Demetrious Johnson knows he doesn’t have much time left in MMA.
As he prepares for an upcoming trilogy against Adriano Moraes in the first-ever U.S. ONE Championship event, the former UFC flyweight king admits he knows the end of his career is near.
It’s not a matter of his health or feeling like he can’t hang with the best fighters in the world anymore. Instead, Johnson said it’s really just about knowing that the time is right to call it a career.
“It’s definitely possible [this is my last fight],” Johnson said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “Being 36, I sit down with the wife and kids, even my close friends, my inner circle who they don’t watch mixed martial arts, they don’t train, they all have normal citizen jobs you could say, and sometimes I sit there and think, how much more do I need to do? How much more do I want to do?
“I’ve stated in a couple of interviews, I want to compete in Brazilian jiu-jitsu in IBJJF, because my kids are doing it, too. There comes a point where it’s like how much more do I need to do?”
Johnson has accomplished a lot during his career, and he’s also done well financially. But he found inspiration in watching some of his closest friends in fighting discover success away from the cage. He’s already built a successful YouTube channel through his passion for gaming, and he likes the idea of relying on something other than MMA to earn a living.
“I look at my peers that are kind of my generation, like Khabib [Nurmagomedov], even Henry Cejudo,” he said. I almost kind of got inspired by him the first time we trained together. Like dude, you’ve been out for three years, how are you making a living? [Cejudo] goes ‘I’m hustling, I’m making good money. I don’t need to come back to fighting. I’m coming back because I want to.’
“You look at Tyron Woodley, he’s out there hustling, so I feel that there has to come a point in there where I have to force myself [to retire]. We’ve relied on my body and my athleticism to pay my bills. It’s time to start looking at other avenues to bring in revenue, to sustain my lifestyle. So we’ll see.
“We’ll go out there and fight, win, lose, draw, I’m going to go on vacation with my wife and kids, put my feet in the sand and think do I want to continue to fight, or do I want to focus on something else.”
The old saying goes that Father Time is undefeated, but Johnson promises age isn’t a determining factor in whether or not he fights again after May 5. Based on the training camp he’s endured to get ready for the Moraes trilogy, “Mighty Mouse” is more than confident he could keep going for several more years. He just doesn’t see a reason why.
“If ONE Championship would send you all my footage how I’m training, [it would be like] this motherf***** got three or four more years left in me,” Johnson said.
“I feel there has to come a point in time. I’ve been using this quote — you go to a party, you’re having a good time, you see the girls and all that stuff, you start drinking, you have too many drinks, you get drunk. You might stay at the party too long. I have these feelings and these emotions within myself where it’s like, maybe it’s just time to do something else.”
Of course, Johnson acknowledges that retired fighters rarely stay that way, especially when that competitive fire gets stoked again. That’s not much of a concern for him, however, because he would test himself in grappling competitions. He said the only way he would likely come back to fight again would be a payday so ridiculous that he just couldn’t possibly say no.
“For me, I’ve been grinding so I think if I do step away, I don’t see myself coming back unless something just falls in my lap like I’ve got to go back and do it,” Johnson said. “We’ll see.
“I hope [I wouldn’t come back]. Unless it’s some significant amount of number to where it’s like — and I’ll tell everybody the number like, ‘This is why I’m coming back, boys, I couldn’t pass it up, here we are back again.’”
Even if Johnson does decide to retire after his third fight against Moraes, don’t expect him to lay his gloves down in the cage and make that announcement on the microphone. Chances are he’ll first have that conversation with his wife about retirement – and then he’ll let the rest of the world know.
“I think for me to share that moment with the world instead of her, would be [a disservice] to what she’s committed to me in my career,” Johnson said.
“I don’t want to say she’s put her life on hold, but a lot of the decisions we’ve made in our marriage and in our life has been based around me. So I think it would be fitting to have a sit down with her like, ‘I think we’re done, let’s move to the next chapter in our life.’”