Johnson finds rhythm as full-time fighter

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:59 PM ET

Meet Demetrious Johnson: Full-time fighter.

Despite a near-perfect 9-1 record and two appearances in the UFC, it wasn’t until the 25-year-old Washington State bantamweight got the call to fight for the belt that he decided to quit his day job.

“It’s a title fight and Dominick (Cruz) is on a different level than anybody else and I felt I owed it to the fans and my family to go full-time,” says Johnson.

“I worked construction before, run a machine, drive a fork lift, it was a labour job. I did it for all my fights, Brad Pickett. Miguel Torres. After those fights, I’d have to wake up and go to work the next Monday. When I broke my leg, I went back to work that Monday.”

The 5-foot-3, 135-pounder said the decision to focus only on his upcoming fight is already paying off.

“I’m hoping it will make a huge difference,” says Johnson. “When I was working, I barely got any rest. Now, I’m waking up and going to the gym, swimming, getting my lift on and going home, then heading out to cross-fit. I’m more consistent now. I feel the improvement and my speed and strength have gone up. I feel a calm confidence.”

He will need more than confidence to dethrone the champ.

Cruz will be riding a nine-fight win streak when he enters the Octagon against Johnson for the main event of UFC on Versus 6 on Saturday.

Cruz says he can empathize with Johnson.

“He’s considered an underdog and I know how that feels,” says Cruz, who’s 18-1 entering his third UFC bantamweight defence.

“I came up very similar to him early in my career working a full-time job and juggling that with my fight career. You’ve got all these naysayers saying you can’t beat so-and-so. I know what it’s like to be an underdog.”

Cruz has a much deeper resume than Johnson, having come off a five-round title defence against former champ Urijah Faber.

But the Arizona-born fighter was complimentary of his challenger’s ability and work ethic.

“He’s got a big heart, great cardio and he’s got good speed and good rhythm,” says Cruz.

“Something he does that other people don’t do, is he’s got a rhythm in his stand-up style. He moves in a certain way and that’s something I’ll adjust to as the fight goes on and something that I’ve been preparing for in my camp.”

UFC on Versus 6 goes Saturday. The event also features a heavyweight showdown between 6-foot-7 Stefan Struve and Pat Barry.

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HOPING TO CATCH SPIDER

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UFC 139 MATCHUPS SET

The main card for UFC 139 has been made official. The Nov. 19 lineup at San Jose’s HP Pavillion will feature a main event between Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua as well as Cung Le taking on Wanderlei Silva. In other fights, Brian Bowles will face Urijah Faber, Martin Kampmann will fight Rick Story and Stephan Bonnar will step into the cage against Kyle Kingsbury.


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