Former UFC Champs Eddie Alvarez and Demetrious Johnson come to a consensus that the best fighters in the world could be those who have not received their time yet in the spotlight.
MMA legends Alvarez and “Mighty Mouse” will return to the cage for ONE Championship’s debut on TNT, come April 7th. In the lead-up to their fights on the other side of the world, the duo would fly out to California for a special episode of Brendan Schaub’s Food Truck Diaries.
Before diving into a sea of tacos from the local food truck, Alvarez and ‘Mighty Mouse’ would explain the power levels of fighting guys in ONE championship compared to battling it out in the UFC prior in their careers.
The UFC, being the most well known MMA promotion on the planet, is often regarded as having the most elite competition in the sport. DJ, regarded to many as the Flyweight GOAT, conquered his division and ruled on top for almost 6 years. “The Underground King” would also go on to reach the top of the mountain. After first becoming a Bellator world champion, Alvarez would venture off to the UFC and win Lightweight gold in the summer of 2016.
After proving they could hang with the ‘elite’ in the most popular promotion, the two would eventually leave the UFC. Johnson would be involved in MMA’s first trade in which the former Flyweight champ would be traded off with former ONE Welterweight champ, Ben Askren.
Alvarez on the other hand, decided to test free agency after a devastating loss to rival, Dustin Poirier. He would later be picked up by ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong.
Many MMA fans expected the UFC stars to have a walk in the park over in Asia, fighting under the ONE banner, considering the fact that they had been fighting big names for so long. However, their future opponents would be no easy challenge.
Johnson, the former Flyweight kingpin, would make his return fight at 135lbs in ONE’s Grand Prix. He would finish his promotional debut in style via guillotine, however “Mighty Mouse” would have to evade two more mouse traps in very tough fights against Tatsumitsu Wada and lastly Danny Kingad. ONE fighters were not to be underestimated, proving DJ with some of the hardest fights of his career.
Alvarez didn’t have the same route of success his UFC compatriot had. In his first fight with ONE, Alvarez had a rude awakening when he was knocked out by Timofey Nastyukhin in round 1. This came as a shock to many around the globe. The veteran would later come back for redemption, beating former champ Eduard Foloyang several months later.
Having endured the unfamiliar tests put in front of them, Alvarez and Johnson gauged how well relatively unknown fighters can be compared to big names like themselves.
“It’s a good measuring stick for the promotion, right?” Alvarez said on the matchmaking. “See where our talent is at. The American audience is kind of more exposed to the UFC; to other promotions where they’re just like everything else. We don’t know what [ONE’s talent level] is and we’re not going to know what it is until we have the best athletes from America go over there.”
The host, Brendan Schaub would go on to compare DJ & Alvarez to canaries in a coal mine, being among the first UFC fighters to venture off to ONE Championship.
“I’ve been saying it my whole career.” Alvarez continued. “Wherever I was at, hence the “Underground King” name, is [that] the best guys in the world are virtually unknown. You got a guy like Rodtang Jitmuangnon there. They’re virtually all unknown they’re in the foothills of Dagestan or in the jungles of Brazil. You never know.”
“Some of the guys that I came out and had my hardest bouts against were in the training room with guys, from other countries that no one’s ever going to know. I think that’s what people are going to be able to see when they tune in April 7th, on TNT. [They’ll] go ‘holy s***t’.”
Johnson would later give his two cents on the matter.
“We never won any easy fights.” DJ said. “Right. You know me fighting Yuya Wakamatsu and Tatsumitsu Wada, Danny Kingad, all young, healthy, hungry guys. They all want to try and make a name off of me. Same with Eddie. He gets in there with Timofey Nastyukhin and he goes, ‘I’m going to blow the bricks off you, Eddie’. When we go over there, people are trying to make a name off us. Because in America we’re known. Everybody knows about Eddie Alvarez. Everybody knows about me. So, when I go in there and I find these guys, my mindset is like, okay, I’m not going to give you the gratification that you can beat me. That’s because this is who I am.”
The popular consensus in the MMA community is that the talent inside the UFC roster is head and shoulders above everyone else not signed to the UFC. However, we have seen time and time again that other organization’s best can hang with the UFC’s best.
Most recently, former Bellator champion knocking out UFC veteran Dan Hooker at UFC 257 last January. This might not always be the case but as things don’t always pan out. For example, Manel Kape, former RIZIN champion has dropped his 2 first fights by decision. However, a guy like Kape can still compete with the division’s elite.
The ONE Flyweight Grand Prix Champion knows well enough, you can be the best fighter in the world, no matter what promotion you may be in.
“Like Eddie said, just because you’re not fighting for the UFC… there’s killers in Bellator, PFL, RIZIN, ONE Championship, there’s killers all around the world. There’s some guys out there who might be able to beat, every single champion in the world that’s never been signed to organization. It’s just, they haven’t got the chance to build a performance under the right spotlight or the right organization to get to the big leagues… to get that spotlight on them to get known.” Johnson concluded.
Demetrious Johnson takes on top talent, Adriano Moraes for the Flyweight (135lbs in ONE) title on April 7th. Right before, Eddie Alvarez will take on the near undefeated Iuri Lapicus in the co-main event. This will mark ONE Championship’s debut on TNT and will also be featured during American prime-time.