“So there’s a lot of challenges in this weight class that I need to fight. Dodson, I overcame him; he’s a challenge. But there are plenty of guys; there’s a guy in the division who has a win over me. There’s Zach Makovsky, so I’m just looking for new challenges.”
The dominance on display as Johnson (20-2-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC) defended his title prompted the immediate question of who in the flyweight division would be best prepared to unseat the champion, who dominated Bagautinov (13-3 MMA, 3-1 UFC) at every range en route to scoring shutout in the PPV headliner.
UFC 174 took place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The event’s main card, including the flyweight title fight, aired live on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.
Dodson’s name is fresh in the eyes of many fans.
But for Johnson, who in 2013 outpointed Dodson at UFC on FOX 6 in his first title defense, there are other names in the queue that would make equally suitable challengers.
Pointedly asked by MMAjunkie whether he was avoiding a rematch in favor of other more worthy candidates, Johnson hedged, but he made it clear his preference is to move on.
“I’m not trying to avoid that fight,” he said. “Obviously, it’s up to the UFC to make that decision. The reason why I say that is because this division is rich with great athletes and great fighters, and many of you guys know that Dodson isn’t the only person in this division.”
As Johnson earlier mentioned, there is a flyweight in the 125-pound class that boasts a win over him, albeit in the bantamweight division, where he hasn’t fought in three years.
Brad Pickett outpointed Johnson four years ago under the now-defunct WEC banner. Now, the Brit veteran is eligible to rematch the champ after a failed run at 135 pounds prompted him to move down in weight.
Then there’s Makovsky, a former Bellator bantamweight champ who’s won two straight since transitioning to the UFC as a flyweight.
“There’s tons of guys in this division, and a lot of people forget about that,” Johnson stressed. “I’m just trying to remind you guys. Ali Bagautinov, nobody ever heard of him, and he took a lot of shots from me. He won three in a row. He didn’t run his mouth to get here. He beat everybody that the UFC put in front of him, so I respect him for that.
“Tonight, I faced a new challenge, and I overcame it, and I’m ready to do it again.”