Lightweight Michael Johnson returns to the Octagon this Saturday for the first time in 2023, challenging Diego Ferreira at UFC Fight Night: Dern vs Hill.
Coming off a four-fight skid, Johnson turned a corner last year, defeating Alan Patrick and Marc Diakiese, and earning Fight of the Night honors against Jamie Mullarkey in a razor-thin split decision loss. While on paper, Johnson did suffer a defeat against Mullarkey, Johnson believes he won the contest two rounds to one, and carries the momentum of, in his mind, a three-fight win streak into 2023.
“2021 was rough,” Johnson said. “I think I only had one or two fights, dealt with a lot of injuries, dealt with a lot of personal problems and stuff like that. Fast forward to 2022, things got a little better. I cleared my plate a little bit and got back to really focusing on fighting and what I need to do. Now we’re going into 2023 strong and on a three-fight win streak.”
Johnson is no stranger to the ebbs and flows of the fight game. The UFC veteran enters his 13th year with the promotion and comes into his 28th UFC fight week more relaxed than ever. Keep in mind, this is an athlete who faced Edson Barboza, Beneil Dariush, Nate Diaz, Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje and Khabib Nurmagomedov consecutively.
It’s one thing to keep your body healthy for over a decade in such a physically demanding sport, but more importantly, what’s stuck with Johnson throughout his career is his undeniable passion for mixed martial arts and competition that keeps him coming back hungry for more.
“I love fighting, I love the game,” Johnson said. “I love it. I love to train, and I love being in there competing and being able to fight one-on-one. That’s going to keep me hungry. As long as I’m healthy and focused, I’ll fight and train for, who knows, 10 more years.”
Keeping his body in excellent condition throughout his career is Jake Bonacci, Johnson’s strength and conditioning coach who’s been along for the ride throughout most of “The Menace’s” UFC journey.
“The thing with Jake is, we had a really good four or five years and then we kind of took a break,” Johnson said. “He had to move away for some family, but the last two years we’ve reconnected, he came back down to Florida, and I think it’s made a big difference. It’s more solo [work], like one-on-one. He knows what my body needs, how to handle it and the details I need to work on. It’s incredible.”
Next in line for Johnson is Diego Ferreira, an imposing grappler that’s also competed with the likes of Beneil Dariush and Dustin Poirier. Ferreira’s been out of competition for about a year and a half, so there’s a level of unpredictability for Johnson, who hasn’t been able to watch recent film on his opponent.
Be that as it may, Johnson would rather focus strictly on himself and his gameplan throughout training camp and hopes to dictate the fight and force Ferreira out of his comfort zone.
“I focus on myself [when] preparing for fights” Johnson said. “I don’t pay too much attention to my opponents. I watch a little bit of film here and there, but I’m fully focused on what I need to do, what I need to do to win, our movements and our game plan. I’ll make him adjust to what I do.
“[I’m] going in there and sticking to our gameplan; fast hands, fast feet, movement, and we’ll see if he runs into something. I have no problem beating him to a decision but if he gets a little frustrated, he’ll run into something, and I’ll put him away.”
UFC Fight Night: Dern vs Hill took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 20, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!