UFC 227: How video games bring out a 'different side' of Demetrious Johnson

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Demetrious Johnson competes in the Epic Games Fortnite E3 Tournament in 2018. (Getty Images)

It’s eight days before his rematch with Henry Cejudo at UFC 227, and Demetrious Johnson is playing video games as he talks to Sporting News about the fight. When the flyweight champion is asked how many hours he plays during the day on his Twitch channel, Mightymouseufc125, Johnson interrupts and says he’s playing “World of Warcraft.”

After his family and fighting inside the Octagon, playing video games is Johnson’s other passion. He plays when his two children go to sleep, when his wife, Destiny, goes to bed, and between training sessions. In June alone, he logged 66 hours of game time. The games of choice these days are “World of Warcraft,” “Fortnite” and “Street Fighter V.” He says that when he started dating his wife, he told her, “I like to play video games. I would rather do that than go to the bars, come home drunk and be mean to you.”

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Video games have long been perceived as being for kids. If adults played them, it was thought they didn’t have a significant other or didn’t have many friends. The 31-year-old Johnson — arguably the best MMA fighter of all time — breaks that mold in a big way as he fights back against the negative connotations.

“I think it brings out a different side of me,” Johnson tells SN. “When it comes to fight week and when I’m not fighting, a lot of people can relate to me in that aspect. They’re big fans of mine but they cannot share the same passion to go out there and compete and go out to be world champion. So with video games, a lot of people out there have a certain view about people who play video games that players are geeks, are unathletic or they aren’t cool enough. But I break that stereotype. It’s a different way for me to interact with my fans in a different platform and that’s something (about which) I feel passionate.” 

The biggest knock on Johnson during his title reign has been his lack of marketability; some of his pay-per-views have been among the least-purchased in UFC history. On the other hand, his Twitch channel is one of the more popular ones with more than 165,000 followers, and he has gained visibility in the gaming world by making the cover of the Icon Edition of the new “UFC 3” video game. 

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Does going a unique route in a completely different spectrum help raise the profile of the  No. 1 fighter in Sporting News’ world rankings ?

“At the end of the day, everybody is going to have a different perception of you,” Johnson says. “For the longest time, I had done everything correct. People will always try to find a way to take away what you have done. For me, I don’t try to focus on if I have respect from the public. I just focus on training and doing what is best for my family.” 

Johnson (27-2-1) will take a break from game playing Saturday to fight in the co-main event of UFC 227. Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw is headlining the show with his fight vs. Cody Garbrandt. Johnson and Dillashaw were on track to square off earlier this year, but Johnson needed shoulder surgery. It doesn’t appear to be a coincidence that the UFC put them on the same show with the intent of pitting them against each other in their next fights if they win this weekend.

“It could be,” Johnson said. “I’m not inside the UFC’s headquarters and I have no idea what their plans are for me or TJ after our fights because it can go a thousand different ways. There’s a lot of talent in the flyweight division that I can fight. In the bantamweight division, you have Marlon Moraes and Raphael Assuncao. They have legit No. 1 contenders in that division as of right now. I’m not in (UFC president) Dana White’s head to figure out what is next in both divisions.”