No. 4-ranked UFC lightweight Michael “Menace” Johnson has slowly and somewhat quietly made a name for himself as a true 155-pound contender, as he has compiled four-straight victories inside of the Octagon, and has looked rather impressive. He most recently returned from a year-long layoff to earn a hard fought decision victory over notable Brazilian Edson Barboza last February.
As for what’s next for the “Menace”, there were rumors and a verbal agreement that he would meet former lightweight champion “Smooth” Benson Henderson. Although the UFC never confirmed the fight, it looked as if it was all but a done deal that the two would square off at the The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21 Finale on July 12, 2015, but that was recently proved untrue, with Henderson claiming that he was injured and wouldn’t be able to compete on that card.
However, Johnson isn’t necessarily buying the injury story, noting that the rumors and “excuses” just keep swirling about “Smooth”. Speaking with MMAJunkie, “Menace” went as far to say that the former champion is afraid and doesn’t want to fight him:
“To tell you the truth I don’t think Benson wants to fight me; I think he’s a little scared,” Johnson said. “We’ll see. I was supposed to fight him, he pulled out with an injury, said he would fight me three weeks later and I haven’t heard from him since.
“I don’t know what the hell happened. I heard he has a detached retina. Then I heard he could fight me three weeks later. I’m thinking to myself, ‘A detached retina, but you can still fight me three weeks later?’ Then I heard a rumor about him doing some jiu-jitsu tournament and I’m like, ‘Man, everything’s pointing to that he doesn’t want to fight me.’”
Ironically enough, Henderson actually appeared on today’s edition of The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss the situation, noting that he indeed did have an eye injury, although he wouldn’t disclose the specific details of it. “Smooth” stated that he’s hoping to be cleared soon, but it’s not clear when he will return and if he will meet Johnson when he does.
Continuing on, the Blackzilians product said that he’s probably going to have to take another fight in the meantime, and probably against a lower ranked opponent, due to a majority of the top lightweights being injured. The “Menace” even threw another former champion’s name out there in the form of oft-injured Anthony Pettis, saying that that’s a fight he would like, but Pettis just can’t seem to stay healthy:
“I wanted to fight (Benson); he didn’t want to take the fight right away I guess,” Johnson said. “It looks like I’m going to have to fight down for one more fight, then I guess we’ll see. I don’t really have time to wait for any of these top guys to get open, so I just have to keep fighting.
“I’d love to see Anthony Pettis but he actually got hurt, because he was supposed to fight Myles Jury in Chicago. ‘Mr. Glass,’ Anthony stays hurt so much. He could be out another five or six months.”
Obviously disappointed by the falling out of his fight with Henderson, Johnson claims that he’s healthy and is ready to go, no matter who the opponent is:
“I don’t say no to anybody,” Johnson said. “I’m healthy at this point. I’m ready to go and I was getting ready to fight Ben.”
Who makes sense for Johnson at this point?