The current Flyweight Champion and #1 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, Demetrious Johnson is, at 30-years-old, an in-ring tactician whose speed and technical skill terrify his opponents. He’s mounted 11 Flyweight title defenses and basically decimated the entire weight class. Only two fighters, 4-year-old Tyren Johnson and 2-year-old Maverick Johnson, have notched multiple wins against “Mighty Mouse.” They managed that feat in the Johnson family basement, the Johnson family yard, and on multiple pillow-covered floors.
“They’re undefeated,” Johnson laughs. “I’m no match for them.”
Roughhousing is a regular event in the Johnson household, a favorite activity of dad, mom, and the boys. They take breaks when the need arises, Johnson says, and follow set rules. One of the unspoken rules is that dad needs to lose. Dad wins enough in the cage. Still, Johnson makes it sound like chaos. The champ says he has to defend himself from Tyren’s fists (“he’s fast!”) while Maverick tries to grapple (“he’s definitely the climber”).
“It’s just the best,” says Johnson. “Even if I wasn’t a fighter, I’d play around with them this way.”
But Johnson is a fighter. A great one. Maybe the best UFC fighter of all time. Still, he’s clear on one point: He doesn’t intend to raise two more fighters.
“I’ll make sure that they don’t fight in the UFC because I don’t want them to have to go through what I went through,” Johnson says. “I think that’s true of any other pro athlete or someone who takes damage. Football players say it regularly: ‘I play football so my son doesn’t have to play football.’ And that’s kind of how I feel about fighting.”
Johnson breaks stuff so he can put other stuff together. The UFC, he makes it clear, has been good to him. He’s had the life that he wanted. He’s been able to earn a sort of freedom.
“I’m not in a 9-5, so I’m home during the day with my kids a lot, able to feed them lunch and play and watch cartoons,” says Johnson. “And when I get my earnings I put that money away for college funds, not trying to buy nice things for myself. I try to buy things for the kids, to give them the life I didn’t have.”
Meanwhile, Tyren and Maverick are beginning to understand their dad’s career. And while Johnson is forthcoming, he says he doesn’t make a big show of it. Like anyone, he doesn’t want to make his family life about him. Fight night is an event, but not every night is fight night.
“They know daddy’s home,” he says, “and they know when daddy’s gotta go to work.”
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When daddy went to work on April 15, he forced the third-round submission of Wilson Reis. One more title defense and he’ll top previous title defense record-holder Anderson Silva’s record. That’s an almost impossibly high bar, but Johnson’s triumph is starting to look inevitable.
“A lot of people say ‘What’s the point? You cleared out the division,'” he says. “But if you look at all the great athletes — Floyd Mayweather, Usain Bolt, and so on — all these guys accomplish great things and bring it back and want to set a new record. And that’s what I want to do.”
Johnson wants a legacy. Well, two actually.