The route to the top of the martial arts world is never easy, but Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has had his brother in arms alongside him every step of the way.
When he returns to action at ONE: CENTURY in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday, 13 October, the American icon will do it shoulder to shoulder with his AMC Pankration teammate – the most dominant force in ONE Championship history, Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes.
Johnson will face Danny “The King” Kingad in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship Final in PART I of the groundbreaking double-card event, while Fernandes will defend his ONE Bantamweight World Title against his long-standing rival, Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon in PART II later in the day.
This is only the second time the two legendary athletes have shared the stage – the first was also at the Ryogoku Kokugikan at ONE: A NEW ERA in March – but their success has been aligned for more than a decade.
“Me and Bibiano have been training together for around 13 years,” explains “Mighty Mouse.”
“It’s always been a joy of mine to train with him. He brings great energy and great knowledge, and he’s been fighting forever, so it’s been fun.”
At 39, Fernandes is six years older than his teammate, so by the time Johnson had started to take his mixed martial arts training seriously, “The Flash” was already a three-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion.
The American was at the mercy of the Manaus native’s grappling when they first rolled on the mats in their Washington gym, but it served as a huge motivation for him to improve.
“He just tapped me out, tapped me out, tapped me out. I hated it,” Johnson says.
“He said, ‘Whatever you hate, you have to come to love. When you come to love it, you become good at it,’ and that’s one of the things that helped me a lot in my career.”
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When Fernandes won his first mixed martial arts World Title in 2009, Johnson was still competing in regional organizations, but his friend’s achievement was an inspiration to him.
By the time the Brazilian won his gold in his second weight division in 2011, “Mighty Mouse” had graduated to the international stage, and soon after, their achievements aligned.
“Mighty Mouse” won the UFC Flyweight World Championship in 2012 shortly before “The Flash” joined The Home Of Martial Arts. By the next year, Fernandes had claimed the ONE Bantamweight World Title, so one training partner ruled his division in the West, while the other dominated in the East.
Even though Johnson had reached the top, he was still inspired by his friend’s work ethic and success.
“I think what has made Bibiano one of the best martial artists to ever do it in the bantamweight division is his consistency,” he says.
“I mean, his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is absolutely nasty – I believe it is one of the best, if not the best, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu [in mixed martial arts], but I think him just being consistent [is what makes him great].
“Since I have trained with him, he’s never had any surgeries, he’s never been knocked out, he’s never been finished, and he’s fought the best in the world.”
The teammates became the most dominant martial artists their divisions have ever seen as Johnson went on to defend his belt 11 times, while his friend turned seven challengers away on the other side of the Pacific.
Now, as they prepare to go to war in Tokyo, they are working hard together in Washington make sure they will add to their legacy, and that should make for some exciting results at the biggest martial arts event in history.
“Right now, the vibe at the gym is great, and the sparring between me and Bibiano has been going great,” reveals Johnson.
“Obviously we’re fighting on the same card together and both against Team Lakay. We both have our own opponent who fights similar, but they’re also totally different.
“I’m pushing [Fernandes] in the stand-up and on the ground, and he’s pushing me too. We’re both just battling back and forth, but training smart because we both know we’ve got to be 100 percent on 13 October.
“He’s looking to retain his World Title, and I’m looking to get a new World Title in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix, so we’re all focused, healthy, and ready to go.”
Tokyo | 13 October | ONE: CENTURY | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: https://onechampionship.zaiko.io/e/onecentury
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization in history has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.