Demetrious Johnson spent six years as the UFC flyweight champion, and then he spent another two pursuing the ONE Championship flyweight title.
Now he is looking for other possibilities that do not necessarily require a belt to his waist.
On Saturday the 35-year old veteran jumps in to his first-ever special-rules fight against Rodtang Jitmuangnon. The bout will consist of rounds of Muay Thai mixed with MMA. Rodtang, widely respected as one of the most skilled muay Thai stylists worldwide, boasts a bizarre resume which includes 267 victories.
While Johnson isn’t looking toward retirement any time soon, he recognizes that he can’t fight forever, and a chance to go to battle with someone like Rodtang was an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up.
” I’m finally seeing the light at end of the tunnel. This matchup against Rodtang will be bigger than my fight with Adriano [Moraes],” Johnson, MMA Fighting reported. It’s completely out of the ordinary. It’s fun. It’s fun. I did not get the same buzz while fighting for a world title .”
According to Johnson, ONE Championship actually offered him the chance to face Rodtang for his flyweight Muay Thai title but he felt that would be disrespectful to the athletes who have competed in that sport all their lives.
Instead, Johnson was very enthusiastic when ONE officials came back to him with a special rules fight and he knows the inherent danger that comes along with accepting this kind of matchup.
” This is the most difficult fight I have ever seen,” Johnson stated. It is not easy to fight in muay Thai with four-ounce gloves. Mixed martial arts allows for more mistakes than mixed. I’m going to go out there, I’m going to use my forward beat dynamic. I’m going to go out there and fight like a mixed martial artist like I’ve done my whole entire life and see how the first round goes.
“Rodtang has the potential to be a top-level athlete. It’s not like the fight starts on the ground. People who aren’t as educated in mixed martial arts are oblivious that it’s going to be as easy as get him to the ground, pass guard and submit him. It takes three minutes .”
to do it properly.
Another attractive element to this fight is Johnson stepping out of his comfort zone in MMA to test himself in another sport like muay Thai, even if he’s not trying to chase a championship. This was why Johnson signed with ONE Championship. The Asian-based promotion features MMA and kickboxing as well as muay Thai, grappling and other sports.
“For me to step out of the bubble, just shows I’m not scared to do art forms and fight guys in their world,” Johnson said. If this fight goes well and Rodtang is defeated, then I can do a kickboxing match if my matchmakers permit me.
“Now, do I want to fight for a world title in kickboxing? Although I am not an elite kickboxer, it would be fun to try it. Just like what I am doing .”
Johnson isn’t closing the doors on MMA after Saturday’s fight, but he loves the idea of exploring his interest in kickboxing and MMA in the future.
“If I have the opportunity [to do something else]– they gave me the opportunity for this fight and I accepted,” Johnson explained. “I jumped at the opportunity against a very interesting opponent. It’s not just somebody who I’m just going to tear through. It’s a tough fight.
“I’m really excited for it. ONE Championship is excited for it. It is a joy for the entire world .”