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Demetrious Johnson eager to ‘earn my way’ to ONE Championship flyweight belt

Former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (27-3-1) spoke to reporters on a media call today, acknowledging that he will have to earn his way to the ONE Championship flyweight belt and that means facing whoever the company throws at him.

Crossfire Vault – ONE Championship announces signing of Demetrious Johnson

“I think everybody wins,” ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong said when asked about the trade of Johnson to ONE and welterweight champion Ben Askren to the UFC. “I genuinely believe that ONE Championship wins, I genuinely believe UFC wins, I genuinely believe Ben Askren wins, I genuinely believe DJ wins. I think in this situation everyone is really happy because for ONE, we get the No. 1 pound-for-pound greatest martial artist in history. And his technical style and who he is as a person is going to resonate very well in Asia. And Ben Askren going to UFC, he’s is going to prove that he is the best in the world, that he’s going to dominate and his style is also something that is appreciated by North American fans. So, I think everybody wins.”

Asked by The Crossfire on how it feels to be on the forefront of another interesting MMA development and to set a future path for other UFC fighters in the future, Johnson acknowledged the many people involved in the deal. “It feels good, but this wasn’t done by just me. There were multiple people involved, First Round Management, ONE Championship, Chatri, Matt Hume, the UFC … so it was a collective, people coming together and making something happen. And even Ben Askren, so I think it’s a great thing. Think if people want to be traded between or compete for different organizations, I think that we should have that option on the table. Like I said, I’m grateful and blessed that this went through and I’m able to be a ONE athlete and see what my career does over here.”

Johnson explained his decision to join ONE was primarily an opportunity to explore new horizons as a martial artist and not a decision motivated by malcontent, or mistreatment by the UFC. The focus on martial arts, competition, and honour also helped make ONE a better fit for him than the UFC. There were also other financial opportunities that he could not discuss that likely played a role that “were coming down the pike.”

At least one flyweight in the division – former champion Kairat Akhmetov – has challenged Johnson publicly, an indication that of what awaits him once he gets settled. He floated a rough timeline of next January or February 2019, depending on his continued recovery from his last bout, his diet and training, and ONE Championship itself.

“Mighty Mouse” acknowledged the current flyweight champion, Geje Eustaquio, and current contender Adriano Moraes, amount others as formidable  and potential opponents that he looks forward to facing. “I’m a new athlete, I have to work my way up the ladder just like everybody else did,” Johnson said. “I’m not looking for any handouts. I’m not looking to go over there and cause any drama because that’s not the way of a martial artist. A martial artist works hard, keeps his mouth shut, and does what he’s told.”


Kenai is a former Postmedia Network online news and sports editor. He is the Editor-in-Chief for MMA Crossfire.

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