Being a 12-time UFC champ, Demetrious Johnson is considered one of the all time greats.
When ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong announced late last year that Johnson would be joining the promotion, one of the American’s deciding factors in joining was hearing Sityodtong’s take on martial arts as a whole.
“When I heard Chatri for the first time, he was very passionate, not about mixed martial arts but martial arts in general, and what he wanted to bestow upon the world and about creating real-life heroes,” Johnson told the Japan Times, referring to ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong.
“My wife, she texted me when I got back to the hotel room and she was like ‘I’ve never heard someone talk so passionately about their company and their athletes.’”
Demetrious Johnson felt that after defending his title 11 times in the course of almost a decade, it was time for him to find growth and new challenges elsewhere. ONE Championship had offered him a package he found hard to refuse and it appears he made the right decision.
“I spent most of my career in North America, so I figured it was a perfect time to do it, so I took advantage of it,” Johnson said.
“Here I am in Asia, ONE Championship, brand new weight class, brand new opponents, brand new organization. I think I have five more years left in me and I think it’s a perfect way to end it.”
Now that he is competing in Asia, there is a long line of martial arts stars itching to get in the cage with him. His first bout is already set, a quarter-final match of the highly-anticipated ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix at ONE: A NEW ERA which takes place Sunday, 31 March in Tokyo, Japan. Standing opposite the cage from him is local star Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu.
Weeks before his debut, Johnson still heaps praises on how ONE Championship is focused on the honorable side of martial arts, and how it can catch on with fans in North America.
“There’s a lot of people who say, ‘I had never heard of ONE Championship until you signed with it. Now I’m going to watch it,” Johnson exclaimed.
“Then, boom, they get exposed to kickboxing, the Muay Thai, the submission wrestling. Then they’re like, holy s—-, they actually have kickboxing here? Then he tells his friends he tells and his friends’ friends.”
“Now it will get even bigger, coming to Japan,” Johnson concluded.
“It will continue to get bigger as long as you keep signing the right talent. Once you start getting Americans into the organization, then the followings who have been watching them in America will follow them to wherever they go.”
What do you think the future holds for Demetrious Johnson in ONE Championship?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 3/14/2019.