to “worry about guys being so much heavier than I am.”

The other reason is opportunity. “The only reason I came down was because it was just a new thing to do. I got some new faces,” Johnson said Thursday. “I fought everybody at 55, then it was kind of a standstill for a little bit, what was going on in the division. So I just said, ‘I might as well try my luck at 45,’ and it’s been going well since.”

It’s a better cut this time out, most certainly, than at UFC Moncton last October. Johnson missed weight by a pound for the short-notice fight, but wasn’t given the traditional extra hour to weigh in. In fact he wasn’t told he wouldn’t get the extra hour until he was already in the sauna.

Luckily, opponent Artem Lobov, who has since jumped over to bareknuckle boxing, chose to refund the fine Johnson paid for missing weight.

That’s a quirk of MMA rulesets, and the fact that the Unified Rules of MMA are anything but. Or, at least, they’re not adopted everywhere.

An ongoing metaphor for Johnson has been pressure. A feeling like he has bricks on his chest. He’s spoken about it before. This time out, he said, he’s “still got that pressure on my chest, and I hope it stays on there. It makes me fight better. I’m just getting it off a little bit by little bit. I don’t think it’s ever going to be off. Until I’m finished with this sport. I can put that little pressure on myself, because I compete better with that.”

That pressure keeps him from getting lazy, or taking time off. “You have to keep moving, you have to keep working, and don’t give these guys a chance to beat you in there.”

On another topic, the current featherweight champ, Max Holloway, is heading up to lightweight for an interim title fight against Dustin Poirier. Johnson is a fan of these sorts of opportunities, but “honestly, I could care less about either one of them,” he said with a laugh. “It’s going to be a good fight, you know, but if I were to pick a winner, I think Max is a little more well-rounded.”

Of course, with Johnson holding a win over Dustin Poirier, it’s a better look for ‘The Menace’ if Dustin gets the win.

For more from Michael Johnson, watch the full UFC Philadelphia media day scrum above.

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