In 2018, the UFC and ONE Championship engaged in a “trade” that brought Ben Askren back to fighting in the US while sending former champion Demetrious Johnson to the far east in Singapore.
It was a short-lived experiment from the UFC’s end as “Funky” Ben’s run unceremoniously ended a year later. “Mighty Mouse,” meanwhile, remains thriving and is ONE’s current 135-pound title holder.
In a recent conversation with MMA Junkie Radio, Johnson looked back on that trade. Long story short, he sees nothing but upsides for everyone involved.
“I think everybody won. Not just the organizations, but I think everybody: Ben Askren, Jorge Masvidal, Leon Edwards, Kamaru Usman, myself. When I say that we all won, we’re all eating good now.
“So you look at the UFC’s standpoint, when I was there, obviously I wasn’t the highest-selling pay-per-view guy there, and I was also very dominant, so there was not an opportunity for somebody else to be able to make a name for themselves.
“Then ‘Triple C’ came in, cringe, did his thing. But then I leave, and you get Ben Askren.”
Johnson further explained how the impact of that trade created a ripple effect, particularly in the UFC’s welterweight division.
“The reason why I say Ben Askren got a chance to eat is because Ben Askren always wanted to be able to compete in the UFC. He got that opportunity, won a couple, then lost, and with his loss was the rise of Jorge Masvidal.
“And the rise of Jorge Masvidal, ‘Street Jesus,’ going out baptizing people – he fought Nate Diaz and got that ‘BMF’ title, which there’s never been a title like that, and he gave Leon Edwards the five-piece chicken meal in the back of the arena, that kind of put eyeballs on Leon Edwards.
“Now you have Kamaru Usman, who fought Jorge Masvidal, and Kamaru sent Jorge Masvidal to the shadow of realm.
“When Kamaru Usman fought Masvidal, I think that’s where his elevation and his star power went through the roof because everyone was talking about the ‘BMF.’
“Now you have Kamaru Usman who’s super big and very, very popular, who’s the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. And now you have Leon Edwards, who just knocked him out, and now Leon Edwards is the king of the welterweight division.”
Askren’s further rise in star power also landed him a boxing match with Jake Paul. He may have lost via another highlight-reel knockout, but as he went on to reveal, it was the “biggest payday” of his career.
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