Flyweight legend Demetrious Johnson has no regrets about his decision to leave the UFC for Asian organization ONE Championship in 2018.
Over four years ago, Johnson swapped the Octagon for the Circle as part of a trade that saw Ben Askren move the other way. With it, “Mighty Mouse,” who is widely regarded as a contender in MMA’s GOAT debate, left the promotion in which he’d dominated the 125-pound division between 2012 and 2018, defending the gold a record 11 times.
While “Funky” quickly washed out of the UFC after going 1-2 in 2019, Johnson has fared better since crossing the globe to Asia. In his first three appearances, the Kentucky native went a perfect 3-0 during the ONE Championship Flyweight Grand Prix, defeating Danny Kingad in the final to take home the silver belt.
After being absent from the cage in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson returned last April to challenge the rule of Adriano Moraes. In a shocking turn of events, “Mighty Mouse” was handed the first stoppage loss of his career after being knocked out by a grounded knee from the Brazilian champ.
But despite ultimately falling short of the gold on that occasion, DJ is certainly still “satisfied” with the move to ONE.
Johnson Already “Satisfied” With UFC-ONE Transfer
During a recent interview with The Schmo, Johnson assessed his transfer to the Singapore-based martial arts organization. When asked whether he’ll exit dissatisfied if he fails to capture the flyweight title, “Mighty Mouse” explained why he’s already got what he wanted out of his move to the promotion.
“No (I don’t need the title), I’m satisfied whether I get the belt or not,” Johnson insisted. “I mean, I think my move over to ONE Championship was a good move for me, you know, business-wise and just to be able to test myself. For me, I think the best fighters in the world, to be on that upper echelon, you gotta be able to fight on both sides of the pond.
“When I look at Rampage Jackson, Maurício ‘Shogun’ Rua, Wanderlei Silva, [Mirko] Cro Cop — I mean, the list just goes on and on. Those guys started in Asia and then finished in America,” Johnson continued. “I started in America and now I’m finishing in Asia. So, for me, in my book, I’m glad I’m able to fight on both sides of the world.”
With that in mind, a championship crowning would perhaps come as the cherry on top of Johnson’s stint in the Circle. He’ll have the chance to secure it next month when he runs it back with Moraes in the main event of ONE 161, which is set to be broadcast live at US prime time as the first event on the promotion’s new deal with streaming giant Amazon Prime Video.
Should he emerge victorious over “Mikinho” at the second time of trying, there’ll certainly be little debate that Johnson made the right move back in 2018, something he already feels has been confirmed.
Did Demetrious Johnson make the right decision when he traded the Octagon for the Circle?