Demetrious Johnson hasn’t made a decision just yet, but the former longtime UFC champion said his upcoming fight could be the last of his storied career.
The all-time great MMA fighter will defend his ONE Championship 135-pound title against Adriano Moraes in a trilogy bout May 5 in Colorado. It’ll be ONE’s first event in the U.S. and Johnson’s first fight in his home country since 2018.
After that contest, regardless of the result, Johnson told ESPN he will go on vacation with his family and think about what the future might hold. He won’t make a spur-of-the-moment, in-cage announcement after the fight. Johnson first spoke about the possibility of his career winding down last week on “The MMA Hour.”
“I’m going to sit down and after the fight I’ll have to divulge more on my train of thought on this stuff,” Johnson told ESPN. “I’m 36 now. I’ve accomplished everything in this sport. The only two things I never accomplished in this sport and, I’ll ride this to the grave, is I never got on a massive pay-per-view with Conor McGregor where I got that ‘red panty night’ where you make $5 to $6 million. And two, I never became a champ-champ.”
Johnson has never won titles in two different divisions in the same promotion, but he did defend the UFC flyweight belt 11 straight times, which is the UFC record for more consecutive successful title defenses. That feat, Johnson acknowledged, is tougher than being a two-division champion. He could still hold out hope for a big-money fight in the future but said he is comfortable if it doesn’t happen.
In ONE, Johnson said he was able to fulfill another of his career goals of winning a grand prix tournament. He grew up watching Pride FC and Dream in Japan and the epic tourneys those promotions had. Johnson won the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix in 2019, beating three opponents over the course of seven months. He won the ONE 135-pound title from Moraes via fourth-round knockout last August after falling to Moraes in their first fight, a second-round knockout in April 2021.
Johnson (24-4-1) said he’s comfortable with everything he has done in MMA to this point. The longtime Washington state resident is 4-1 under the ONE banner since getting traded to the Asian promotion for Ben Askren in 2018.
If Johnson does step away after the third Moraes fight, he will leave behind one of the best legacies in MMA history.
“You can’t do this forever,” Johnson said. “So, when I look at my other counterparts, when I look at Khabib [Nurmagomedov], when I look at [Georges St-Pierre], they walked away from the sport but they could have kept on fighting. And that’s the thing, too, it doesn’t have to be on top. I’m at a point in my career where I’m satisfied. I can truly say I’m truly say I’m satisfied. I still train my ass off. I still fight. I’m still good. There just has some to come a point in time where you just got to think about that.”