Demetrious Johnson seeks to avenge the lone stoppage loss of his career Friday when he rematches ONE flyweight champion Adriano Moraes in the main event of ONE on Prime Video 1 in Singapore — and he isn’t overthinking his knockout defeat from April 2021.
“Mighty Mouse” was a perfect 3-0 in ONE when he first challenged Moraes, but was blasted with an uppercut and a knee to the head midway through Round 2 and lost by knockout.
“I’ve been hit hard before and I never doubt myself,” Johnson told with MMA Fighting when asked if he questions his own chin after his first knockout loss. “At the end of the day, when it comes to the chin, it’s a chin — it’s just like your brain, it’s just like your knees, it’s just like your overall health. The body is a ticking time bomb for an athlete, right? It’s just a matter of time where an injury is going to happen and put me out of the sport.
“So, the best thing I can do to keep myself in this sport is go to the right training partners, train at the right gyms, hire the right nutritionist, get the right rest, and take the days off that you need to get your body back to 100 percent that you go out and compete. So, when it came to my chin and when I got blasted, I mean, I don’t know how many people can take a knee — when they’re trying to get up — straight to the f****** face, and be able to get up like, ‘That was a good knee, dawg. Good knee. Good job.’ Yeah, it was a knee and there’s nothing you can do about that.”
Johnson bounced back to the win column with a second-round submission over Rodtang Jitmuangnon in a mixed-rules contest this past March, while Moraes extended his reign by tapping out Yuya Wakamatsu with a guillotine choke on the same night.
“There’s no secret recipe. It’s called fighting for a reason,” Johnson said of the rematch. “You can go out there with strategic gameplan, but things change on the fly. That’s why now I’m working on just pure jiu-jitsu just to keep my mind and my development fresh. I always tell people that there is a game plan, but the main focus on the game plan is just to be the best Demetrious Johnson.
“We know what he excels at, we know what he’s going to do. At the same time, we can plan to counter at that, but if the conditioning is not right, if your mindset is not right, if you don’t feel confident in your training, then the game plan means absolutely nothing.”
Johnson has fought the who’s who of the flyweight class in MMA, defeating the likes of Henry Cejudo, John Dodson, Kyoji Horiguchi, and Joseph Benavidez. Johnson compares the Brazilian to former foe Dominick Cruz because of the way he moves in the cage, and sees him as a “trickier puzzle” than Cejudo.
“Adriano is a very interesting athlete and problem to solve,” Johnson said. “He’s longer, he has good movement, good footwork, and he approaches the fights different. I watched his fight against Yuya Wakamatsu, I was there live, and they’re both counterstrikers. Typically counterstrikers don’t like to engage, and that was the biggest thing we learned.
“When I looked at my fight against him, I felt like I just rushed. I felt like I rushed, put myself in uppercut distance. Even though I’m shorter, the way I moved my head, it’s almost like I ducked right into that uppercut. It’s a fight and I’m looking to go out there and see if I get this one back.”
When Johnson left the UFC in a trade with ONE Championship, “Mighty Mouse” said he dreamed of competing all over the world and collecting belts from every major promotion after breaking the record for most consecutive title defenses in UFC history.
After winning the grand prix title at ONE but coming up short in his first attempt to dethrone Moraes, Johnson now sees that his plans weren’t “feasible.”
“Obviously, that’s not realistic, right? It just isn’t,” he said. “Because, at the end of the day, one, you’re locked in a contract with this specific promotion; two, the timeline that I would need in order to do all that stuff just isn’t feasible. It took me three fights to get to Adriano to get a title shot at ONE Championship. That’s the world grand prix belt, but I didn’t get the ONE Championship belt. And I’m still locked on a contract.
“Now, if I wanted to go to Bellator to try to get that belt, I would have to get out of the ONE Championship contract, then go to Bellator, fight two or three fights, win them, and then get a title shot there. Leave that division, leave that organization and go to RIZIN and fight two or three fights, get that belt. So, that would be a nice thing to do, but the way the sport is set up and the organizations, how you’re locked, etc., it’s just not realistic.
“But I’m happy I have UFC belts, got 11 of them b******, and I got a ONE Championship world grand prix belt, so that’s awesome. If I can add a ONE Championship world championship belt, the gold one, that would be awesome. But, to collect all the belts, no, I think that’s just a handful of guys who done that. Eddie [Alvarez] is one that comes to my mind.”
Competing under the ONE banner since 2019 and having just celebrated his 36th birthday earlier this month, Johnson plans to end his career in Asia.
“I’ll retire at ONE Championship. I don’t see myself going anywhere else,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to fight when I’m 38, 39. If I have to, I will, but I don’t want to. I hate trying to put a number on that because I don’t want say, ‘OK, when 38 I’m done,’ but I see guys like Glover Teixeira who fought at his 41 or 42 and looked great out there, he’s loving it, he’s having fun mentally, I’m assuming, and his brain health is still good.
“You look at Bibiano Fernandes, still competing in his 40s, young. He’s fighting one time a year but it’s not like he’s doing three times. And also comes down to the children. I’ve spent a lot of time away from the kids, right now it’s summertime, the wife and the kids are out running around, enjoying the sun, I’m sitting here trying to rehydrate, eat, and get ready for the next training session.”