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WILMINGTON, Del. – The “whomever, whenever, wherever” mentality might work for some fighters, but it wasn’t the one Josh Emmett applied to his most recent matchmaking process.
Set to snap a 13-month layoff when he returns at UFC on ESPN 2, Emmett (13-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) had some requirements before agreeing to a featherweight meeting with veteran Michael Johnson (19-13 MMA, 11-9 UFC) in the ESPN-televised main card of Saturday’s card at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
“I want to fight big-named guys,” Emmett told reporters, including MMA Junkie, during a media day on Thursday. “I want to fight big names or people that are ranked in front of me. I got offered someone that was ranked in front of me, I took it. Unfortunately, he got injured or something happened. And that’s the fight game, it happens all the time, so then they threw out a few other names and they were behind me. Big up-and-comers, good fighters, but I felt like a win over them does nothing for me, you know?
“But I feel like a win over Michael Johnson, he’s such a big name, big following. He’s fought some of the best, beat the best. I feel like it puts me right back in the mix. And this is a fight that motivated the hell out of me, just because I know how good he is. And it makes me work that much harder.”
Emmett looks for recovery against Johnson, after a TKO loss to Jeremy Stephens in February 2018. Prior to that, he was on a two-fight streak that included an upset over former 145-pound title challenger Ricardo Lamas in the first round of their UFC on FOX 26 meeting. He’s currently an honorable mention in the USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA featherweight rankings.
Johnson, in turns, looks to capitalize on the momentum he’s picked up with consecutive wins over Andre Fili and Artem Lobov. “The Menace” is 2-1 since moving down to featherweight, after an inconsistent but notable lightweight run. Johnson’s star-studded record includes the likes of champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, Nate Diaz, Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson.
A couple of atypical circumstances surround Emmett’s return on Saturday. First off, he’s coming off a loss, which had only happened once before in his pro MMA career. But he also gets to come into it off a period of inactivity that contrasts with his recent record; in 2017, for instance, Emmett fought three times in an eight-month span.
Emmett says it’s been a “surreal” experience in a sense, as “I don’t feel like I’m fighting because it’s been so long.” But the featherweight fighter, who had to deal with broken bones and some unpleasant side effects from the loss to Stephens, has no concerns about kicking into fight mode when the time comes.
“I’ve been competing my whole life and been fighting for quite some time and I’ve said this before: Every time I go on a fight trip, it never feels like I’m fighting,” Emmett said. “My coaches now, it just feels like a vacation until – it hits me once I’m in the octagon. I feel like I’m the back room, I’m warming up, I’m feeling good, having a good time walking out, enjoying the moment, just living in the present.
“And then once we’re in there and Bruce Buffer is announcing our name or whoever, then it’s like, ‘Hmm, about to get in a fight.’ I can flip that switch real quick and I will Saturday night.”
To hear Emmett’s full chat with reporters, check out the video above.
News | MMA Junkie