When Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall squared off in the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon in Australia two months ago, it was UFC's first fight in its new flyweight division. After a somewhat controversial ending in which Johnson was initially declared the winner, only to later find out there had been a judging error and the match was actually a draw, a rematch was signed.
And when the Harley-Davidson Hometown Throwdown comes to South Florida on June 8, that rematch will be the main event, with the winner going on to face Joseph Benavidez at a later date to determine the first UFC Flyweight Champion.
Two months is a long time to wait for a decision, and both Johnson and McCall are ready to settle things once and for all.
Having already taken each other to the limit, both fighters have used the past two months to recuperate and reflect upon their opponent's strengths and weaknesses. For Johnson, this time away from the ring has also allowed him to make improvements in his personal life.
"I went out very happy, then they took it away from me and said it was a draw," says Johnson. "Then they said there was going to be a rematch, so I was like, 'Alright, let's do it.' It gave me a chance to get my body healed up, and I got married and took care of all the things I needed to, so let's do it again."
While Johnson's attitude seems a bit humble, McCall (who will be training at Coconut Creek's American Top Team gym) is confident that he will be the one to advance to the title match after defeating his opponent in South Florida.
"I learned that I am the better fighter," boast McCall. "I just know that I can beat him. Not to take anything away from him; Johnson's obviously a really good fighter. He's accomplished a lot, but I realized I'm just an all-around better fighter and it's my fight to win."
Johnson says the biggest change he's made after his last encounter with McCall has been in his diet. And by training hard and bulking up, he feels that he's the one who will be going for the gold after defeating McCall.
"I thought I was on the correct diet, but my body was starting to slow down in the second round and none of my punches had any stank on them," says Johnson. "So I couldn't really hurt him at all. This time I'm on a better diet, I feel good, my weight's low and I'm eating whatever I want and weighing in at 139, 140. Last time, 10 days prior to me going down to Australia, I was 134 or 135. So this time I'm going to come in at 139 and just cut from there."
Each man obviously wants to win this match, then go on to have his name in the record books as the first 125-pound champion. But before the bell rings and things get physical, each fighter lays verbal claim to this new belt.
"It was created for me, at least that's how I feel," says McCall. "It would mean the world to me to hold that title. It's a pretty big deal to be able to have a chance at that."
"I'm trying to make history," contends Johnson. "Me and McCall are already making history in the flyweight division; we were the first flyweights to ever weigh in UFC, the first flyweights to fight and now we're going to be the first flyweights to ever headline. And hopefully I'll be the first ever Flyweight Champion of the world."
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It may not be a traditional advantage, but one thing McCall has that Johnson doesn't is an awesome mustache, which makes him look more like an old timey bar brawler than a mixed martial arts master. And though he is otherwise very serious about his upcoming match, even McCall recognizes the entertainment value found between his nose and upper lip.
"It just kind of started off as a joke," he admits. "People loved it and now I can't get rid of the damn thing. Heavy lies the crown, but for me heavy lies the mustache. My head may change a bit [between fights], but my mustache stays the same."
--Jonathan Williams, WrestlingWithPopCulture.com