The latest scheduled Flyweight title fight may have come as a surprise to the vast majority of MMA connoisseurs, but it was something that Chris Cariaso had envisaged for a long period of time.
"When they gave me the call I was excited," Cariaso told The MMA Hour's Ariel Helwani. "I was ready to take that. I was like ‘yes, finally I get my shot.'"
The longtime UFC competitor has completed in 10 bouts during his tenure with the organization, including a stint at bantamweight before dropping down to his natural weight class when the flyweights were brought into the fold. While he is a modest 7-3 since joining the ranks, he has gone 4-2 at 125lbs and is coming off a split decision victory against Louis Smolka, which is not a win that would generally forecast a future title shot.
"I knew that it was going to come eventually. It just came a little sooner than expected. Once I heard that Dodson was hurt and that he would be out for a year, I think I was on that winning streak."
To add to the surprise of many, Cariaso was already slotted to face Kyoji Horiguchi in September, but was eventually moved into the co-main event slot of UFC 177 on August 30. The change of opponents was the only aspect of the switch that caught Cariaso off guard, as he thought he would have to defeat Horiguchi to get a shot at Johnson.
"You never know what the UFC is going to say or what they are going to do. I thought I was going to have to beat (Kyoji) Horiguchi for it but they gave me the call I said this is easy to jump in for."
According to Cariaso, the timing of the title shot makes no difference, as he has been preparing for this moment since he decided to become a professional prize fighter. Johnson has been his longstanding target since he became champion.
"Even though I was training to fight a different opponent, I was always training to fight Demetrious (Johnson). I always wanted to be the champion. When you are training everyday, you are always training to be the champion and he has always been my mark that I've been working for. In the back of my mind his face is always there. I was always trying to get there and get my skills ready so that eventually I could match up with him."
Cariaso, who lacked little confidence when discussing his preparation for the fight, believes the key to victory is in the striking department, which is where he will focus his gameplan.
"My opinion is you beat him striking. I beat him standing up and that is where I see this fight going."
The Demetrious Johnson vs. Chris Cariaso title fight is scheduled for the co-main event of UFC 177, which takes place August 30 at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California.