Despite his very public confrontation with the UFC and Reebok, he didn’t think he was skating on thin ice.
“I was coming off two wins, so if I lost, I doubt I would have gotten cut,” Johnson (22-12-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) said backstage after stopping Martins (28-9 MMA, 4-3 UFC) in the UFC Fight Pass opener of UFC 215 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “If I lost two in a row, I probably would have gotten cut – say I just kept picking and poking at this guy, and I never got the knockout and it went to decision and I lost, and then I had another fight and it was a similar situation.”
Johnson did, in fact, pick and poke at Martins, leading many in the arena to boo the fight. But then, he turned things around in a big way, stopping Martins with a punch behind a front kick in the third round.
“I think it’s my years of skateboarding, to tell you the truth, because of the way you kick in skateboarding,” Johnson explained of his finishing move.
All levity aside, it couldn’t have been a better return for the 33-year-old Johnson, who spent two years on the bench dealing with injuries. His confrontation, which spurred a private meeting with UFC and Reebok officials, came while he was on the disabled list.
It’s well known that many fighters who’ve spoken out about the promotion have found slimmer margins of competitive tolerance from their employer after going public. Johnson claimed before his fight the promotion was trying to put him in his place.
The good news, however, is that his protest appears to have motivated change. Johnson said the UFC is planning to roll out a new program in October that will “have some positive effect on our abilities to make revenue.” He said it’s not related to Reebok but will, in the end, improve fighters’ bottom lines. He also said the promotion will be “more one-on-one” with athletes and conduct more fighter retreats so they can voice concerns and brainstorm solutions.
Ultimately, Johnson said the best course of action will be when fighters organize. A member of Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association (MMAFA), he supports the bill currently in Congress to add MMA to the Ali Act, which affords protections to boxers against onerous contracts. He said there are now 36 co-sponsors to the action, which is more than the number that sponsored the original bill.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
It just so happens Johnson’s career is now moving in the right direction, too. And funny enough, he likes the new Reebok gear unveiled this past week.
“Super dope,” he said.
To hear more from Johnson, check out the video above.