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Michael Johnson announces featherweight debut vs. Darren Elkins at UFC St. Louis

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UFC lightweight contender Michael Johnson will head down to featherweight for his next fight.

MMA: The Ultimate Fighter-Johnson vs Gaethje Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Several months removed from his epic encounter with undefeated lightweight Justin Gaethje, UFC veteran Michael Johnson has opted to move down a weight class.

On his Instagram page, “The Menace” announced that he’ll be competing as a featherweight, and his debut in the division will be against Darren Elkins at UFC Fight Night 124 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Johnson is a native of St. Louis, so this will be a hometown fight for him. UFC officials have not yet announced the matchup themselves.

The 31-year-old Johnson (17-12) has lost four of his last five at lightweight, albeit against some top-notch competition. Last year, he headlined a Fight Night card in Texas and knocked out Dustin Poirier in just 95 seconds. The high of that win was followed by a brutal beating and submission loss vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 205. At the TUF 25 Finale main event in July, Johnson welcomed Justin Gaethje to the Octagno, and the two engaged in arguably the best fight of 2017, but Johnson was unable to finish Gaethje and instead wound up getting stopped by strikes for the first time in his career.

Elkins (23-5) dropped from lightweight to featherweight six years ago, and is currently in outstanding form. “The Damage” has won five consecutive fights, including an unbelievable come-from-behind KO of highly-touted prospect Mirsad Bektic at UFC 209, and then a split decision nod over Dennis Bermudez at UFC on FOX 25 in July. Coincidentally, this will be the second fight in a row that Elkins will be going up against a fighter nicknamed “The Menace.” The 33-year-old is currently #9 in the UFC’s official featherweight rankings, so Johnson has a tough task ahead of him for his first bout at 145.

UFC Fight Night 124 takes place on Sunday, January 14th and airs live on Fox Sports 1.