Very few people get an insider’s view on what it takes to become the greatest of all time, but Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson’s training partner, James Yang, has witnessed that work from the trenches.
As a trusted teammate of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Champion, Yang has seen exactly how Johnson operates during many fight camps over the years.
Sharing the mats with a legend is not lost on Yang, who is constantly inspired by “Mighty Mouse.”
“We’ve been training now coming up around six or seven years together. Training with the guy that is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, it’s a pleasure,” he says.
“It’s an honor. It’s like this is a constant learning experience with the guy. And just a couple of buddies trying to get better.”
Yang’s own journey began in traditional martial arts — including training at a Shaolin temple — before he found the hybrid style of mixed martial arts at the world-famous AMC Pankration in Washington.
Johnson’s respect and humility is far removed from some of his North American peers and this resonated with the kung fu stylist, who was welcomed with open arms and open minds.
“I wasn’t fighting MMA, I was just competing in other martial arts tournaments since I was 11 years old, mostly striking. Then I thought, ‘What happens when it hits the ground?’” he recalls.
“So, I was going for that knowledge, and it led me to AMC and working with DJ. He helped me become more professional and helped me look at the game in another way. It’s not just the physical attributes, but the mental aspect of it — nutrition and taking care of your body.”
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In his search for the all-around martial arts game, Yang found the ultimate role model. “Mighty Mouse” earned his reputation as the greatest of all time precisely because he was a dynamic, adaptable fighter.
Johnson dedicated his time to mastery in the foundations of every range of combat, while also innovating and evolving. The key theme running through it, though, is his tireless hard work.
“He’s known for his versatility and his ability to transition quickly. That absolutely comes through the training, but he’s trained so much that it became part of his instincts,” Yang offers.
“That’s the correct movement because he’s drilled it thousands and thousands and thousands of times. He is gifted, physically — his speed, his distance, and his eyes are pretty good. But the way he transitions and mixes everything together so seamlessly is what sets him apart.
“What really makes him special is his tenacity. He never quits. A lot of guys say they can push until they actually get to that point where they are breaking. That’s when he actually pushes through those barriers.”
Yang has spent hundreds of hours around his teammate over years and seen him dominate the flyweight landscape in North America with determination as the foundation of his success.
In 2019, he also watched on as Johnson battled through three top opponents to realize a lifelong dream of winning a World Grand Prix. Now, Yang can’t wait to see his friend take on Moraes for the ONE Flyweight World Championship.
It’s a colossal contest that could see Johnson reaffirm his spot as the best flyweight in history, but the Brazilian kingpin has the respect of everybody in “Mighty Mouse’s” camp.
Yang expects a tough battle for the strap on 7 April, but he knows that Johnson never leaves a stone unturned in his quest for victory.
“Adriano Moraes is a dangerous man. He’s a champion for a reason and I think he’s proven that,” Yang says.
“He has a unique body for the weight class. He’s much taller, lankier, and has a weight advantage on most of the guys. He’s got a great jiu-jitsu pedigree, but he has things we can exploit.
“We’ll make sure DJ is healthy and trains hard, and try to execute our game plan the best that we can. Good luck to Adriano Moraes, but we’ll see how that goes. I’m excited for it.
“If you’re a fight fan, tune in, because this is a great fight. It could be high action, impact, speed, and technique — it’s got it all!”