Following seven years in the UFC, former flyweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson has gotten a fresh start with ONE Championship in 2019.
Since joining ONE, Johnson has rebounded off his third career loss to pick up back-to-back wins and find himself on the verge of adding a Grand Prix championship to his list of accomplishments.
“I think 2019 has been successful,” Johnson told MMAWeekly.com. “Two wins, one finish, one tough decision. I’m pretty happy. I’m healthy. I’m fighting again for a third time. So I can’t complain. My family’s healthy. Everyone’s healthy. I’m a happy man.
“The transition (from the UFC to ONE) has been fantastic. Obviously there’s a lot more travel in play. I really enjoy the culture.”
Along with adjusting to fighting in Asia, Johnson has had to do so without the presence of longtime head coach Matt Hume. With Hume’s role as Vice President of Operations for ONE, he’s unable to corner Johnson to avoid conflict of interest issues.
“I’m still trying to find my groove,” said Johnson. “I’m doing something that I’ve never done before, which is competing without my head coach in my corner. That’s definitely a challenge for myself, but it’s also part of my journey. I’m still trying to get my feet underneath me.
“(My corner can run on autopilot), but at the same time, there are a few things that my head coach (notices), when I’m competing, that me and my teammates can’t pick out. There are some things I have to figure out myself while fighting. It’s definitely a challenge.”
On Oct. 12 in Tokyo, Johnson (29-3-1) will face Danny Kingad (13-1) in the championship bout of the Flyweight Grand Prix at ONE Championship: Century – Part 1. The event marks the promotion’s first major foray into the American market, airing live on TNT in the U.S.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Johnson said of Kingad. “He comes from a great team. He’s very tough. He’s very explosive. I’m going to go out to Japan and give myself enough time to acclimate to the time zone, and just go out and fight.
“This one is special to me because I grew up watching Japanese MMA; watching PRIDE, DREAM, and seeing the World Grand Prix; seeing Mirko Cro Cop with the World Grand Prix, all that stuff. For me to go out and win this Grand Prix title, I think this one will get displayed in the house.”
When it comes to the future, Johnson’s activities outside of MMA are more mapped out, with his fighting career something he’ll approach as opportunities arise.
“There’s things I try to plan out for next year; mostly in my gaming,” said Johnson. “Next year we have some stuff going on here in North America with different games. Looking at the landscape, it’s mostly gaming stuff, but for fighting, I take it fight by fight.”
Demetrious Johnson vs. Danny Kingad ONE: Century Preview
(Courtesy of ONE Championship)