Following his six-year run of dominance over the flyweight division in the UFC, 33-year-old Demetrious Johnson is healthy, happy, and fully immersed in the next chapter of his career with ONE Championship.
That new beginning comes with the rare chance for Johnson to accomplish something he’s yet to achieve over his illustrious career: win a Flyweight Grand Prix Championship. His first opportunity will present itself when he faces off against Danny Kingad in the finals at ONE: Century, which airs live on TNT at 11 p.m. ET on Oct. 12.
“It would be a great honor to win (the Grand Prix),” Johnson said in an interview with Uproxx Sports. “Only a handful of athletes have done it, so to add my name to that list would be fantastic.”
Should Johnson win against Kingad, it would be the latest milestone for the greatest flyweight we’ve ever seen. After winning 11 consecutive title defenses during his time in the UFC, Johnson’s name has often been tossed into the conversation for the greatest pound-for-pound fighter ever. While “Mighty Mouse” is honored for others to float his name among the greats, though, he opts to focus that spotlight on other MMA legends.
“It’s always about the skill set to me,” Johnson said. “I think Gegard Mousasi is one of the greatest of all-time, in my personal opinion. Daniel Cormier is on there too. He’s one of the greatest of all-time, definitely one of the greatest heavyweights. But if I were to say that, people would say he just got knocked out by Stipe Miocic. Fedor (Emelianenko) is one of the greatest of all-time. Yes, he’s had losses recently, but he’s older. So, of course, a young buck is going to knock him out. It’s a hard subject to argue because everyone has different criteria.”
The prospect of falling out of the spotlight can be the catalyst for some fighters to set an expiration date on their careers. But Johnson doesn’t really care about that. When he’s ready to hang up his gloves, he’s going to do so, no matter where he’s viewed historically.
“I don’t really worry about (the greatest ever conversation),” Johnson said. “I could see myself retiring in four years when I’m 37 years old. But it’s hard to put a number on it when I feel so good.”
Johnson seems to be genuinely enjoying competing against some of the best fighters in the world with ONE Championship. He’s fought three times since joining the promotion in March, the most fights he’s competed in over one year since 2013. That’s in part due to ONE Championship’s flyweight division mandate of 135 pounds, up from 125 pounds with the UFC, which has allowed him to fight at a more natural weight.
“When I was cutting to 125, I was throwing so much trauma on my body just trying to make that weight and blow back up to 141 in one day,” Johnson told MMA Junkie in August. “So with me staying closer to my natural weight, which is 135, and then fighting there, I don’t have to have as much trauma on my body, my liver, my kidneys, all that stuff.”
It doesn’t seem like a gigantic change, but in the world of mixed martial arts, that adjustment of a mere 10 pounds could make all the difference in how the rest of his career pans out.
“We’ll see what happens,” Johnson said. “(Four) years can fly by in the blink of an eye. If I’m healthy and I’m still enjoying it, I’m going to keep on fighting.”
In the more immediate future, though, Johnson’s focus remains on getting past Kingad. The two will square off at ONE: Century with the Flyweight Grand Prix championship and a future flyweight title shot against Adriano Moraes on the line.