When the UFC expanded to include a men's flyweight division in 2012, Demetrious Johnson emerged as its first champion. Fast forward five years and "Mighty Mouse" still dons the championship belt. He has not only consistently been the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but Johnson has been so dominant that the UFC's reality show, The Ultimate Fighter, dedicated one of its 2016 seasons to finding someone to beat him – a fight that Johnson also won. Despite having his eye on the record for most title defenses in UFC history – an honor currently held by the legendary Anderson Silva – Johnson has dedicated himself to growing his audience streaming video games on Twitch.
This article was originally published in issue 289 of Game Informer
Johnson is a lifelong gamer, which explains why an elite athlete in one of the world's biggest sports organizations is passionate about streaming video games. The 30-year-old fondly recalls his first game of Super Contra on NES, which he played with his mom.
Much more recently, Johnson entered the world of Twitch, which he first became aware of in 2014. "I was rocking my first-born son to sleep and watching a streamer play Mega Man X," he says. "My wife kind of opened the door to my streaming, as she told me to look at it as a way to interact with my fans on a different platform."
Johnson began streaming under the name Mightymouseufc125. The fighter plays high-profile games, showing off everything from Ghost Recon: Wildlands and H1Z1 to Resident Evil 7 and Street Fighter V. However, he intentionally avoids streaming UFC games. "When I started streaming [my audience] demanded it," he says. "I tell them that I do that every day for a living, so I don't need to simulate it on a console."
In addition to his favorite streaming games, Johnson has a lot of love for the Dark Souls series, calling the third entry his favorite game of 2016. He's also anticipating fighting games such as Tekken 7 and Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite.
Johnson is a high-energy presence in the Octagon, but he takes a different approach to streaming. While many streamers play up their personalities on camera, Johnson refuses. "I try to be as natural as possible because I'm in it for the long haul, not for a quick buck," he says. "I love playing video games and interacting with my fans in the platform more than fighting, actually."
It might sound strange to hear a professional athlete at the pinnacle of his career casually say he likes his hobby more than his sport, but Johnson sees streaming as more than just a hobby. According to him, his priorities are his family, then training, then streaming. "There will come a point and time in my life when streaming will be my full-time job, if I can make it to that level financially," he says. "Right now, fighting pays the bills."
Johnson has grown his audience rapidly, producing over 300 videos on the service and amassing nearly 90,000 followers to show for it. While Johnson says he's always looking for new ways to evolve as a streamer, even going as far as building a dedicated streaming room in his new house, he's appreciative of how being known as a UFC champion has helped grow his audience. "My mixed martial arts fame has helped me get a decent start building an audience, but it's still a grind and I want more emotes slots [laughs]," he says.
Though he's focused on his next title defense against Wilson Reis this Saturday on Fox, Johnson says he thinks a particular video game character would give him a huge challenge in the ring even if he didn't have his powers or a significant weight advantage: Street Fighter's Akuma. "He is consumed by rage so it would be hard to take him down," he says.
"Mighty Mouse" shows no signs of slowing down in either the Octagon or on Twitch. If his ascension into streaming and Twitch partnership is any indication, Johnson could very well reach his goal streaming full-time.