"This fight gives me a chance to show that I belong with the big boys.”
Demetrious Johnson had a bulletproof explanation for why he jumped at the chance to fight Damacio Page on three weeks’ notice.
“It’s my job,” the Matt Hume protégé said matter of factly.
Johnson’s eagerness to fight a Top 10 opponent – he had publicly lobbied for bigger game -- finds him pitted against a Greg Jackson student who goes by the nickname “Angel of Death” and just might be the hardest hitting bantamweight on the planet. Johnson, A.K.A. “Mighty Mouse” due to his diminutive yet powerful frame, replaces former WEC champion Eddie Wineland, who was scratched from the Nov. 11 main card showdown due to injury.
“If (matchmaker) Sean Shelby calls me and asks me to fight I’m not going to turn it down,” said Johnson, 11-1 as a pro. “Damacio Page is a great fighter, a real tough guy, and it will be a good test for me to see where I’m at. He has a very strong right hand -- he puts everything he’s got into that right hand. I just want to step up. I’m ready to fight him and see what he’s got.”
Ranked as high as 6th in the world by some media outfits, Page has 12 wins, half of them knockouts. His most memorable triumph was an 18-second annihilation of Marcos Galvao, which ended with the Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt out cold on the canvas. That moment, on March 1, 2009, emphatically sent a message to other fighters: On your road to glory, Damacio Page might be an opponent worth avoiding. The Albuquerque resident (12-4) has won seven of his past eight bouts, including a unanimous decision victory over Scott Jorgensen, the current No. 1 contender who will clash with WEC bantamweight kingpin Dominick Cruz at WEC 53. Fresh off a one-sided decision over then-unbeaten Nick Pace, Johnson said he is extremely confident heading into his looming showdown and credits his loss to Britain’s Brad Pickett earlier this year with convincing him that he could compete against MMA’s elite.
“I see him (Damacio) as a reckless Brad Pickett,” Johnson said. “I mean, Brad Pickett throws some heat, but he throws it while he’s calm and controlled and has very good foot work; I don’t see that in Damacio. Fighting Pickett will help me a lot in this fight because I was hit hard and wobbled and I was OK. Even though I was losing and he kept taking me down and hitting me with some hard shots, I kept coming. My job is to entertain the fans and let the WEC know that each time they call me I’m not going to go in there and look like a fool. I’m going to give the other guy a fight, whoever you put in front of me. The Brad Pickett fight showed that.”
Small for a 135-pounder, Johnson said he recently changed his eating habits to add pounds and weightlifting regimen to pack on pounds.
“Today I dead lifted and maxed out at 335 (pounds),” he said recently. “I’ve started at a new gym and they’re trying to help me develop more physical power so I don’t get manhandled like a ragdoll. Power lifting and Olympic lifting is new to me … but I’m taking it more serious this time. Usually I just do the beach body muscles, the good looking muscles, the abs, chest, the biceps. I expect to be in really good shape. I’ve amped up my workouts; I lift two days a week and do CrossFit three days a week, so I’ve got five days a week of lifting. And I eat whatever I can. I’ve got muffins, Slim Jims, nuts with dried fruits in it … I’m really trying to put on some weight.”
In a division loaded with talent, the native of Washington state stands out due to his speed and relentless pace. Johnson brings a plethora of weapons to the table -- from takedowns, to high kicks, to precision punching combinations and submissions. The 24-year-old leaves foes guessing and plans to do the same against Page.
“This is just another fight,” Johnson said. “I know he hits really hard, but my style is that I’m hard to hit. I just have to make sure that I avoid those big gigantic punches and, when he throws them, make him pay for it. This fight gives me a chance to show that I belong with the big boys.”