Thirteen-time MMA world champion Demetrious Johnson arrived in ONE Championship in 2019 as a proven commodity in the West – but he wanted to affirm his legacy with his move to the Singapore-based outfit.
The ONE flyweight world champion will surely do that if he successfully defends his crown against Adriano Moraes in their thunderous main event trilogy bout at ONE’s debut show on US soil, ONE Fight Night 10, this weekend at Denver, Colorado’s 1stBank Center.
Johnson immediately made his name known inside the Circle by stringing together three straight victories in the 2019 ONE Flyweight MMA World Grand Prix.
The American icon defeated Yuya Wakamatsu, Tatsumitsu Wada, and Danny Kingad to win the illustrious competition and put himself on course for a meeting with then-divisional king Adriano Moraes.
All seemed to be going swimmingly for “Mighty Mouse,” until he challenged Moraes for the flyweight crown at ONE on TNT I in April 2021.
Many expected another classic victory for Johnson. But what had gone unaccounted for was the caliber of “Mikinho’s” power.
The Brazilian dominated proceedings and then handed the flyweight great his first career knockout loss via a grounded knee in the second round.
The loss shocked the combat sports world and set into motion one of the greatest ONE Championship rivalries in recent memory.
A rematch was rumored from the minute Johnson had his lights turned out, but with his stellar run stopped in its tracks, and his cloak of invincibility stripped away, Johnson opted for a fresh challenge in the form of a mixed-rules bout with ONE flyweight Muay Thai champion Rodtang Jitmuangnon at ONE’s 10-year anniversary show, ONE X, in March 2022.
The chance to compete in the promotion’s first special-rules match, which alternated between Muay Thai and MMA rulesets, was an opportunity that intrigued Johnson and gave him a new sense of motivation.
“When you fight the same person, it can almost stop your growth as a mixed martial artist because you’re preparing for the same person over and over and over again. After I lost to Adriano, I fought Rodtang. I felt like that kind of gave me a breath of fresh air. It was something totally different,” he said.
“Mighty Mouse” weathered Rodtang’s Muay Thai storm in the first round of the historic fight and then submitted the Thai legend when the rules swung in his favor to claim the win and renew his confidence.
With that, the second collision between Johnson and Moraes began to grow legs. But it wasn’t until five months later, at ONE on Prime Video 1, that it came to fruition.
Many wondered if the AMC Pankration standout could put the knockout of 16 months earlier out of his mind in the rematch, and he gave the world an answer in emphatic style.
In almost parallel fashion to the first fight, Johnson landed a flying knee on the defending king to finish him in the fourth frame and snatch the flyweight crown. And to make things even more poetic, his knockout of Moraes was the first the Brazilian had suffered in his career.
Given the nature of both wins in the series so far, the hype for the rubber match at ONE Fight Night 10 could not be higher.
With rumors of Johnson’s career nearing its bittersweet finale, and their third meeting headlining ONE’s debut event in the US, the stage is well and truly set for what could be the greatest flyweight MMA fight in ONE Championship history.