Financial security a motivator for Johnson

July, 19, 2013
7/19/13
2:32
PM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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Demetrious JohnsonDave Mandel/Sherdog.comUnderestimating his opponents is a mistake flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson won't make.
In the days before his 11th middleweight title defense, Anderson Silva spoke repeatedly of the monetary wealth he'd amassed during his UFC championship reign.

Holding the 185-pound belt for nearly seven years put Silva in position to become a multimillionaire -- his children will never know the economic struggles he experienced as a youth in Curitiba, Brazil. During each pre-UFC 162 interview, Silva smiled while struggling to find words to adequately describe his joy of being financially secure.

Silva is set for life monetarily. His belly is full and, as a result, it's possible he has lost some of the drive that made him a champion.

As we know, he would lose his middleweight title at UFC 162 when Chris Weidman knocked him out in the second round. And while Silva's presumed lack of hunger can't be singled out as the sole reason he lost, it was a contributing factor.

Silva's loss was monumental, sending shockwaves throughout the fighting world. It also put every single UFC champion on notice: Let your guard down and the same will likely happen to you.

Flyweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson was among those who got the message. He watched intensely as Silva dropped his hands, got touched on the chin by a Weidman left hook and fell to the canvas.

As Silva was getting pounded out, Johnson shook his head before immediately turning his attention back to July 27. That's when he puts his title on the line against John Moraga at UFC on Fox 8 in Seattle.

Johnson is a very talented fighter, just like Silva. But unlike the former middleweight champion, Johnson remains extremely hungry.

In order to satisfy his cravings, Johnson needs to make money and lots of it. And the best way to continue putting food on his table and keeping a roof over the head of his family -- Johnson's wife, Destiny, gave birth to the couple's first child [a boy] on Friday -- is to win fights.

He's in no mood to lose a fight inside the Octagon anytime soon.

"It is what it is. Anderson Silva played that game and it happened," Johnson told ESPN.com. "For me, I'm always motivated -- not only to keep the belt but to win my fights. I got into this sport to become champion and now I am a champion and now I'm on a mission to put money away for the rest of my life so I don't have to work anymore.

[+] EnlargeJohn Moraga
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comJohn Moraga, left, poses a serious threat to Demetrious Johnson's flyweight title reign when the two meet on July 27 in Seattle.
"That's where my head's at. In order to do that I have to train my butt off and, hopefully, go out there and win this fight. And stack my money up. I want to be champion for a long time, but the belt doesn't mean the world to me. It just means the world to me not to lose."

Johnson views Moraga as the latest of many obstacles he must overcome to achieve his long-term goal of financial security. He expects to retain his title, but isn't underestimating his challenger as Moraga is too talented to be overlooked.

"One of the things he brings that other fighters I've faced didn't is finishes in the flyweight division," Johnson said. "John Moraga is a tough opponent and he has a good set of skills. He brings good things to the table, but I've been fighting for pretty much a long time."

A major key to Johnson's success is being honest with himself. While most fighters refuse to admit looking beyond the bout in front of them, Johnson has no such inhibitions. He isn't shy when it comes to discussing future title defenses.

"I ask myself this all the time: If I get past John Moraga, who is next for [me]?" Johnson said. "My goal is that anybody who's in the UFC flyweight division must have a loss from me on their resume."

Thus far, Johnson (17-2-1) is off to a solid start. He has victories over several of the best UFC flyweights in UFC -- Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson, who by the way, is the only fighter to hand Moraga a professional loss.

After a tough go of it during the opening two rounds on Jan. 26 in Chicago, Johnson rebounded to beat Dodson by unanimous decision and retain his title. It was Johnson's first title defense.

Dodson beat Moraga by unanimous decision in December 2010. But don't put too much stock in that fight when attempting to handicap Moraga's upcoming showdown with Johnson. Moraga has taken his skills to a higher level since falling to Dodson.

He's looked especially impressive in his two Octagon appearances -- knocking out Ulysses Gomez in the first round last August in his UFC debut, and submitting Chris Cariaso in the third round at UFC 155.

Moraga is 13-1, and ESPN.com currently ranks him fifth among flyweights. Whether standing or on the ground, Moraga poses a serious threat to Johnson -- and his goal of achieving financial wealth.

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