Demetrious Johnson’s record-breaking run of title defenses came to a screeching halt when he lost a close split decision to Henry Cejudo at last night’s (Sat., August 4, 2018) UFC 227 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
The fight may just have been the best flyweight title fight in the history of the UFC (watch highlights here), with each elite competitor having their moments. Cejudo was more successful with his Olympic gold medal-winning wrestling and top control, and Johnson landed a steady stream of kicks. It came down to the judges’ scorecards, and “The Messenger” won the fifth and final frame on all three judges’ cards to score the huge upset.
“Yeah. It’s incredible what he’s done. And tonight’s fight was close. I don’t know how you guys scored it but I had it 2-2 going into that last round, but who gives a shit what I think, but that’s how I had it. Very close fight. First of all, what a technical battle that fight was. Both guys are so incredibly talented. And, um, how much better Henry Cejudo is now from the first time he fought Demetrious Johnson is impressive.”
White was asked about Cejudo’s callout of bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw for his next fight, and he noted that while he didn’t know what was next for the new champ, he loved the attitude. In fact, he even compared the optimistic callout to the strategy of Conor McGregor:
“I love guys that wanna fight everybody. I love guys who are willing to jump in, and I think the fans love guys like that too. So that’s always good to hear, I love; I don’t know but we’ll see what’s next and we’ll figure it out.
“But you know, the reason Conor McGregor’s such a huge star is cause he’s that guy – he’ll do that and jump around and fight anywhere and fight anybody, and when you have that mentality, people like it.”
White then addressed the supposed criticism UFC 227 was receiving in the week leading up to the card, with much of it being because the lineup featured fighters from lower weight classes. White brushed it off, focusing on the fact they had sold out The Staples Center in Los Angeles:
“I didn’t hear that. Alright, when isn’t there criticism? We’re always gonna have criticism. This card was full of the small guys, you know what I mean? The first fight of the night, the second fight was women and small guys. We sold out The Staples Center, every A-list celebrity and you know, whos-who in Hollywood was here tonight; you know, what are you gonna do?
“It was an awesome night, a very successful night, and I’m happy.”
Further expounding on the popularity of the flyweight division, White said that after years of essentially being the stepchild of the UFC, tonight’s card full of great fights at the lower weight classes attended by many top celebrities was an indicator why it was now making waves.
And even though Johnson may have lost to Cejudo on the night, his body of work proved the overall evolution of the division – something the fans loved according to White:
“Listen, I think the popularity of the flyweights was there tonight. I mean, what more do we need? I told you the place was packed with A-list celebrities, sold out The Staples Center, you know, the small guys did almost a $3 million gate tonight with a sold-out Staples Center. And the crowd was very into that fight, it’s the “Fight of the Night,” and I think that when you saw scrambles with these guys, the crowd reacted to ’em, they were very educated on what was going on.
“I mean, I think we’re there, and I think that Demetrious Johnson’s reign, and what he’s done, and I’ve talked about this to many of you this week, this guy not only got better with every fight but he started finishing people in spectacular fashion. And I think that from the walk-in to their announcement that Buffer gave ’em to the fight to the end, the crowd loved it and they were into it, and you know, it was a very successful night.”