The smallest fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship will get their greatest showcase yet Saturday when new featherweight champion Demetrious Johnson faces John Dodson in the UFC on Fox main event.
In the card that begins at 5 p.m. Pacific time from Chicago’s United Center, Johnson (16-2-1) and Dodson (15-5) will square off after rising-star light-heavyweight Glover Teixieira of Brazil meets Irvine’s former champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in what could be Jackson’s final UFC bout.
The outspoken Jackson told several reporters this week he intends this to be his final UFC fight, as he either extends his career in a lesser-known mixed martial arts organization or tries to box.
“I plan on being still involved in MMA,” Jackson told the Associated Press after losing his last two fights to Jon Jones and Ryan Bader. “I just want to get this last UFC fight out of the way and then enjoy myself as a free agent and see who’s interested in me.”
Jackson has expressed unhappiness that the UFC won’t let him wear sponsor Reebok gear into the octagon.
“I think that the UFC doesn’t know how to treat their athletes. I feel like we do a lot for this sport, and I just feel like we’re just not taken care of well enough. I feel like they’re getting rich off all of us. ... I don’t want to be a part of this sport like this. It’s just bad. I want to go somewhere where they take care of their fighters and they treat us like human beings. I’m telling you I’ve been fighting for a long time, and I’m standing up for myself.”
Nevertheless, if the 34-year-old can upend Teixeira -- the Brazilian hasn’t lost in his last 17 fights -- it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the UFC would make Jackson a financial offer that would keep him onboard.
For Johnson, the main-event showcase against the 5-foot-3 Dodson is an opportunity to boost his name recognition to a national audience while displaying a faster brand of MMA fighting than fans usually see in divisions 170 pounds and above -- even if a knockout doesn’t happen.
“The flyweight division is a lot of technique, it’s going to be all action, from bell to bell,” Johnson said. “John Dodson is a good competitor. He has speed and power, has good stand-up skills.”
Johnson is a former high school and small-college wrestler from Parkland, Wash., who was raised by his mother with two siblings.
Nicknamed “Mighty Mouse,” he became champion last year by defeating Joseph Benavidez by split decision. Now he has the opportunity to expand his brand.
“I’m very excited to display my skill set,” Johnson said.