Posted only a short while ago via ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, the UFC and ONE Championship are close to finalizing what could be considered the first major trade in mixed martial arts history. As per multiple sources, a deal has been proposed in which the UFC would release former flyweight champion Demetrious ‘Might Mouse’ Johnson from his contract in order to allow him to sign with ONE. In exchange, ONE Championship will release former Bellator and ONE welterweight champion Ben Askren from his contract so he could finally join the UFC.
This is something that has came from basically nowhere and while it is still young in the MMA news at the minute, it is hard to really get our heads around it and properly understand as to what it will mean for MMA as we know it. Both are huge names within the MMA ‘die hard’ fan base, however they may not be favorable within the ‘casual’ fan base, particularly Askren who is fairly unknown to that kind of audience.
Sources say the “trade” isn’t finalized just yet, however, it has been discussed at length and is categorized by multiple sources as close to getting done. All parties involved are hopeful it will be finalized soon. On Monday, Askren tweeted that there was a “98 percent” chance of him joining the UFC, catching many off guard considering he has not exactly seen ‘eye to eye’ a few occasions with UFC president Dana White.
Johnson (27-3-1) recently lost the flyweight title to Henry Cejudo in August. The loss snapped his 13-fight winning streak, as well his record-breaking 11-fight successful title defense streak and saw him drop significantly in the UFC P4P Rankings. Following his win, Henry Cejudo has called for a super-fight with 135 pound champion TJ Dillashaw. As a result of this and the recent rumours of the creation of a 165 pound division, this makes all the more sense for the deal to take place.
It is also worth noting, Matt Hume, Johnson’s head coach at AMC Pankration in Kirkland, Washington, also serves as ONE’s vice president of operations.
For anyone who isnt familiar with Ben Askren, he is 18-0 and has held the welterweight belts in both Bellator and ONE Championship. While he is one of the very best grapplers in the world, people have always questioned the level of competition he has faced. However, he has dominated top fighters such as Douglas Lima, Andrey Koreshkov and Shinaya Aoki. Askren has also competed as Olympic level and was also Pan-American and United States champion in Freestyle Wrestling.
It is clear to anyone that has followed MMA both in and outside that both these fighters are very special and among the very best in the world. This is a deal that favours all four parties involved and one that will very much be a positive for both fighters, both in monetary gain and for their legacy. It will be very exciting to see how this plays out and I for one am very much excited about finally seeing Ben Askren in the UFC, taking on the best such as Georges Saint-Pierre, Khabib Nurmagomedov etc.