Demetrious Johnson Has High Praise For Conor McGregor

conor mcgregor ufc 178
Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Dominant UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson isn’t known for talking a whole lot of smack. He prefers to let his fists do the talking, and that strategy has propelled him to four straight title defenses at 125 pounds.

He’s looked so dominant that whatever trash talk an opponent might drum up for him would just seem silly, as no flyweight has come close to having “Mighty Mouse” in any semblance of trouble since he became champion.

But that doesn’t mean that Johnson doesn’t have admiration for that part of the game. Heading into his UFC 178 headliner against Chris Cariaso from Las Vegas this weekend (Sat., September 27, 2014), Johnson has his eye on a rising fighter who will take to the cage just two fights before he will.

Not surprisingly, that man in none other than rising featherweight contender Conor McGregor, who will face his first top-ranked UFC challenge in the form of No. 5 Dustin Poirier. McGregor has already stormed to the forefront of UFC personalities thanks to his electric presence and nonstop creative trash talk, and that’s earned him the admiration of one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters in “Mighty Mouse.”

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Speaking on today’s edition of The MMA Hour, Johnson likened McGregor to that of some legendary combat sports personalities:

“I really, truly appreciate Conor McGregor’s style — his fighting style and the way he talks. The reason why is because he reminds me of a young Mike Tyson, a young Muhammad Ali, the way he talks.

Like, I look at him and I don’t see him talking trash. I look at him and I see him talking (about) what he sees, where he’s like: ‘dude, I’m way faster, I move way better than you do, you’re slow, I’m going to hit you hard’ — which, I believe all these things that he says are true.

I believe that his fighting style is good, he understands fighting, and not taking anything away from Dustin Poirier — Dustin Poirier is a huge test — I can appreciate somebody who can talk that stuff and he’ll go in there and he’ll back it up.”

Johnson put McGregor on a lofty standard to be sure, but his words do have truth to them. McGregor has largely gone out and defeated the opponents he said he was going to, and he’s often done so in the manner he said he would.

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But Poirier is a test of a different sort, a truly world-class challenge who could send McGregor’s hype spiraling downward very quickly. That, “Mighty Mouse” believes, is where this fight truly gets interesting:

“The curious thing will be like, what if he loses?  They have so much hype behind Conor McGregor. If he loses then, you know, they’ll look around like, ‘Well, we had a good run, Conor. Let’s see what you got to say again.’

So I’m more intrigued by that fight because I think that fight has more stakes going into it, because it’s like, one, I’m pretty sure if Conor wins it, then he can be fighting ‘old man Swanson,’ as he called him, Cub Swanson next. And then, who knows, he could be fighting Chad Mendes or Jose Aldo for the title after those two fight. We’ll see.”

That’s a good point from the champ. By talking as much he does, McGregor simply cannot lose if he wants to be taken seriously. If you ask him, that’s probably fine, because he doesn’t think there’s any chance that he will.

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If and when McGregor does get by Poirier, then the road will begin to get even more arduous for the Irish star. Can “Notorious” live up to Johnson’s comparison and gain the belt to follow in the footsteps of Tyson and Ali, or will it all amount to nothing but hype?

Photo: USA TODAY Sports