CHICAGO -- Winning a UFC title is every fighter’s goal. For the few who are able to accomplish this feat, the celebration doesn’t truly begin until they make their first successful title defense.
UFC bantamweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson will attempt to solidify his position as a true champion Saturday night when he meets top contender John Dodson. The two will battle at United Center in Chicago.
In addition to defending his title, Johnson wants to put on an entertaining fight. Putting on a fan-friendly performance is something Johnson also relishes. And it’s something Johnson thought was being accomplished in September when he held off Joseph Benavidez to claim the 125-pound belt.
Johnson put on a stand-up fighting display. He demonstrated textbook footwork, head movement and striking en route to a split decision. But throughout the five-round title bout many fans in attendance at UFC 152 booed.
The booing continued when Johnson was declared the winner, and Johnson learned that being liked by fans is something he has no control over.
“You can never predict how fans will see you because there are some fans out there who just love my style: How I’m just a humble guy, but I have great technique, I have great footwork, the cardio, I have great confidence and I love video games,” Johnson told ESPN.com.
“On the other side of the board, there are guys who hate everything about me. They don’t care what I do, they hope I lose; they hate my ears, the way I look. So my job is to just go out there and perform the best I can.”
Teixeira seeks KO against Jackson
Not many fighters have entered the UFC with as much hype as Glover Teixeira. And in his first two Octagon appearances, Teixeira has not disappointed. On Saturday, he faces the stiffest test of his pro career, and fans will find out if the hype is warranted when Teixeira faces former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
Teixeira believes he will defeat Jackson, who fights in the UFC for the last time Saturday. But he also believes victory won’t be enough to prevent his stock from tumbling if he struggles. So Teixeira is determined to end Jackson’s UFC career early.
“My motivation is to be a champion, just like he was. I’m hungry,” Teixeira told ESPN.com. “I want this. This is a big fight for me, the biggest of my career.
“Rampage is a tough guy, he’s hard to put away. But that is the key. You go into a fight, that’s why people love fights, because of the knockouts and the submissions. I’m going in there to finish the fight. And it does matter to me how I win.”
Cerrone to clash with sharper, more mature Pettis
It has been nearly one year since lightweight contender Anthony Pettis has fought inside the Octagon. That’s a long layoff for any fighter, except Pettis.
The former WEC champion says when he steps in the cage Saturday night to face Donald Cerrone, he will be as sharp as ever. Cage rust is never an issue for Pettis.
“I don’t think there is ring rust when it comes to fighting,” Pettis said. “A fight’s a fight. If I have to fight somebody tomorrow, I’ve got to be ready to fight.
“This is my job. This is what I’ve been training for; this is what I’ve been doing for a long time. I’ve kind of grown up with fighting, so I don’t think ring rust is going to be a problem.”
Pettis is also better prepared to deal with any unexpected situations -- inside or outside the cage. He takes all his responsibilities much more seriously these days.
“I’ve matured a lot,” Pettis said. “I’ve got a daughter [1½-year-old Aria] now; I’ve matured a lot with decisions outside of my training -- what time I go to bed, what I’m eating, what I’m putting in my body.
“I’ve really matured in every aspect of my life. I’ve just matured as a man.”
• Former lightweight contender Clay Guida makes his featherweight debut with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Despite what he says, the outcome of his June bout with Gray Maynard and the criticism that followed still sting. “My striking was pinpoint; I out-struck Gray. I out-grappled Gray,” Guida said. “Go down the list, I beat him everywhere, except in the judges’ eyes. But I’m beyond that now. And Hatsu Hioki is going to pay for it Saturday night.”
• Jackson talks often about no longer being happy in UFC and looks forward to leaving the promotion after Saturday night’s bout against Teixeira. But Jackson won’t be all smiles when it’s over. “I will miss a lot of things. I will miss Burt Watson backstage. He’s funny; he’s cool to hang around,” Jackson told ESPN.com. “Honestly, if you are on Dana’s good side, he’s one of the coolest guys. Lorenzo Fertitta’s always been cool with me; and Frank [Fertitta]. I will miss the good fans. When you’re walking back to the locker room, when you win, the fans are cheering you on. There are a lot of things about the UFC that I will miss.”
• Dana White would love to have Eddie Alvarez on the UFC roster. And he is willing to pay handsomely for Alvarez’s services. Now White is challenging Bellator to do the same. “This kid isn’t their world champion and his contract is up,” White told ESPN.com. “Everybody talks about Bellator like they’re some poor little company. Viacom owns Bellator! Bellator like you used to know it is over. Viacom sits on $5 billion in cash. Pay the kid! Pay the kid the exact monetary offer we made to him, and you will deserve the right to have him.”