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One Championship

Easy does it for Demetrious Johnson as One Championship’s latest big-name signing vows to work his way to the top

  • ‘Mighty Mouse’ says he is happy to bide his time and defeat all-comers for title shot
  • American says he intends to rule One Championship for a long time
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 2:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 2:07pm

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has a simple – and humble – message for fans in Asia and for those who will now have to face a man widely rated as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world as he joins the One Championship promotion.

“I’m coming out there as a new athlete and I’ll have to work my way up the ladder like everybody else did,” Johnson said on Monday. “I’m not looking to go over there and cause any drama. That’s not the way of a martial artist.

“It’s a huge move. I know those guys [in One’s flyweight division] are animals and I’m looking to get in with those guys.”

It’s an attitude that stands in stark contrast to those often linked to the sport, and to recent controversies such as the mayhem that ensued following the recent Conor McGregor-Khabib Nurmagomedov UFC lightweight title fight.

Johnson – the former UFC flyweight champ – said part of the lure of signing on with One and heading to Asia was the mindset the organisation promotes.

“I was never the biggest fan of the way people went about promoting their fights in North America,” Johnson said. “I saw it as a way of bullying. I am very excited that I don’t have to go through that with One. People would say: ‘Dude, if you want to sell more tickets or get your name on the next Frosted Flakes you gotta talk more trash.’ But that’s not who I am. Martial artists don’t attack people or cause a big scene.”

It should be one wild ride for Johnson, whose career has been forged on an almost unequalled skill set both standing and on the mat. One management have him pencilled in for a debut with the organisation early in the new year.

“I’ve always wanted to travel the world,” Johnson said. “I want to win the One flyweight title and defend it as many times as I can. But first I have to get over there and win that title. I leave the UFC with no regrets, and on good terms. But I’d done everything I could over there.”

Johnson’s move from the Las Vegas-based UFC to the Singapore-based One promotion was confirmed on Sunday.

Early doors on Monday and the 32-year-old was working the phone with his new boss – One chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong – as they started to spread the news as far and wide as possible.

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“He’s not only the pound-for-pound king he embodies everything that is beautiful about martial arts,” Sityodtong said.

In terms of the sport as a whole, the move is a groundbreaker, with the former UFC flyweight champ and his record of 27-3-1 heading out east to face Asia’s best, while One’s dormant welterweight champ Ben “Funky” Askren (18-0, one no contest) moves the other way.

In terms of what fans can expect, it seems – on paper at least – to be win-win for both camps. One Championship gets one of MMA’s all-time best, still active, still hungry and with a slight sense that he’s leaving a market where his considerable talents were never fully appreciated. The UFC gets a fighter who had achieved all he could with One – and is keen now to cement his own legend in the sport.

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“This move feels good,” Johnson said. “If people want to be traded we should have that.”

The connections Johnson already has in Asia run deep. He’s trained by One’s vice-president of operations Matt Hume and works out alongside One’s current bantamweight champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes (22-3) at Humes’ AMC Pankration, in Kirkland, Washington.

The Brazilian has already made it clear Johnson will be part of his entourage in Singapore next week for his title defence against Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (19-5) which is the co-main event at One’s Heart of the Lion card.

It should be some night, what with One’s golden girl Angela “Unstoppable” Lee (9-0) taking on Chinese strawweight champ Xiong “The Panda” Jingnan (16-1) and another of One’s recent high-profile signings in former UFC lightweight champ Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez (29-6, one no contest) sitting cageside as a One fighter for the first time.

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One’s flyweight division is currently ruled by Philippines’ Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio (11-6), while lined up behind him are the likes of ex-champs Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes (17-3) of Brazil and Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov (22-2) – who was first to issue a challenge to Johnson.

While the American started his career as a bantamweight, he revealed on Monday that as long as his friend and jiu-jitsu coach Fernandes was in charge, he would leave that division alone – but that he was intrigued by the prospect of dabbling in some of the other martial arts the One team have this year added to their cards.

“I think I have the skill set to do it,” Johnson said. “But first things first, and I’m focusing on MMA.”