Why is the best fighter in the UFC not the main event?

Saturday, August 04, 2018

UFC inaugural flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson is the consensus choice for best pound for pound fighter in the UFC. He fights on Saturday in the co-main event. Main event is a rematch between champion T.J. Dillashaw and former champion Cody Garbrandt. The champ always gets top billing, and if there are two, the biggest PPV draw gets main. That's not 'Mighty' Johnson; Jonathan Snowden for B/R explored varying theories about what this is so.

It is his height (5' 3")? That he possesses the grace to never trash talk? Is it that he's so good you always know he will win, that he has no Frazier to his Ali? Here are some theories ...

Michael Bisping, former middleweight champ, on his Believe You Me podcast:

"It's weird, man. It's crazy to me. He's great to watch. I love watching Demetrious...and you've got to be able to fight first and foremost in this sport. But you've got to open your mouth a little bit. You've got to talk. You've got to create some controversy...you've got to make it interesting."

Joseph Benavidez, former flyweight title challenger, on UFC Unfiltered:

"We have the best fighter ever, and it feels like no one really cares ...It's not DJ's fault. It's all our faults for not challenging him. He's doing his job. He's winning every fight and winning it impressively. It's our fault for not doing anything about it."

Demetrious Johnson himself to MMA Fighting:

"With me, the UFC chooses not to market the best fighter in the world and arguably the greatest fighter of all time. I can't think of any other sports organization in the world that has the best player in the sport where the league, or the organization, doesn't market that player to their loyal fanbase to sell more of their product."

Dana White, UFC president, strikes back on TMZ:

"He didn't want [a percentage of the] pay-per-view. He wanted upfront money, no pay-per-view. He wasn't very confident in his abilities to sell pay-per-views. He has the lowest-selling pay-per-view in the history of the UFC in the modern era."

The answer for the lack of popularity remains an enduring mystery. Is Demetrious Johnson one of your favorite fighters? If not, why not? That could be the answer.