Demetrious Johnson on ONE Championship’s Talent Pool: “They’re All Monsters”

Demetrious Johnson ONE Championship
Yuya Wakamatsu vs Demetrious Johnson Credit: ONE Championship

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson will top ONE Championship’s live debut on U.S. cable network TNT this April. At UFC on TNT 1, he’ll finally get his shot at the ONE flyweight title, currently held by Brazil’s Adriano Moraes.

On a recent media call promoting the event, Johnson (30-3-1) was asked about the talent pool in ONE, compared to his longtime stomping grounds, the UFC.

“The talent pool in ONE Championship is full. It’s stacked,” was Johnson’s reply. “They’re all monsters.”

During his UFC run, “Mighty Mouse” became the promotion’s inaugural flyweight champion, holding the belt from 2012 to 2018, and defending it a record 11 times until finally losing the strap to Henry Cejudo in a close split decision.

Johnson, 34, has found similar success in ONE Championship, winning his first three fights to win the promotion’s flyweight grand prix, and earn his shot at the champion.

“The first three fights of my career in ONE Championship were very tough,” admitted Johnson. “Especially that grand prix model, back-to-back, back-to-back, it’s a lot of stress on the body.”

“I feel like when you compare athletes from North America to Asia, I feel like they’ve been doing it their whole life. Martial arts was invented in Japanese culture,” he added, pointing out that many of his opponents had been training in martial arts much longer than him. That despite starting his own martial arts journey at 16 years old.

Then there’s the current champion. “As far as Adriano Moraes, he poses a lot of problems. Obviously he’s long, he’s a great grappler. Unorthodox striking. But I’ve been doing this for a long time. All you can do is go out there and give your best, go out there and put on a show.”

Moraes has predicted a knockout of Johnson, who has never been finished, on the feet or on the ground, throughout his 30+ fight career.  Johnson, for his part, isn’t phased by that talk. “I’ve been in this game a long time. I could name a long list of people who have said the exact same thing.”

When he does return this April, it will have been over a year since Johnson last competed. Originally, Moraes vs. Johnson was announced for May 2020. That date was then pushed to February of this year, only to be rescheduled again for April’s ONE on TNT debut.

Perhaps that’s for the best. Washington state, where Johnson resides, only recently opened up, and not fully, he noted. “We’re training in pods of teams of seven,” said Johnson. “We selected the training partners that are going to train me the best to go out there and compete on April 7.”

During the downtime created by the pandemic, which saw Johnson stop training for months, he’s taken advantage to focus on being a family man and father. Now, the focus will turn back to fighting — and a chance to win gold in a second major promotion.

ONE on TNT 1 takes place April 7, 2021, airing live on TNT with the main card getting underway at 10PM ET.