Since the two met in a rematch last August at UFC 227, a bout that Cejudo won by split decision to end Johnson’s historic championship reign, the two have continued to thrive albeit in different ways. Johnson was traded to ONE Championship where he hasn’t missed a beat, defeating Japanese standouts Tatsumitsu Wada and Yuya Wakamatsu to advance to the finals of a flyweight (135-pound) Grand Prix.
On the other side, Cejudo has built off of his win over Johnson in a massive way, first defending the flyweight belt against T.J. Dillashaw in spectacular fashion and then moving up to 135 pounds to capture a vacant bantamweight title by beating Marlon Moraes. Along with his in-cage success, he’s developed an over-the-top persona, dubbing himself “Triple C” (in reference to his Olympic wrestling gold medal and dual-division UFC champ status) and “The King of Cringe” (in reference to a number of questionable publicity stunts).
Most recently, Cejudo has taken to playfully calling for fights with female champions Valentina Shevchenko and Weili Zhang, an act that is a far cry from the more subdued promotion that Johnson utilized when he was a UFC titleholder.
Asked what he thought about his former rival’s antics, Johnson turned the question around.
“He’s doing exactly what you want him to do,” Johnson told MMA Fighting. “You’re talking about it right now. There you go, you just answered it yourself.”
Whether it’s Cejudo calling out seemingly out-of-contention veterans like Urijah Faber, or drumming up interest in fantastical intergender bouts, Johnson believes it’s all about generating headlines and keeping Cejudo’s name out there.
“That’s how I see it. You brought it up, I don’t even think about it,” Johnson said. “You probably think about it more than I do.”
Johnson, whose eleven consecutive title defenses are the most in UFC history, could be wearing his own gold again soon if he continues to roll in ONE. He’s next scheduled to fight Danny Kingad at ONE’s event in Tokyo on Oct. 12, with the winner going on to challenge ONE flyweight champion Adriano Moraes at a future date.
The pursuit of that title is Johnson’s main goal right now and while he understands the fan and media interest in seeing him someday complete his trilogy with Cejudo, he’s focused entirely on Kingad and Moraes.
“I did an interview yesterday and they were like, ‘Somebody said [Kyoji] Horiguchi could beat you.’ I was like, I don’t really care what he said,” Johnson said. “People always talk about that they can beat this person in the past that they lost to. I never go back saying, ‘I wish I could get that fight back against Dominick Cruz, I wish I could get that fight back with Brad Pickett, I wish I could get that fight…’
“Losses happen. When people try to bring up the past and like, ‘It would be so cool to fight this guy.’ For me, I truly don’t care, I just want to keep on fighting, get through this tournament, win and then get a shot at the ONE Championship belt against Adriano and then win that and then see what’s next.”