MMA: Demetrious Johnson reveals reasons behind move to ONE Championship

MMA: Demetrious Johnson reveals reasons behind move to ONE Championship

Newly signed ONE Championship flyweight Demetrious Johnson has revealed the reason for his decision to part ways with the UFC.

Last week, the American known as 'Mighty Mouse' was involved in an unprecedented MMA 'trade', in which he left the UFC to sign on with the giant Asian promotion in exchange for welterweight Ben Askren.

Hot on the heels of its signing of former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, Johnson's acquisition is a major coup for the ONE Championship.

Johnson held the UFC's flyweight belt for a record-breaking 11-fight stretch, during which he laid waste to the division and established himself as one of the most technically proficient fighters in the sport's history.

The 32-year-old is regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time and is still well within his prime.

While Johnson's decision to cross the Atlantic and take on Asia was a surprise to many, it had been a long time coming.

Despite his abilities inside the Octagon, Johnson always felt on the outer with the UFC. They were reluctant to give Johnson the spotlight he felt he deserved because of his unwillingness to play their style of promotional game, which is based primarily on 'trash talk' and was at odds with Johnson's natural demeanour.

"I was always never the biggest fan of the way people went about promoting their fights over in North America," Johnson said. "I saw it as a way some athletes used it as a way of bullying, as a way of trying to gain followers.

"That's not who I am. I'm not a confrontational person.

"I do mixed martial arts because it’s something I love and it helps me express my feelings. I’m an artist when I get to compete.

"Artists don’t run their mouth and attack people, or cause a big scene. They focus and put their energy on what they love to do, which is being a martial artist.

"What I love to do is being a martial artist."

Now the biggest sports league in Asia, ONE Championship prides itself on its foundation of the traditional values of martial arts.

It's an outlook that is much more aligned to Johnson's own approach to MMA.

"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 than it is in North America. That was something that I just didn't fit in.

"I'm very excited that I don’t have to go through that whole thing and [I can] be OK with myself as a true martial artist."

With little left to accomplish at the UFC, Johnson said he felt invigorated by the prospect of the fresh challenges on offer in Asia – a place he'd long held an affinity with.

"I'm pretty young in my career and I wanted to try something different. I've always wanted to travel the world and compete, and I actually grew up watching Asian mixed martial arts, mostly with Pride.

"The opportunity to travel over to Asia and compete was something I couldn't pass up.

"I leave the UFC with no regrets and on good terms. I've done everything I can over there."

Johnson began to genuinely consider the move, after his upset loss to Henry Cejudo in August when manager Malki Kawa put the wheels in motion for the ground-breaking trade.

"He was able to get it done and here we are now. I'm grateful everything fell into place, and now I'm a ONE athlete and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

Johnson is also linked with the promotion through long-time coach and ONE vice president of operations Matt Hume, while his Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach, Bibiano Fernandes, is its current bantamweight champion.

He aims to make his debut in early 2019 and has no expectations of leapfrogging his way to an immediate title shot.

"I'm not going to come out there and bring a message to any of other flyweights. I'm a new athlete and I have to work my way up the ladder, just like everybody else did.

"I'm not looking for any hand-outs, not looking to go over there and cause any drama, because that's not the way of a true martial artist. A martial artist is a person who works hard, keeps his mouth shut and does what he's told."