Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson spent years being the absolute top of the food chain at flyweight. He holds the record for consecutive UFC title defenses (11) and is regarded by many as one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time. Even with these accolades, Johnson wanted more. After finally losing his title by split decision this past August, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Johnson would be granted a rematch for his title. Weeks would pass and word of Johnson getting a rematch seemed to be fading, and with good reason. As it turns out, the former champion and his agent were working tirelessly to get Johnson out of his contract so he could pursue fights internationally with another promotion. This desire would lead to one of the most groundbreaking announcements in UFC history: Johnson was being traded to ONE FC.
While trades are the norm in most major sports, they don’t exist in MMA—or at least they didn’t before now. Johnson’s team, UFC officials, and the folks at ONE FC began a dialog that would send the fighting pride of Parkland, Wash. from the UFC to ONE FC in exchange for undefeated welterweight and Olympian, Ben Askren. This deal was not one that was done easily. According to Johnson’s manager, Malki Kawa, Dana White was initially against the idea and stonewalled his attempts to make it happen. Kawa also stated that once the UFC agreed to make a trade, the front office at ONE FC wasn’t sure that they wanted to part ways with Askren. Clearly, cooler heads would prevail and the deal was done.
Reports are saying that Johnson signed a new contract with ONE FC that is worth north of $10 million. Johnson’s agent stated that he believes Johnson is the highest paid fighter with ONE FC and probably making more than anyone in the UFC. While this is a bold claim, it really only means one thing.
Johnson got what he wanted: new fights and a raise to boot.
The Asian MMA market has always been a hungry one. From Japan to Thailand and now Singapore (The home of ONE FC), arenas and stadiums alike have routinely sold out. Fighters are revered in Asia, and beyond that the Asian market also happens to love the little guys.
Johnson will finally be in a market that appreciates him, and that means his weight will no longer be an excuse or criticism when it comes to his ranking, his value, or general fandom. And now, thanks to this trade, should one of the ONE FC fighters want to come over to the UFC or vice versa, it would appear that the lines of communication are open. Don’t expect trades to become the new normal, but don’t be surprised if we see more in the coming year.