If Demetrious Johnson gets past Henry Cejudo at UFC 227 on Saturday night, he’s going to have an interesting decision to make regarding his future.
Johnson has stated numerous times that he’s willing to face off against either T.J. Dillashaw or Cody Garbrandt if the UFC is willing to pay him what he believes he deserves for what would be a champion versus champion fight — a true rarity in mixed martial arts history.
Since talk about the fight first started, both Dillashaw and Garbrandt have said they’d be willing to move down to 125 pounds for the opportunity to face Johnson while attempting to stop his unprecedented title defense streak.
Johnson has already defended his title 11 times — an all time UFC record — and if he gets past Cejudo that would be No. 12.
But for all the talk about Dillashaw or Garbrandt moving down, UFC on FOX analyst Jimmy Smith believes Johnson would gain far more recognition if he was willing to jump up to 135 pounds to challenge for a second title rather than just defending his belt yet again.
“If Demetrious Johnson beats Henry Cejudo and just called it a career, said ‘I’m out, it’s been great, thank you so much’, he would go down as one of the pound-for-pound greats of all time. Is it a legacy thing? No. If he beats TJ Dillashaw or Cody Garbrandt and goes up to 135 and wins that belt, it’s even harder to keep him out of that top spot,” Smith explained when speaking to MMAWeekly. “Is he there already? Yes, he’s one of the greatest of all time already.
“If he moves up and beats the champ at 135 — I hate the term ‘you have nothing to lose in a fight’ because you can always lose your health in a fight — but having established his legacy at 125, the greatest of all time, no doubt about it, jumping up to fight a Cody or a TJ would be the proverbial icing on the cake. If he loses, it’s no big deal. He went up and lost to one of the best. If he wins, that [greatest of all time] status where he’s already top five at least, now you’re talking No. 1 or at worst top three without a lot of risk. I think that’s a no brainer fight for him at least.”
Johnson has previously competed at 135 pounds and actually fought for the bantamweight title previously but lost a lopsided decision to former champion Dominick Cruz. Nearly seven years have past since then and Johnson has become one of the most dominant fighters on the planet.
For that reason alone, Smith feels like Johnson is ready for another run at bantamweight where his skills would give him a great chance to win the title and become only the third fighter in UFC history to hold two belts at once.
“I think he gets more out of it at 135,” Smith explained. “I don’t think either guy, be it Cody or TJ, they’re good size 135’ers but I think the physical disparity is something DJ could handle. I think it does more for his legacy. My point is if you’re going to make that jump to fight Cody or TJ, go all the way. Go up to their weight class, take the belt, be a two-division champion.
“You get more than if one of those guys comes down to 125. What if they’re more lethargic? What if they’re not as quick? What if the weight cut takes a lot out of them? People will go ‘he beat TJ but it wasn’t the real TJ, it wasn’t the 135 pound TJ’. If you’re going to take this risk and you’re going to make this jump for your legacy, it makes more sense to go all the way to 135. I think that makes the most sense for him.”