Demetrious Johnson has accomplished quite a lot during his career, but don’t expect him to tout those accolades.
He left the UFC not only with the most title defenses in promotion history but as the longest-reigning flyweight champion to ever compete at 125 pounds. Routinely, he’s ranked among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. He’s the owner of a ridiculous 16-1 record in his past 17 fights, his only loss a razor-close split decision to Henry Cejudo in 2018.
Shortly after that, Johnson was part of the first-ever MMA trade when the UFC sent him to ONE Championship in exchange for Ben Askren. Since then, he’s racked up three more wins in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix ,and his next fight in March will offer him the opportunity to become champion again with a showdown against Adriano Moraes.
Johnson rarely boasts about all the things he’s done. But he certainly appreciates it when other fighters hold him in such high regard, like the recent comment from UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, who called him a “perfect” fighter.
“I appreciate it,” Johnson said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I appreciate other athletes considering me being one of the best to ever do it, they consider how much dedication I put into the sport and my style of fighting and how I approach my fights. It’s definitely an honor.”
Johnson also feels support from the fans, who’ve continued to follow his career from the UFC to ONE Championship. Because his fights now take place oversees in Asia, with broadcast times at odd hours in the U.S., he knows he’s not quite as accessible. But he’s earned a ton of support from followers who want to watch him compete no matter the time and no matter the place.
“Those are the true fans,” Johnson said. “They appreciate the work I’ve put in. They want to see how my career unfolds. They’re following my journey anywhere I go. My message to those guys, I’m going to go out there and try to win this belt for you and keep on displaying amazing [MMA] skills.”
When he returns for his next fight in March, Johnson will attempt to add yet another championship to his collection when he competes for the ONE flyweight title. It won’t be an easy task going up against an experienced veteran like Moraes, who is a multi-time champion in ONE with coaches and teammates from American Top Team in Florida.
“He’s a great athlete,” Johnson said about Moraes. “He’s been a great champion. He had those back-to-back fights with Geje Eustaquio and those are great fights to learn from. At the end of the day, we’re going to match up our skills and see how we stack up against him.”
While Moraes may not have the same kind of name or record, the former UFC flyweight champion knows his hands are full in this fight. In many ways, Moraes presents the kind of opponent that Johnson has admittedly struggled with in the past, which only serves to motivate him that much more to make the necessary adjustments to get the win.
“I’ve always had problems in my career facing longer, rangier opponents,” Johnson said. “Back at 135 in the UFC against Miguel Torres or Dominick Cruz and you look like a guy like Tim Elliott, who’s pretty long and wiry for 125.
“If you look back at my career, I’ve always had a little trouble with these longer guys. You’re just dealing with way more mass in competition. When you’re fighting guys who are just naturally a little bit bigger, they’re going to be bigger, taller, longer, it’s just another challenge to get through.”