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Demetrious Johnson is on Point With Comments About Lack of Support, But That Doesn’t Make it Less Sad…

Demetrious Johnson

Not only has Demetrious Johnson officially moved from the UFC to ONE Championship, but the renowned fighter has made some comments, which hopefully prompts some broader reflection about the MMA world.

Johnson is now a member of the ONE Championship roster, due to a recent deal, which has sent the undefeated Ben Askren to the UFC. The move comes just a couple months after Johnson’s historic reign as the flyweight champ was halted at 11 title defenses, by Henry Cejudo.

Since Johnson quickly defeated Cejudo once before, and because the August rematch was so close, immediately there was talk about a rubber match. Of course, because Johnson was the longest reigning champ in UFC history, many folks argued he should be given an immediate rematch.

But, then it was revealed Johnson was going to be sidelined with injuries, before more recently, the MMA world was rocked by news of the trade. During a recent media call to promote Johnson’s move to ONE, the talented fighter was extremely candid, while discussing what led to his departure. Case in point, here is what Johnson had to say, while reflecting on his relationship with some fans (quotes via MMA Fighting):

“For the longest time, a lot of people in North America wanted a new champion,” Johnson said. “They see they can really push that pay-per-view model, they really didn’t care about how my skill set was. They really wanted somebody who is going to be brash, who is going to disrespect — and not that Henry Cejudo did that — but they wanted somebody else.

“I feel like they wanted somebody else, and when I say somebody else, not the UFC, I felt like the public wanted somebody else to try to take that mantle to somewhere I couldn’t. Like, for numbers, or bringing notoriety or whatever. So I felt like, this is my perfect time for me to go pursue something I want to pursue and let those guys handle that.”

Is Johnson on point here? There’s no question that Johnson never became a big draw in the UFC, despite the fact he is one the greatest, most talented fighters the sport has ever known. If you’ve followed MMA for a while, you may recall that early on in Johnson’s reign, he was lumped into this critical narrative that flyweights ‘don’t finish fights’. Johnson, however, went on to finish opponents in 7 of his 11 title defenses.

In more recent years, the argument was that Johnson wasn’t brash or flamboyant enough to drive interest in the 125 division. Even some fighters relayed this view publicly, and this narrative took shape at a time when trash talking and self promotion, has never been more widespread in the sport.

So, while it’s hard to disagree with anything Johnson said, if you fell in love with MMA because of what transpires in the cage, rather than outside of it, these comments should evoke sadness and dismay. Johnson has long deserved to be one of the most recognized and celebrated athletes on the planet, and while his fame could certainly rise during his time with ONE Championship, the fact it came to this just seems sad. There are plenty of superstars in the broader sports world, who are so, because of their physical skills and talents.

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