When Johnson returns to action on Dec. 5 at ONE X, he will do so in a booking against ONE’s current flyweight Muay Thai champion Rodtang Jitmuangnon. The matchmaking is not only fascinating because it pits two of the promotion’s best flyweight competitors, but it brings together elite talents from two different sports in a fight with special mashup rules.
The bout will be contested over four rounds, with each alternating between Muay Thai and MMA rules. The opening frame will take place under Muay Thai guidelines, and each round will last three minutes. It is an unusual rule set, but one created to offer some competitive balance. Since each man has never competed professionally in their opponent’s sport of note.
Demetrious Johnson sees Rodtang Jitmuangnon fight as doing something outside the box
It’s also what drew “Mighty Mouse” to the fight. Following his April loss to flyweight champion Adriano Moraes, he assumed he would begin a new climb back to contention, and he was okay with that. However, this bout with Jitmuangnon offered an alternate route that appealed to him for being different than what anyone expected for his next fight.
“It’s not my first world title fight loss. I’ve lost against Dominick Cruz, lost against Henry Cejudo. Typically when you lose a fight, you have to [climb back up] the ranks. You fight your way up the ladder and you fight for another world title. So for me, when this opportunity arose, I was like, well this is out of the blue and totally different, so let’s do this,” Johnson told MixedMartialArts.com
“It’s just a fun fight. I feel like out of all the fights I’ve done so far in ONE Championship, this is the most hyped fight that all the fans are super pumped about. I haven’t heard one negative thing whatsoever about this fight. They’ve said it’s something different [and] out of the box.”
Johnson says negotiations for the bout and its unique rules went easier than you might expect, and his decision to compete against his 24-year-old flyweight counterpart was no different. Johnson, 35, has a great deal of respect for the native of Thailand who built a stellar reputation in the Muay Thai world after starting his professional career at the absurdly young age of 10-years-old.
“I got exposed to Rodtang once I signed with ONE Championship, because I don’t really watch a lot of fights outside of my own fights, or the people I have personal attachments to, if that makes sense. … Rodtang’s an absolutely amazing athlete. He’s already a superstar. Amazing Muay Thai skills. I think his records 256-42. So [he’s] probably the most dangerous fighter I’ve ever fought,” said Johnson.
Johnson sees danger-factor similarities between Rodtang and prime-John Dodson
The former UFC flyweight champion, and 125-pound standard-bearer, has been a mixed martial artist for over 14 years. Meaning, while striking may not have been his specific focus during that time, he is far from a fish out of water when he goes toe-to-toe with Jitmuangnon on the feet. Even, in those Muay Thai rules rounds. However, the same can’t be said for his opponent’s grappling preparation over the last decade. Yet, Johnson would not go as far as saying he has a bigger advantage in grappling than his foe has over him in Muay Thai, because no matter what round it is, everything starts on the feet.
“His Muay Thai’s on a different level. My grappling’s on a different level compared to him. But it’s just about how does this fight play out? Am I able to survive the first round, then in the second round am I able to get him to the ground? Because remember, the fight doesn’t start on the ground. It starts still on the feet. It’s a very intriguing fight, and that’s why I signed up to do it,” he says.
Part of the reason the ONE flyweight Grand Prix champion thinks so highly of Jitmuangnon is not only because of his elite-level Muay Thai prowess but because he has the sort of power-punching Johnson has rarely encountered in his career. That, matched with the durability the “Iron Man” has shown throughout his career, makes Jitmuangnon the type of unique threat Johnson feels he’s only seen once before.
“His [danger] factors are in line with John Dodson. I feel John Dodson, back in his prime, when he touched people, he would put them to sleep. Every single time he touched me when we fought [in 2013], he put me on my ass. That’s dangerous in my eyes. For someone to have that one-punch [knockout] power,” said Johnson. “And like I said, he’s willing to take a shot to give a shot. He has a granite chin and it’s going to be a good fight.
In the full video interview embedded at the top, “Mighty Mouse” also spoke about his loss to Moraes at ONE on TNT I, he gave his thoughts on the new World Fight League organization, fatherhood, and a great idea he has for a hypothetical ONE video game.