Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson was officially traded for Ben Askren a few days ago, which means “Mighty Mouse” will now be showing off his skills in Asia for ONE Championship.
After running through UFC’s 125-pound weight class to the tune of 11 straight title defenses before coughing up his strap to Henry Cejudo as UFC 227 (recap), “Mighty Mouse” says knowing there was nothing left to prove inside the Octagon made the move that much easier.
“I am extremely happy about this, ecstatic. I wanted this to happen. The only reason I went over to ONE Championship was because after my last fight, I sat down with Malki (Kawa) and Matt (Hume) and said, ‘You know what? I don’t think there is nothing left for me to prove here in North America.’ I have defended my belt 11 times for UFC,” he said on a recent interview on The Ariel Helwani MMA Show.
“I made weight every single time, passed every single drug test, finished my opponents in every way you can think of, submission, TKO, KO, I have done it all.”
After working out the finer details with his management team, the deal was done, ending Johnson’s historic run with UFC. While the division -- and the promotion — loses its most dominant champion ever, “Mighty Mouse” hopes the 125-pound weight class does not get dissolved.
“I hope they don’t (get rid of flyweight division). It’s mixed martial arts, you got to have every single weight class. They have great athletes over there and they have a fresh champion,” he said. “It wouldn’t bum me out, I have done everything I can over there, 11 title defenses and at the end of the day it’s their business, right,” he added.
“But as a fan of martial arts and I speak for a lot of hardcore fans, I speak for Joe Rogan, I even speak for you, Ariel Helwani, the flyweight division is probably one of the best divisions out there. The athletes are incredible, well-rounded, skillful, they don't get tired. So why would you want to shut down an exciting division?” he asked. “If it’s because it doesn’t make you any money. If that’s the case, then I hope UFC comes out and is upfront about it.”
As for his fighting future, while there is no current date set for his debut with ONE, Johnson says he has no issues with not getting an immediate title shot and is willing to work his way up the ladder, despite his storied past.
“Now as a ONE athlete, I got to work my way up to see if I can capture that belt and see if I can defend it. That’s the goal, to become a champion and defend it as many times as you can. So here we go. No immediate title shot, I have to work my way up,” explained Johnson.
“At the end of the day, I am a work horse, a working man, a martial artist. There are people who have been working on the same goal over there longer than I have. I’m a not going to go over and strut my stuff thinking I’m this... I am the new kid on the block and you have to work your way up.”
And he plans on retiring with his new fight company when the time comes.
“All I can say is that I am retiring here, I am not going anywhere. I have put more than six years in North America and I think this is it. I am done over here. I am going to fight five or six years, or as long as my body will last, and then I will retire and move on to the next phase in my life. ONE is the last stop,” he concluded.