Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 | 6:58 p.m.
As satisfying as it’s been for Michael Johnson to silence all the haters out there, the 24-year-old says as far as he’s concerned, the work has just begun.
“It’s not finished,” Johnson said. “Even though I’m fighting for ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ contract, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more to go in the UFC.
“I’ve got such a long road to go down.”
Johnson (8-4) will look earn a multi-fight contract Saturday when he takes on Jonathan Brookins (11-3) in the TUF 12 finale at The Pearl at The Palms.
Although Brookins still lies between Johnson and the ultimate prize, the Missouri-based fighter has already won in many ways by making it to the season finale.
Prior to becoming George St. Pierre’s first pick on the show and a favorite to win it all, Johnson had tried out for the eighth and ninth seasons of TUF, only to be turned away both times.
In addition to that, Johnson was starting to hear the “haters” back home in Missouri — local kids who had followed his career and said he had already reached his peak.
“I had a couple doubters in Springfield,” Johnson said. “Some of the college kids there were whispering behind my back, saying, ‘He doesn’t deserve to be there; he’s not that good of a fighter.’
“It’s just haters. The world has them and they have to hate somebody. I just wipe them out of my head.”
While Johnson says the road ahead of him is long, the one sitting behind him hasn’t been particularly short.
After failing to earn an invitation to two previous seasons, Johnson had to sit on the sidelines and watch along with the rest of the country as the show unfolded.
And, as Johnson says is the case with every season, he had to watch at least one or two jokers — fighters who didn’t take the tournament and opportunity seriously — emerge .
“It surprises me,” said Johnson, when asked what he thinks of fighters who are there strictly for the cameras. “You’ve got thousands of other guys who would give an arm or a leg to be where they are.
“It rubbed me the wrong way (during the eighth and ninth seasons) but it was my motivation to make myself better for upcoming seasons.”
A UFC contract will be the final step in Johnson silencing all his doubters, especially because it would come with a win over the highly regarded Brookins.
Brookins has turned into a relatively strong favorite to defeat Johnson after cruising through the show.
The 25-year-old Brookins has won his last three professional fights, with his last loss coming to current UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
Although Brookins has likely earned a spot on the UFC roster regardless of Saturday’s result, it’s clear he’s taking it seriously and taking nothing for granted.
“It seems like it could be that way, but you never know,” said Brookins, on his chances of earning a UFC contract even with a loss. “They could say, ‘You’re whack. We’ve had enough of you. There was your 15 minutes.’
“You have to earn it every time you go out there.”
It’s a philosophy the two TUF 12 finalists share.
“It feels good knowing the hard work and sacrifice has paid off,” Johnson said. “I’m excited to make a name for myself in the UFC and get in there against a tough competitor.”
Last Time Out:
Johnson: First-round TKO win over Chris McDaniel at FM–Productions.
Brookins: Unanimous-decision win over Yosdenis Cedeno at G-Force Fights.
The Lines: Johnson, plus-190; Brookins, minus-250
Johnson: On fighting Brookins: “We got real close in the house. I know his strengths and weaknesses and he knows mine. Obviously, we’ve both changed, but we both know each other's style. I’m sure we’ll go in there and put on a good fight.”
Brookins: On his future as a 155-pound fighter: “I’m happy competing at 155 pounds, but I’m so adamant at 145. That was the first title I truly believed myself taking. I see myself making a run at 155, but the first place I ever believed I would take the title is at 145, so that’s a goal that’s never left my mind.”