Don’t judge him by his size. Actually…go ahead. We dare you. At 5’ 3” and 125lbs, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is one of the UFC’s greatest fighters of all time. However, strangely enough, this super athlete still has time for hobbies. With over 100,000 followers on the video game streaming platform Twitch, Demetrious Johnson aspires to one day become an eSports competitor – after he’s done with his hall-of-fame UFC career, that is.
This weekend, the fighter-gamer will be poised to break Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive title defenses at UFC 215 in Las Vegas. Be sure to tune in, and, for more of this interview, look for the latest print issue of Innovation & Tech Today, featuring Andy Serkis and Benedict Cumberbatch, on newsstands soon!
Innovation & Tech Today: There’s this ongoing debate about whether to consider eSports a real sport. As someone with a foot in both worlds, what do you think?
Demetrious Johnson: It’s definitely a different thing. I mean, these guys aren’t breaking a sweat, and their heart rates aren’t getting elevated to, you know, over 100 to 155 beats per minute. So I can see how some athletes don’t look at this as sport athleticism.
You know, these guys aren’t athletic. Let’s be honest. I was watching the 2017 EVO Championship against Tokido and Punk, and those guys are not athletic…
But the brain, and the control, and the distance, and the hand-eye coordination, and making reactions to your opponent, and making sure you don’t drop combos and that you punish your opponent…It’s a whole different ballgame, you know? It’s like saying chess isn’t a sport. Chess is a sport. You’re using your intelligence. I would say, when it comes to fighting game [tournaments] – like EVO, or Battleground, H1Z1 – you’re always trying to put yourself in a better position above your opponent. In that respect, I would say it is a sport – just a different type of sport.
I&T Today: We’ve been playing a lot of Tekken 7. There’s such a barrier to entry to those games for casuals now. Fighting games, especially. There’s so much technique involved. When did you first become aware of this deeper level of play?
DJ: I’d probably say Street Fighter V brought that. And maybe even Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Just because it’s always about distracting and moving, moving the screen away from your opponent – and then hit an assist where you don’t know what Magneto’s going to do or Doctor Doom’s going to do down there.
And, even with Tekken 7, I was watching a video on that because I wanted to get better. A guy gave a tutorial: “When is a person most vulnerable in Tekken 7,”… or in Tekken in general. And it’s when they’re in the air. That’s how you juggle. So, Tekken‘s basically juggling. Once you get them in the air and you juggle them, you want to maximize that damage. That way you’re just that much ahead when he gets back on his feet.
I&T Today: Do you have problems with trolling online? How do you deal with that?
DJ: You just put a sub up. You just put it on Sub Only Mode. That’s what you do. And then you ban them. That’s the deal with anything on the Internet. The internet gives people a place to be able to speak their mind and get to a higher person. You know what I mean? And sometimes I can control the time of day and I argue back with them, you know?
I was talking to a guy, he says “Oh man, $50 for a pay-per-view? That’s way too expensive.” I was like, “Don’t worry. Keep your $50; you need it. I want to make sure your wife don’t go off, so make sure you keep that $50. The last thing I want you to do is pay for my pay-per-view and, next thing you know, you can’t pay your water bill or your light bill. Don’t worry, keep it.” You know? Just throw it back on them.
And then after that you just ban them and you put on Sub Only Mode and then all the people who subscribe to the channel, all the people who are there for the right reasons are there – who don’t really care about fights, they just want to watch a public figure play their favorite game.
And so my people come to my channel…A guy yesterday says, “Hey man, thank you so much for streaming and streaming positivity to my life. I’m going through some hard times right now.” We’ve had guys go through divorces on our channel, and me streaming to kind of help them get through that. There’s people who work who watch me when I stream and they’re like, “Thank you so much for making the day go by.” That makes me happy. When I can do something that brings positivity to their lives, that’s what I want to do.
I don’t care about the trolls who are negative. There’s a lot of these people out there who are negative, who are going to hate on you, who want to see you fail and stuff. Well, I just ban them, put on Sub Only Mode and keep it going because there’s people out there who actually do appreciate me doing what I’m doing.
I&T Today: How many hours would you say you spend, now that you’re in heavy training for this fight?
DJ: You know, it’s funny. Actually, when I’m training, I play more games because my schedule’s way more strict. Mondays, I’m in the gym. I stream between training sessions when I get home from the gym as well. Then on Tuesdays I don’t stream because I leave that day for me and my wife to watch our shows. Then Wednesday night I’ll stream before I go out to do a workout. Thursday, I’ll stream. Friday, I’ll stream between sessions.
So when I’m in training camp I’m always streaming because I don’t go out. I don’t go out to eat. I don’t travel at all because I’m home training. When I’m out of training, that’s when my streaming hours kind of get cut low, because I’m spending more time with family. I’m going out to get a friend, family, so it’s always funny. So people look forward to me during training camp. They know I’m going to be on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Saturdays, and sometimes Sundays.
I&T Today: Who’s the athlete, in MMA, who gave you the biggest challenge when you were playing them online?
DJ: It depends on the game. The last competition I had was just a fun one, was me versus Max Holloway in Las Vegas at Fremont. We were doing speed runs. First game was speed runs: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! I beat him on that, dusted him. Second game was Armed. He beat me in that.
Third game was Tekken 7. Destroyed him. He even put the controller down and walked away. He goes, “I don’t play this.” And then the fourth game was UFC 2. I don’t play that game. I’m Street Fighter V and Tekken 7. There’s a lot of things that need to be fixed in that game. And then it was a tiebreaker. And then they pull out the last damn game we played: Super Mario Smash Brothers Brawl, and I don’t play that game, and he destroyed me. So he won that competition, and I was so pissed. So pissed.
I&T Today: What is the significance of this upcoming fight? What does it mean for you professionally? What does it mean for the UFC?
DJ: Obviously, I’m training currently for my biggest fight of my life. September 9th, taking on Ray Borg. This will be my 11th title defense. If I am successful at this, I’ll have the all-time record of most consecutive title defenses in the UFC, which is tied right now between me and Anderson Silva. It’s a huge moment for the UFC. It’s a huge moment for myself. With the UFC having been around since 1993, one of the fastest growing sports internationally, the belt changes hands all the time. I mean, this summer we have four new champions. For a champion to hold onto the belt for so long is very rare. It’s a very rare thing, like an eclipse. It only happens once in a blue moon.
So, that’s the thing for the UFC – having a champion [who is] always showing up, always delivering, always making weight, always ready to put on a great show. That’s what it means to the UFC. For myself, as a champion and as a guy who came from nothing – a guy who works hard, who only wants to display great mixed martial arts – it’s a huge moment. Eleven title defenses. I’ll have a new record. I’m looking forward to going out there and showcasing my skills and why I’m the best fighter in the world.
Images Courtesy of the UFC and Zuffa