As you’ve probably heard, it’s now official. Former UFC flyweight champion and bona fide MMA legend Demetrious Johnson is now a ONE Championship athlete. That’s thanks to a history-making trade between ONE and the UFC that saw the UFC cough up Johnson in exchange for ONE’s former welterweight champion Ben Askren.
Speaking on a media conference call on Sunday, an elated Demetrious Johnson explained how this out-of-left-field trade came to fruition.
“At the end of the day, I felt that I’m pretty young in my career and I wanted to try something different,” Johnson said (transcription via Alexander K. Lee of MMA Fighting) . “I’ve always wanted to travel the world and compete and actually grew up watching Asian mixed martial arts with Pride, mostly. To be able to have the opportunity to travel over to Asia in a whole new weight class, it’s something I couldn’t pass up.
“So obviously I had to leave, and First Round Management, with Malki [Kawa], after my last fight I was like, ‘You know what? You think this is possible?’ He goes, ‘Anything’s possible, man.’ And so Malki was able to get it done and here we are now. I’m grateful that everything fell to the right place, now I’m a ONE athlete, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.”
“It feels good, but this wasn’t done by just me,” Johnson continued. “There’s multiple people involved in it. 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, I think if people want to be able to be traded and compete in different organizations I think that we should have that option on the table.”
For Demetrious Johnson, a big part of the appeal of ONE Championship is the value the promotion places on honor, integrity and respect. You will not see any dolly-throwing or post-fight brawls at their events, and that is just fine with him.
“ONE Championship, they are about bringing up heroes,” Johnson said. “And the first time I watched ‘The Burmese Python’ [Aung La N Sang] fight in the last event in Yangon, I could see how the crowd would react to him when he stepped into the cage to fight and after he won and how the whole crowd was saying his name. I can see that his countrymen, his people really see him as a hero, not as an athlete who’s going to go to a bar after this and beat somebody in the face, they honestly are the home of martial arts and it’s not just mixed martial arts.”
“It’s kickboxing, boxing, Muay Thai, submission grappling, and for me that just intrigued me about it. They’re focused on promoting true martial artists, humble, discipline, integrity, and humility, and that’s all that I stand for, so absolutely I am 100 percent on board with that.”
Needless to say, it sounds like Demetrious Johnson and ONE Championship are a match made in heaven.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/29/2018.