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UFC Flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson ready for title defense at United Center

UFC on FOX

When: Saturday

Where: United Center

On TV: 7 p.m. on Fox-32; Preliminaries at
4 p.m. on FX. (first non-televised fight begins
at 3 p.m.)

Tickets: Limited seats are available at the UC
or ticketmaster.com

Main event: Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson

Full fight card, page 48

More ONLINE

Find listings of fight week events, after parties at suntimes.com/sports/mma

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Updated: February 26, 2013 6:43AM



Nothing much bothers Demetrious Johnson.

As the newly crowned Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight champion prepares for Saturday’s first title defense against John Dodson at the United Center, it is hard to rattle the affable titleholder.

Is he worried about the unorthodox striking and explosiveness of Dodson (15-5, 3-0 UFC)? “No, I believe with great technique and sound fundamentals, that’s how you negate that.”

Is Johnson (16-2-1, 4-1-1 UFC) annoyed that the flyweights aren’t promoted as much as they should? “I’m grateful that they gave us that time slot and they advertised the fight in general. They could have not advertised it all.”

Many athletes say they are focused on their fight and don’t care what the opposition or the media says. But their body language or actions often betray the words that come out of their mouth.

But with confident and chatty Johnson, he seems all business, without pretense and truly happy to be here. A man must be comfortable in his own skin to embrace a “Mighty Mouse” nickname.

He has heard the critics of the newly born 125-pound weight class — the flyweights are all speed, but not much power; they can’t finish fights. And he knows he must work hard to earn the respect of casual fans and help establish the division. This week, he made the comparison to cars.

“When a fast car goes past, everyone thinks ‘Oh, that car was fast,’ ” Johnson said. “But let’s see what’s under the hood, this guy’s got headers, intake, this is what’s making it fast. That’ll transition into mixed martial arts eventually.”

Saturday, he has a great opportunity to showcase himself as one of the upcoming MMA stars and make a statement for the flyweight division on “UFC on Fox.” The main card begins at 7 p.m. on Fox-32.

Johnson said he looks forward to picking up his fourth straight win in front of the national-television audience. “I’m grateful. I’m happy they gave me the timeslot. I’m happy to be there and headline a UFC card. I’m just a guy trying to do well in his career and to go on and put on a good show,” he said.

Fight week events

• The Chicago Theatre (175 N. State) will host the weigh-ins at 4 p.m. today. At 2 p.m., lightweight champion Jon Jones will answer questions from UFC Fan Club members and the doors open to the general public at 3 p.m.

• Fighter Leonard Garcia, NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick and TapouT’s PunkAss and Skyskrape will be on hand from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hooters (660 N. Wells) for an autograph signing and UFC ticket giveaway.

• The UFC recently purchased LA Fitness and have rebranded them . The grand opening of the downtown UFC Gym River North (644 N. Orleans) will be 9 a.m. Saturday. UFC fighters Chris Weidman and Gray Maynard will both be on hand taking pictures with fans and signing autographs from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

After parties:

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will host a party at Park Tavern (1645 W. Jackson) … Clay Guida’s bash will be at Scout Waterhouse & Kitchen (1301 South Wabash)… John Dodson’s will party at Lumen, (839 W. Fulton) .… Fight Chix, the local women’s MMA clothing label, will host an event at Spybar (646 N. Franklin)



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