Champ Demetrious Johnson breaks down ‘Mighty Armbar,’ reveals potential knee injury

LAS VEGAS – UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson used his opponent’s fighting philosophy against him to break the UFC’s all-time title defense record at UFC 216.

Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) was listening when Ray Borg (11-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) said in an interview he liked to upset his opponents’ balance to initiate winning scrambles. When he saw an opportunity to do the same, he seized it and pulled off his eye-popping armbar.

“A couple of weeks ago, he was saying when somebody’s planted, you have to shift their weight, and when they shift their weight, they’re light,” Johnson said at the pay-per-view event’s post-fight news conference at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “So I kneed him, and then I shook his weight – I shifted his weight, and when he shifted, he went back and threw and elbow, and I was like, ‘Got you.’”

Got you, indeed. In the fifth round, Johnson hoisted Borg (11-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) in the air and locked his arm on the way down, landing in position to finish the fight. Although Borg fought mightily to avoid the tap, he couldn’t do so without risking severe damage to his arm.

It wasn’t the first time Johnson had pulled off such a move, which he dubbed the “Mighty Armbar,” as improvisational as it seemed. He had pulled it off several times in practice for UFC 215, originally scheduled for his try at the all-time UFC record before Borg fell ill and was forced to withdraw the day before the fight.

But the general public would never have known it was coming, because Johnson has a strict rule of secrecy when it comes to his work in the gym.

“You see a lot of people that are doing their V-logs – I don’t show any of my training,” he said. “I just don’t do it. It’s none of your guys’ business what I’m doing in the gym. But we do have the (UFC) ‘Embedded’ crew come out there, and I show my warmup, and they’re like, ‘Dude, you need to let us film your sparring, because the stuff you’re doing in sparring, you’re actually doing in the octagon.’

“When I was in Edmonton (for UFC 215), I was practically throwing people up. I do it all the time in the gym.”

Johnson wasn’t running a typical schedule for the rescheduled fight, however. When the promotion pushed back the fight, it added one month to a camp in which he’d sustained an unknown knee injury, concerning his team.

“When I was up in Edmonton, I had an injury I was going to fight through, and (coach) Matt (Hume) was like, ‘Uh, you need to get that looked at,’” Johnson said. “When it got pushed back, I was like, great, now I have to go into training camp injured and try not to make it worse.”

Thankfully, Johnson managed to make it to Saturday’s fight, and he put on another performance for the ages in his 11th consecutive title defense. He is now the official record-holder after pulling ahead of former middleweight champ Anderson Silva, the longtime keeper of that accolade. Plus, he’s destined for the No. 1 spot in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA pound-for-pound rankings, complimenting his stranglehold on the flyweight list.

“It’s really good not to hear Anderson Silva’s name next to my name,” Johnson said. “Now, who has the longest reign of title defenses? Demetrious Johnson does.”

The next order of business for Johnson is to find out what’s going on with his knee.

“I have to get an MRI,” he said. “I can move fine, but when I sit back on my knees, if try to lay on my knees and try to take my butt to my heels, just excruciating pain in my right knee. I don’t know what it is – I’m going to get it looked at.”

In the meantime, a lot of people are going to be looking at what he pulled off in the octagon. After explaining how he used Borg’s trick, he paused for effect.

“Yeah,” he exhaled in a mock tough-guy voice. “(Expletive) yeah.”

For complete coverage of UFC 216, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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