Former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson is anxious for his stateside MMA fans to finally get the chance to take a closer look at ONE Championship’s impressive roster of athletes. Johnson, 34, is one of the most accomplished athletes in UFC history, but the American believes his new promoter, ONE Championship, compares quite favorably to his old crew over in the UFC.
“Once they see the talent that ONE Championship has, they’re going to be absolutely blown away,” Johnson said.
Johnson left the UFC back in 2018 after being traded to ONE for welterweight star Ben Askren.
At the time of the trade, Johnson had accounted for the most title defenses in the promotion’s history at 125 pounds, and it’s a record he still holds today.
Three years later, “Mighty Mouse” is still ranked among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport across all promotions. He’s 3-0 since being traded to ONE, and the latest ESPN MMA pound-for-pound list has him slotted at No. 9 in the world.
But Johnson believes the rest of the ONE Championship roster is just as stout. In fact, Johnson believes American MMA fans who aren’t yet familiar with the Asia-based MMA promotional company are going to love what they see when “ONE on TNT” premiers later this year.
“I think it’s just going to come down to getting the exposure,” Johnson said.
Follow the Heavy on UFC Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
‘ONE on TNT’ on April 7
“ONE on TNT” will feature ONE Championship events across four consecutive weeks starting on April 7.
Each of the three-fight main cards will start at 10 p.m. ET on TNT.
Johnson (30-3-1) last fought in October 2019 when he defeated Danny Kingad to win the ONE flyweight Grand Prix.
Now, Johnson is at long last set to lock horns with ONE flyweight champ Adriano Moraes for divisional gold.
But that same “ONE on TNT” card will also feature former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in action, too.
So Johnson believes he and Alvarez will be helping ONE market itself as a direct competitor to the UFC in the United States.
“Then it’s going to come down to getting more American athlete acquisitions. Once you get more, it’s off from there, Johnson said.
Johnson on UFC’s New Rival: ‘Killers in Every Organization’
While Johnson’s trade from UFC to ONE was shocking when it happened, the fighter believes it worked out best for him for sure.
“I think it was great. I think a lot of the best athletes in MMA history have competed on both sides of the world. You look at Rampage Jackson, Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop, Wanderlei Silva, Shogun, Gegard Mousasi, the list just goes on,” Johnson said.
Johnson started his career in the United States, but now the legendary MMA champ is one of the biggest superstars for one of the top MMA promotional companies in Asia.
While most of the fighters Johnson named for his list did things the other way around, Johnson is glad to have competed as a fighter in both places no matter which came first.
“Some of those guys started in Japan and then made their move over to North America. Now, I’m doing [the opposite]. It’s only fitting for me to go over to Asia to compete,” Johnson said.
Still, the fighter admitted ONE probably had its work cut out for it as far as carving its own part of the marketplace on this side of the world goes.
“The media outlets for MMA, they mostly only cover UFC. MMA Junkie, Sherdog, MMA Fighting, you name it,” Johnson said.
But ONE has the right kind of fighters to make a dent.
“With that being said, it doesn’t mean that aren’t killers all around the world. There are killers in every organization around the world,” Johnson said.
ALL the latest UFC news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on UFC newsletter here!
UFC vs. ONE: ‘It’s In Their Culture’
Johnson believes the primary difference between the fighters of the UFC and those in ONE are the cultures from which both companies sprang. Johnson said there were serious competitors and champions in both organizations, but that each group brought a little something different to the table.
“It’s just different. I feel like they’ve just been doing it their whole lives, where in America you have guys who are more athletes so they played basketball, football, like for me, I’m one of the best mixed martial artists in the world and I didn’t start doing any mixed martial arts until I was 18 years old,” Johnson said.
So where the UFC might be packed with world-class athletes who then became MMA fighters, ONE Championship’s roster was filled to the brim with savvy and experienced veterans who have been fighting their entire lives.
“But a lot of these guys, it’s in their culture. They do karate, taekwondo, wushu. In America, it’s football, cross country, track, basketball…it’s just different,” Johnson said.
One thing remains the same though, at least for Johnson. No matter where “Mighty Mouse” does his work, he’s always going up against the very best fighters available.
“I’ve only fought the best of the best in the UFC. Henry Cejudo. Dominick Cruz. That’s the cream of the crop, not the mid-tier of North American talent. It was always the best,” Johnson said.
It’s why he’s so revered in the MMA world, and also why you should probably listen when he says ONE can compete with the UFC.
YouTube: Real Talk with Kelsey and Rachel