Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is one step closer to making history.
Last Friday, 2 August, the 12-time mixed martial arts World Champion advanced to the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix final with another impressive performance inside the ONE Championship Circle in Manila, Philippines.
However, he did not have it all his own way at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES.
The most dominant World Champion in his sport’s history had to fend off some dangerous grappling from Tatsumitsu “The Sweeper” Wada, but he had the skill and experience to overcome his Japanese rival and win via unanimous decision.
Following the three-round battle at the Mall Of Asia Arena, “Mighty Mouse” took the time to examine his performance and look ahead to his World Grand Prix final match against Danny “The King” Kingad at ONE: CENTURY.
ONE Championship: How are you feeling after getting the win and advancing to the tournament final in Tokyo, Japan?
Demetrious Johnson: I feel great about it! Wada was definitely a tough, game opponent. He was very tricky, very well experienced, and at the end of the day, these are always going to be tough fights.
I always expect myself to get a finish, and I wasn’t able to, but I’m okay with it. I’m happy and healthy, and now I’m looking forward to competing in Tokyo.
ONE: Did you think he could take your back and put you in such a tough spot in the first round?
DJ: No, I wasn’t anticipating it at all, but I always prepare for it. I was training with Bibiano Fernandes and, let me tell you, when he gets your back, you’re working, so I’ve been in that spot before in training and that’s what’s good about my mindset.When I was wrestling in high school in my senior year, no one scored a point on me all year, and when I got to the semifinals at [the state championships], a guy took me down, and it broke me mentally. I hadn’t experienced that kind of adversity, and it meant I didn’t get to compete for first or second, I got third.
I thought, ‘From now on, I’m never going to go through training and not put myself in horrible positions leading up to [a match].’ I had my teammates get on my back and try to choke me out because you never know what’s going to happen in a fight.
ONE: How did you manage to escape?
DJ: When he got on my back, I stayed calm, worked through it, and got to a position where I could start my own game.
ONE: You managed to turn it around from there to claim the victory. What changes did you make?
DJ: I just had to be more active in trying to put my game on him. He tried to get in that same position again, but I was more prepared, and I was used to how long his leverage was.
Me and him shared a moment after the fight, and I told him I was surprised by how long he was. I’m so used to fighting guys at five-foot-two to five-foot-five, and he was about five-foot-eight, but it was good experience, and I worked it out.
I was able to battle a tricky opponent and go on to win. I always knew the athletes in ONE Championship would be tough.
ONE: You will now face Danny Kingad in the tournament final after his victory over Reece McLaren. What did you think about his win?
DJ: I watched it live. It was a great performance. Reece McLaren is a very tough competitor. It was a great grappling exchange, and I’m looking forward to taking him on in Japan.
ONE: Kingad edged it with his late aggression. Will you have to be wary of that?
DJ: If you look at my fight with Wada, when he got a position on my back, he was not being very offensive because he knew if he did, then I would get out.
Right when he started to be offensive at the end of the first round – that’s when I was able to reverse the situation, so his aggression can work against him.
Kingad is known for his striking, not his wrestling, and I’m just going to come in using every single aspect of martial arts.
ONE: How soon will you begin your preparation?
DJ: Right now, my body is fine, it’s just bumps and bruises from fighting in general. I’m going to let that heal and give my body two weeks of no activity – just a bit of light cardio – and then pick up from there.
I’m always in shape and have a healthy, clean lifestyle. The biggest thing is being healthy when the fight comes around, my conditioning will be ready.
ONE: How much are you looking forward to competing on a huge card in Tokyo?
DJ: The fight card as it stands right now is stacked. You’ve got so many great athletes competing, and I’m just happy to be a part of it and make my way to Tokyo again.
ONE: One more victory would mean you win the World Grand Prix title and get a shot at the ONE Flyweight World Title. Are you looking ahead to that?
DJ: I’m just concentrating on what’s right in front of me. Whether I win or not, I’m going to take a little break.
I’m pretty sure [Adriano Moraes] will be ready to get back in there soon, but after this fight, I’m going to take at least two months off – just relaxing and enjoying what I’ve accomplished. That’s a big thing I think that athletes don’t do.
When an NFL team wins the Super Bowl, they take at least six months off. When I win this championship, I’m going take a step back and appreciate what I have just done – three fights since March at the age of 32 against top-level opponents – and winning the World Grand Prix.