For years, Demetrious Johnson has been regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. But the Ultimate Fighting Championship has admitted that they don’t see him as a “draw”.
Ever since the UFC integrated the lower divisions of World Extreme Cagefighting into the fold, Johnson – who is the first-ever Flyweight Champion of the UFC – has only been in the main event of a pay-per-view card four times. His last two bouts were a co-main event.
According to the newest ONE athlete, it was because he does see the need to sell a fight based on press conferences or social media exchanges. For him, he lets actions speak louder than words.
“I was always never the biggest fan of the way people went about promoting their fights over in North America.
“I saw it as a way some athletes used it as a way of bullying, as a way of trying to gain followers. When an athlete says on Twitter, ‘Why haven’t you signed the contract yet’ to another athlete, for me, I see that as a form of bullying,” lamented Johnson, the record-holder for most successful title defenses in UFC history. “All that’s going to do is stir people to go to that person’s Twitter or social media and say, ‘You’re scared, you don’t want this, you’re chicken’.
“When I see professional athletes doing that, that are trying to embody the spirit of a martial artist, it just puts a bad taste in my mouth.”
That is why when an opportunity arose to move to ONE Championship, the now-33 year old was open to it.
Last Sunday, the first-ever trade between promotions was finalized, which sent ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren to the UFC in exchange for Johnson.
Finally, Johnson, a self-confessed nerd, can be himself.
“I’m very excited that I don’t have to go through that whole thing and be okay with myself as a true martial artist,” he expressed.
“Martial arts is in everybody’s DNA in Asia. It’s always about respect and promoting the fight the correct way as a true martial artist: We’re going to go in there and test our skills against each other. I’m very much looking forward to that way of promoting fights there compared to North America. That was something that I just didn’t fit in.”
But it’s not just Johnson whom the UFC struggled to promote – it’s actually the entire flyweight division. That is why the former world champion is inviting his peers to move over to the east as well.
“It’s unfortunate that the UFC might close the division,” he rued.
“But if they want to join me in ONE Championship, it will be the best place in the world to fight in.”
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