Michael Johnson Explains His Decision to Move to the UFC Featherweight Division

Michael Johnson was a top 10 lightweight but why did he decide now was the time to move to 145 pounds?

Michael Johnson has faced the best of the best throughout his career spent fighting in the UFC’s lightweight division.

In fact, Johnson holds wins over current interim champion Tony Ferguson and noted top 10 ranked fighters Edson Barboza and Dustin Poirier. Even in his losses, Johnson proved to be a tough matchup for opponents such as Khabib Nurmagomedov and Nate Diaz while also putting on a ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate in 2017 against Justin Gaethje.

So why exactly is Johnson deciding now is the time to move down to featherweight while he’s still ranked as one of the best fighters in the world at 155 pounds?

“Fighting at 155, I kind of lost a little motivation in a sense and I just wanted to get some new faces,” Johnson explained ahead of his featherweight debut this weekend. “I see me going down to 145 as a quicker opportunity to a title. I go down and showcase some skills and I’ve actually been loving this weight cut. This new life has really motivated me and I feel like this is the best Michael Johnson you’ll see.

“The division is wide open for me to come in and steal the show. They need some new faces. All these guys have been fighting each other over the past few years. Brian Ortega’s making a splash and now you’ve got Josh Emmett making a huge splash but I think it’s wide open for a guy like me to drop the weight and take the title. It’s an extra 10 pounds. I can cut that to be a world champion.”

Now Johnson will be the first to admit that he hasn’t undergone a test cut down to 145 pounds but he’s confident that he’ll face no real problems when it comes time to make weight on Saturday.

Johnson says he would routinely walk around at less than 165 pounds when he was competing at lightweight while many of the opponents he faced were as high as 190 pounds in the weeks leading into the event.

Still, Johnson never shied away from a challenge and that’s why his resume reads like a list of fighters who are champions, title contenders or at worst a top 10 ranked athlete still competing in the lightweight division today.

“A few of the guys were bigger but I fought all of the best guys there and it really didn’t matter to me. If I had the opportunity, I’d go up and fight at 170. That’s just the type of guy I am,” Johnson said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a fight. I don’t think size is really an issue with me at all.”

Now Johnson is excited to get his hands on the best fighters in the world at featherweight and it starts with a matchup against another ranked opponent this weekend when he faces Darren Elkins at UFC Fight Night from St. Louis.

Johnson has made no secret that he’s gunning for an eventual title shot against champion Max Holloway but he plans on putting the entire division on notice with his performance on Sunday night.

“I think I’m going to go out here and shake it up,” Johnson said. “They just really need some new flavor down here and they have such great experience with guys like Jeremy Stephens down there and they’ve got the best of the best down there, too. I’m just getting excited about all the new faces I can fight. When you look at the list of guys I faced at 155, I fought them all and that was something I set out to do.

“I’m not trying to fight everybody at 145. I’m there to get the title and then we’ll see what happens.”

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.