Legendary fighter Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson is aiming to further cement his legacy with a fight against Adriano Moraes. We caught up with him before the fight to discuss his career, his Twitch streaming exploits, and his take of Jake Paul vs Ben Askren.
One of the all-time greats, DJ has mixed a career of fighting at the highest level of MMA, along with a passion for gaming and streaming.
In this current day, when the world of influencers and fighting is mixing so heavily, we wanted to know his take on it all.
Matt from Dexerto, joined by a very special guest now. Live from Washington, on the road and moving, Mixed Martial Arts legend, winner of the One Championship Flyweight Grand Prix, streamer, the list goes on. Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson. How are you doing?
Good, thanks for having me.
No worries. How’s everything going? How’s the training situation going? Are you still managing to get in?
Yeah, the training situation is going phenomenal. We haven’t had any cases in our gym. That’s been great. We’ve been training in pods. we’ve got 5 days left until we ship off to Singapore and will go into quarantine there. Go out and compete, then get back home and enjoy life, man. So I’m excited!
Let me just take a moment, I know you’re a pretty humble guy so I’d just like to remind everyone who we’re speaking to now. This is the inaugural UFC flyweight champion, held the belt and defended it 11 times in six years, I believe, beating Anderson’s (Silva) record is that right?
That is correct.
Now over at One Championship which obviously we’ll get into. The man many consider to be the greatest of all time. How does it feel when you hear that? When people say Demetrious Johnson, potentially the greatest fighter to ever live. Does that even come into your mind? Or do you try to put that stuff to one side?
It doesn’t come to my mind, you know? I have a lot of great training partners that have gotten me to this point in my career, I have a great coach and I get tested all the time in the gym, to where, you know, you doubt yourself. And then when you got there, you find a competition and you’re very successful. It’s like, Damn, you know, that training, you know, I’m glad I went through hell, because when I come in the cage or the ring, it’s easy, but you know, all those praises and those accolades are all accomplishments I’ve, you know, made throughout my whole entire career, and it’s an honor to be considered one of those guys since there’s so many athletes out there trying for the position I’m in. But for me, you know, I try to stay a humble guy. I know that it only takes a couple of fights until everybody says, “you’re not the greatest of all time we were just playing” so you know, I take it as a compliment and I keep going for it.
On your UFC career, before we move on, this fight taking place in one championship over in Asia, as you mentioned. A lot of great moments in that career. Is there anything that sticks out to you? For anyone who’s maybe not familiar, that you look back and you think “I can’t believe that was me?” When I was speaking to other people saying that we’re going to get to talk to you, the one moment that always comes up and stands out from me is that Ray Borg finish. But I’d love to know from you, is there one thing you look back on and you’ll think “God damn, that was me”?
Yeah, I think that Ray Borg finish, in just like how long the span of my title reign was with 11 consecutive wins. You know, that’s pretty hard to do. I feel there’s only a handful of people out in the world who were able to do it, or who got close to it. And you know I think the next person on that list probably would Amanda Nunez, but yeah, I’m just grateful to be able to pull those things off, especially the Mighty Wiz-Bar. Nobody’s ever seen it before. And it was done like three or four years ago and people still talk about it. But, you know, went out there and displayed something no one has ever seen before.
In terms of the UFC career then, now you’re at One Championship and you can look back at the landscape of that division now. Obviously, we’ve got Davidson Figueiredo over there really running things, you’ve got Brandon Moreno, Triple C constantly threatening with coming back. Is there anything that sits in the back of your mind and think ‘maybe that could tempt me, that’s something I would come back for’. Or do you feel like you closed that chapter now?
I probably have closed that chapter. There are a lot of great athletes in that division, but I feel this chapter I’m on now fighting in one championship, traveling and competing as a foreigner in a foreign country, I absolutely love it. The traveling is a little much, but, it’s something I’m glad I’m able to do. I’ve got 4 or 5 years left on my career, and I want to be able to tell my children I fought on both sides of the world. I fought in America and was world champion, did a lot of great things on North American soil, and now, in the last part of Daddies career, I was over in Asia. Fighting in Japan, Manilla, Singapore, you know? I can say I’ve fought all over the world, instead of I’ve only fought all over North America.
Well let’s get into the Asia stuff…
I mean you think about it, it’s like, I could say yeah I’ve fought all over the world kids, I’ve won belts all over the world. The grand prix belt, the UFC belt, not too many athletes can say they’ve done that. Even world championship in the UFC you know? Jon Jones can never say he’s fought all over the world. He’s only won one belt in the UFC essentially. Yeah, I’m just grateful that I’m able to do that.
You look at the Pride days, and the way people talk about Dan Henderson as the original double champ, obviously held the Pride belt. Did your coach Matt Hume talk to you about fighting in Asia? When you close this chapter and take off the gloves, you’ve done it in Asia as well.
Yeah absolutely. I mean you already hit the nail with Dan Henderson. I didn’t know he was the first double champ, and I think Conor McGregor modernized that idea I guess you could say. I feel like those guys who fought out of Pride: Dan Henderson, Rampage Jackson, Cro Cop, Fedor Emelianenko, Fabricio Werdum, not all of them have been successful on both sides, but I believe Dan Henderson was the UFC Champion, I don’t know or not.
I believe he held both the Pride and Strikeforce belts.
That’s what it was, okay. I think being able to fight on both sides of the world just like those guys did, is something that when I take my gloves off, I can say I did what all the other greats have done too.
I believe you’re now three fights deep into your One Championship career now. Talk to me about how those opponents have been? What did you expect coming over to fight these guys? Are they of a higher caliber than you thought you’d be facing?
No, I knew the One Championship guys are tough. Here’s the thing. People put a label on UFC athletes, One Championship athletes, Bellator athletes etc. There are good fighters all over the world. There are good fighters who haven’t been signed to a big organization yet. I always have that mindset that there’s always bigger fish in the sea. You never know what you’re going to get when you get in there to fight another athlete. Some athletes might surprise you, some might show you something you’ve never seen before. Working with my coach Matt Hume, I feel like I’ve pretty much seen everything. The only thing now is longer and bigger guys, that’s the only thing. When I go over there I’m like “you guys are fucking big”. Not weight-wise, just long.
So you fought in Japan and the Philippines and this one being Singapore. Are you able to spend any time in these places? Have you had any cool experiences culturally?
Yeah, I mean, Japan is amazing. I love their culture, I love the anime. I love how some districts in their area are just dedicated to clothes shopping, gaming, anime. Manilla, I wasn’t really able to experience the culture because it was raining and for security reasons they kept us in the hotel. Singapore is amazing. It reminds me of a techy Seattle over in Asia. Beautiful places, very well manicured and strict.
Twitch streaming career
As I said at the top, you’re a man of many traits, also a streamer. Not one of these who are new to the game and just jumped on the platform, I remember you from the earlier days of Twitch. Talk to me about your gaming history. Were you a gamer from young?
Yeah, I was a gamer from 4 or 5 years old playing original Nintendo with my mom. I grew up doing it, and now that I’m an adult, I can play as much as I want, but I’ll play different games. With me streaming on Twitch, it’s a way for me to interact with my fans on a different platform over something I’m passionate about. That’s the biggest thing. I can interact with the fans while playing video games.
Has it started to feel like work yet? I know some streamers we work with, some of them can lose the love and passion for gaming. Does it still feel like when you were a kid, or are you bogged down by the chat?
I still love gaming right now. It’s just trying to find a game that’s going to get me up and excited. When it comes to streaming, I always love sitting there and talking, but I couldn’t imagine doing it every single day, trying to find something to play and entertain. That’s where I think it can be kind of hard. For me, I’ve never wanted my stream to be like a thing where I feel guilty if I don’t play games. When I see streamers say “hey guys I’m taking the day off”. I’m like, just don’t? You don’t have to do that. You shouldn’t have to do that. If you don’t want to f**king stream… if someone wants to take a week off streaming, they shouldn’t have to tell the community? I don’t understand it. Everyone has their different things. I like to stream when I have the time and want to play.
I saw you on Twitter petitioning for some new ideas and to branch out and to maybe branch out away from World of Warcraft. Do you have a genre you’re looking for? I wonder if some fans could drop some recommendations.
I was asking Twitter how Destiny 2 is, people said it’s boring. I’m getting kind of tired of WoW, it’s always trying to keep up and do all this stuff. I think I’m gonna try Final Fantasy 14. I played that game back in the day and loved it. It’s just so story-driven, the PVP sucks ass on it though. That’s the bad thing about that game. We got Resident Evil 8 coming out, there’s another scary game coming out too but I forget the name of it. It’s just trying to stay busy and find content to play.
You mentioned a lot of these fighters we’re familiar with moving over to Twitch now. You’ve got Rampage (Jackson) who’s been a bit of a mainstay, you’ve got Sean O’Malley on there, I’ve seen Max Holloway racking up Warzone wins too. You fancy a little MMA tournament? Do you feel like you could hang with those guys on Warzone?
No, not on Warzone. That game is f**king chaotic. You get shot left and right, miles away and shit. Never been a big fan of Warzone. It’s fun and fast-paced, it’s good content to stream with fans too. Fans can get heated up, when you look at the Twitch numbers it’s mainly CoD right now.
Jake Paul vs Ben Askren
I just want to move on from gaming slightly on a tangent into the world of influencers and get your take. It’s always a fun one to bring up with fighters. Jake Paul vs Ben Askren and YouTube boxing generally. What’re your thoughts? I’m not sure if you’ve spoken publicly on it. Some fighters think it’s great for the world of combat, some guys are embarrassed by it. Where do you sit?
I’m happy for those guys and they’re able to come over to our sport. They bring some attention, some eyeballs to it. They’ve got Snoop Dogg commentating it. Snoop brings an interesting flavor to commentating. He basically says whatever he wants, I love that. He’s very real. When Jake Paul and Ben Askren fight I think it’s gonna be a great fight. I think Jake is gonna give it to him. I feel like he’s more crisper on the fight, even though he’s never been a champion. He’s displayed he has knockout power. I’m looking forward to the fight, I’m excited about it. At the end of the day, you know, he’s probably selling more PPVs than some of the champions around the world. At the end of the day, it’s good for the sport.
I completely agree. I think ultimately Ben and all the guys on the card, we have real fighters underneath them. Frank Mir is on the card. If you think what these guys will earn, particularly those at the tail end of their career. Everyone’s a winner.
Everyone’s a winner, exactly. Everyone will make money. And that’s the thing, as athletes you want to make sure we can compete and make money, and be able to retire one day. I think it’s a fun fight for Ben Askren. He’s only got to focus on one discipline of fighting, you know, boxing. Which is good, you know, he’s not gonna beat up his body. He’s been doing this for a very long time. He has nothing to prove, it’s a fun fight for him. He’s just got done being retired, he had a shot at the UFC. Shit, why not box? Why not box a YouTube star. He’s displayed he can be dangerous, but he’s not going to have to worry about a flying knee to his face.
Very true! Obviously, you’re still competing in MMA at One Championship. I mentioned at the top this Flyweight Grand Prix. When you traded with Ben Askren I think a lot of people thought we’d see you put straight into the title fight. For those who aren’t familiar with the Grand Prix format, it’s essentially an 8 man tournament. You and the other flyweights, essentially going into the quarter-finals, semi-finals & finals. How did you feel about that? Did you want the title fight straight away and this is something they pitched to you? How did that come about?
No, I love the fact that I went into the Grand Prix to earn my title shot. Obviously, I feel if I’d have come to the organization and asked for a title shot I would have gotten it, but there’s no sense to it. Rush right into the title shot that if you win, you’re now fighting all the people in the division. Or if you lose it, then it’s like, you already lost to the champ so what do we do with you now? I got in the division, I got a Grand Prix belt, a beautiful belt, my favorite belt, it’ll probably be on my display. And now you’re going to fight for the world title too. So I’m super excited that I went that path instead of arguing for a title shot. I earned it.
That’s great, especially going back to the different side that Asia offers. The Grand Prix is a legendary belt to win, you associate that belt with legends. Jon Jones has never won that sort of thing.
Absolutely. Don’t get me wrong, I think if Jon Jones jumped in a world Grand Prix I think he would win one. Will he have the opportunity to do it? Probably not. Just contractually, and for him, I don’t know if it’s something on his list to do. Financially I’m sure he’s set. I think he’s set on winning the heavyweight title in the UFC. So for me, it’s a thing I grew up watching. Cro Cop winning the open weight Grand Prix. Those dream match-ups with Josh Barnett vs Cro Cop. Cro Cop vs Wanderlei. Just the whole thing. The brackets, who’s gonna win? I love that aspect. When I got the opportunity to do it for myself, I was like let’s do it!
Talk to me about the guy you’ll be facing then. Adriano Moraes. What do you know about this guy? All I’ve seen billed is that this could be the biggest flyweight title fight of all time. How do you feel going into it? Is it business as usual as you said? How are you approaching this one mentally?
Mentally, business as usual. Adriano is very tough. Great champion. I know he’s gonna bring it. A lot of people overlook him, I’m not overlooking him whatsoever. He has a great set of skills. People don’t know him because he’s never fought on this side of the world before in North America, and he’s been inactive for 2 years, sitting out for the Grand Prix and also [the global health crisis] put him on ice for two years. I’m looking forward to the fight, it’ll probably be One’s best flyweight fight. I’m gonna bring it, it’ll be straight fire.
I think everyone’s really looking forward to this one. This’ll be your first time in One fighting scheduled for US primetime. Does that affect anything? Obviously locally you’ll be fighting at a different time, but also knowing the Mighty Mouse fanbase in the US gets to see this one. Does it have a different feel at all?
Yeah, I’m actually excited it’s going to be on live TV on west and east coast times. I’ve always performed better on my own timezone. When I fought for the Grand Prix finals it was my own timezone. It was 10am Japan time, so I think this time I’ll be fighting around 10:30/11am Singapore time. It’s coming, it’s gonna be quick. We get there on the 3rd and I fight on the 7th, I get 4 days to acclimate and make weight. Boom, fight, turn around, come back home. I’m looking forward to the quick turnaround. Usually, I give myself 10 or 11 days to acclimate. I’m an athlete, I want to get in, get out, and get back to my kids so I can relax.
If you win this one, you’ve got to think winningest champ in UFC history, gone over, won the One Championship Grand Prix, you’ve won the belt. That cements you as the greatest for me, and I’m sure most agree. Is there anything you can pinpoint, and I know you’re humble so I won’t press you on it. What do you think makes you different? To say to a young up-and-coming fighter, this is what made me from great to the greatest. What do you think that is?
I think being humble, and not jumping into the sport to be a champion. I know a lot of people look at it like that’s stupid, but when I look back on the first time I stepped my feet in the gym, and I had a couple of fights, there was no mixed martial arts division for me. Right? I was just training to train, and then fight on these amateur fights. I didn’t think there would be a career for myself. Once I started to fight and make money, it was like oh well if I keep making this money then I can keep training and learning more. Fast forward a couple of years, here I am a world champion. It’s like oh damn I’m here. I’ve never left my team. I stayed with the same coach. I get new teammates as people come in and out of your life. I just jumped into the sport to learn to compete.
DJ I could keep you here to talk ALL DAY, you’re an absolute legend, but I know you have business to take care of in Singapore so I’ll let you go. That’s One on TNT live Wednesday 7th April US primetime. Adriano Moraes. DJ will cement his legacy, the greatest of all time, if he can take this belt.
Make sure you guys tune in to this fight. Not just because I’m taking on Moraes but tune in to see Eddie Alvarez vs Iuri Lapicus, a great lightweight fight. Then you also have Rodtang, Muay Thai sensation. 23-year-old 200+ fights. Absolute monster. You guys don’t want to miss it.