ONE championship is rolling out the red carpet for two of the biggest MMA superstars at its 18th live event on Philippine soil. Notably known for their respective stints in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez are scheduled to compete in separate bouts on the undercard of ONE: Dawn Of Heroes, which will be held at the Mall Of Asia Arena.
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Holding an outstanding record of 28-3-1, Johnson is widely considered one of the greatest pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time. In 2018, after completely dominating the highly-competitive UFC flyweight division with a record-setting 11 successful title defenses, he decided to make ONE Championship his new home as part of a landmark deal.
On the other hand, Alvarez is regarded as the most decorated lightweight in MMA history, becoming world champion in every major organization he competed in. He took the North American MMA scene by storm, winning his first 10 bouts via stunning finish, and eventually making a name for himself in Japan.
Upon returning to the United States, Alvarez became a firm fan-favorite. Building upon his all-action reputation with several thrilling performances, he claimed the Bellator lightweight belt on two occasions before adding the UFC strap to his collection. Now, Alvarez is heading back to Asia for a new challenge with his sights set on making history again.
Don't get complacent
Although many consider him as one of the best ever inside the cage, Johnson is hungry to bolster his legacy by winning the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix. He is slated to take on Japanese Tatsumitsu Wada in the semi-final round.
A victory for Johnson tonight will secure his place in the finals this coming October. And, if he wins that, “Mighty Mouse” will earn a shot at Adriano Moraes’ flyweight crown.
He believes that, at this stage of his career, there is no such thing as an easy fight. “They’re always tough, so people can think ‘Demetrious Johnson is going to blow through everybody’, but I don't think like that," he says. "Every athlete I compete against is going to try to make a name off me."
Johnson had to navigate a tough challenge from Wada’s countryman Yuya Wakamatsu to progress through the quarterfinals in his promotional debut in March. Fortunately, he was able to rally for a second-round submission win. But while he had to weather that early storm, he never really felt like he was going to lose the fight.
“Wakamatsu was a game opponent, a very great striker with great movement. I knew it was going to take a little bit for me to get my hands on him," he shares. "But once the fight got going, I was able to impose my will in the grappling department."
The American former freestyle wrestler is confident that he will win over Wada. “It will come down to who is tougher, who wants it more, and who is in better condition," he says. "I’m putting in the hours in training to make sure that I go out there and I can be the best athlete that I can be that night."
Shrugging off a bad start
Alvarez makes no excuses for coming up short in his maiden ONE Championship appearance nearly five months ago. The 35-year-old slugger from Philadelphia sustained a gruesome cut in his eye against Timofey Nastyukhin. “To be honest, I just couldn’t get past my own hesitancy. When you’re that hesitant in a fight like that, you know it isn’t long before you get caught," he says. "I’m not happy with my performance, but I could understand why I lost. I know that I’m a lot better of a fighter than what I showed that night."
Now as he prepares for his much-awaited encounter with Filipino superstar Eduard Folayang tonight, Alvarez knows what he needs to do to turn his fortunes around.
“I have not veered—not one single bit. My goals are still the same. I never defined myself off a loss or a win. I’ll be the lightweight champion in this promotion, and it won’t be long. I won’t lose again,” he declares.
The Underground King exhumed confidence that he is going to get the knockout and bounce back from his previous outing. "It’s in his hometown. So I’m looking forward to a tough opponent. I’m viewing the fight as one that I absolutely have to finish," he says. "I am not coming in for a decision. I expect to lose if it goes to a decision. So I have every intention to finish."
The stakes got even higher as the showdown between Alvarez and Folayang got promoted to a semi-final bout of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix after a knee injury forced Nastyukhin to withdraw from his match against the Filipino’s teammate Honorio Banario.
Putting the world on notice once more
For Johnson, his ambition burns bright. “I’ve achieved a lot of great things in my career. I’m looking to build the legacy over here in Asia,” says the man nicknamed Mighty Mouse. If all goes according to plan, he will fight three times in the space of eight months. It is one of the reasons why he is driven to ace his upcoming assignment.
“I am having the time of my life here in Asia. I want to win this Friday, so I can move on and face the other best fighters in this company and on this part of the world,” he asserts.
Admittedly benefitting from that royal treatment, Alvarez revealed that he has found a new lease of life by being part of ONE Championship. “I’m just blown away,” he discloses. “I never thought in a million years I’d be over here again competing in front of passionate Asian fans. I will not waste this opportunity. I will prove that this coming Friday. Watch out.”
ONE: Dawn of Heroes will be held at the Mall of Asia Arena on August 2, 2019. For more information, visit ONEFC.com.