Ladies and gentleman, the biggest trade in mixed martial arts (MMA) history is official.
According to a recent report by ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has officially traded former flyweight champion and pound-for-pound great Demetrious Johnson to ONE Championship for undefeated and recently retired welterweight Ben Askren. The deal was rumored earlier this week but nothing was finalized until now.
The historic Demetrious Johnson vs. Ben Askren trade is a done deal, multiple sources confirm. Full story coming shortly to @espn.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) October 27, 2018
Not only is this trade historic for MMA, it’s one of the rare times in sports where every party involved is happy with the deal. Johnson wanted to sign with ONE; Askren wanted a chance to prove he’s the best in UFC. Their reps/the orgs worked to get it done. Win-win for all.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) October 27, 2018
This deal is really a trade, btw. Both DJ & Askren are expected to get new contracts but for now they are ONE and UFC fighters, respectively. They aren’t free agents who can just sign w/ anyone. It’s as close to a trade as we’ll ever see in MMA. Very complicated but it got done.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) October 27, 2018
As Helwani reports, both fighters are currently under contract with their respective new promotions, although Johnson and Askren are expected to receive new deals. The fact that UFC, ONE, Johnson, and Askren are all happy with the outcome is icing on the cake for the biggest deal in MMA history.
With Johnson’s departure, UFC is losing arguably the greatest fighter of all time. Johnson recently lost his UFC flyweight title in a rematch with Henry Cejudo earlier this year at UFC 227, but had racked off a record 11-straight UFC title defenses before that. Without “Mighty Mouse” at the helm, the UFC’s flyweight division may not have lasted as long as he has.
With Askren’s departure, ONE Championship is losing one of the very best welterweights the sport has seen over the past five years. The 34-year-old veteran is widely considered the best wrestler at 170 pounds and has utilized his elite ground game over the years to amass an undefeated professional record of 18-0 (1 NC). Askren retired from MMA after his win over Japanese legend Shinya Aoki last November, but “Funky” is ready to return to action and test his luck inside the Octagon.
Both Johnson and Askren will not be short on challengers so it will be interesting to see who the two fighters face in their respective debuts.
Stick with Mania for more coverage on the ground-breaking trade