Demetrious Johnson is 36 years old and near the end of his magnificent MMA career. But his conditioning is still elite and it is what led him to victory in his rubber match with Adriano Moraes on Friday in the main event of ONE Championship’s U.S. debut.
Johnson slowly broke Moraes down, using knees and winning exchanges in the clinch. Referee Herb Dean was constantly badgering the fighters to work and gave Moraes a hard warning for holding in the third.
But Johnson kept working throughout and scored a workmanlike unanimous decision victory to retain his ONE flyweight title at the First Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado, in what may have been the final fight of his illustrious career. Johnson said he hadn’t decided whether he’d continue to fight.
After asking the crowd if it wanted him to fight again — and it was an enthusiastic yes — Johnson said, “I’ll have to talk to my wife first. I’ll get back to you guys. That’s a behind closed doors discussion.”
Moraes stopped Johnson in 2021 with a knee, and Johnson regained it in 2022 with a knee himself. Neither fighter was in danger of being finished Friday but Moraes was gassing and had no answer in the clinch.
Johnson was repeatedly banging him to the body with knees and caught him with a lot of elbows as Moraes tried to move away.
“I don’t think there’s another person in mixed martial arts who has a better clinch game than me,” Johnson said in a rare moment of bravado for him.
Moraes did impress Johnson with his ability to take the knees he kept pounding with.
“His body is so durable [because] I was f***ing up that body, man,” Johnson said. “I was beating the f*** out of it.”
Moraes never even showed signs of being in trouble, though his depleted gas tank by the end no doubt was a result of Johnson’s attack on his midsection.
Johnson made obvious he remains among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but whether he’ll do it again remains unknown. He gave a hint, though, that he’s going to at least consider one more.
Asked if he’d fight again, he said he’d talked to his family and then bellowed, “Show me the money!”
If there is a financial deal to be had, Johnson may not be through after all. If he is, he went out on a high note, reminding everyone of his genius in the cage and his all-around skills.