Since winning the title in the co-main event of UFC 152, Johnson has defended the belt three times in main event fights. All three of those main events have been UFC on Fox fight cards.
In each of those headlining bouts, Johnson has earned a Fight Night bonus. His first defense, against John Dodson earned both fighters Fight of the Night honors. Johnson's second defense earned him Submission of the Night for his fifth round armbar of John Moraga. Johnson's most recent defense, a first round knockout of Joseph Benavidez earned Johnson the much-coveted Knockout of the Night bonus.
Despite his wins, and despite his ranking as the No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter on the UFC roster, Johnson has found himself and his 125-pound brethren overlooked by some fight fans, and that's something the 19-2-1 fighter cannot understand. "If you're a fan of fighting, then you're a fan of fighting," Johnson said during a recent edition of The MMA Hour. For those that have that opinion, he implored them, "Just watch one of my fights, and you'll change your mind."
When discussing his opponent at UFC 174, Ali Bagautinov, Johnson said he feels the 13-2 fighter who is on a three fight UFC winning streak, and 11 fight overall win streak, "Absolutely" deserves a shot at the title.
The way Johnson sees it, with his wins over the three fighters ranked ahead of Bagautinov (Benavidez, Dodson and No. 3 Ian McCall), the Bagautinov fight makes perfect sense for him and the division. "It's not like Mortal Kombat where before you fight Shao Khan you have to fight Kintaro," said Johnson. "It's not like that, if it was like that everybody would have to fight John Dodson and Joseph Benavidez and they wouldn't get passed those guys. That's how it is."
Johnson went on to say, "If Ali Bagautinov would have to beat those guys to keep climbing the ladder who knows if he would get passed those guys to get to the top of the ladder."
UFC 174 will take place on June 14 from the Rogers Arena in Vancouver.