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UFC on the verge of ‘trading’ Demetrious Johnson to ONE for Ben Askren

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One of the greatest champions in UFC history may be heading to ONE Championship in a stunning turn of events.

MMA: UFC 227-Johnson vs Cejudo Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After ruling the UFC flyweight division for nearly six years, former champion Demetrious Johnson lost his title in a close, controversial split decision vs. Henry Cejudo at UFC 227. From the way things look now, instead of an eventual rematch with the man who dethroned him, “Mighty Mouse” may be gone from the UFC altogether.

ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reports that an historic arrangement is being put together to “send” Johnson to ONE Championship, while in exchange they would get former Bellator and ONE welterweight champion Ben Askren into the UFC at long last.

According to multiple sources, there is a proposed deal on the table for the UFC to release former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson from his contract in order to allow him to sign with ONE, and in return ONE will release former welterweight champion Ben Askren from his contract so he could finally join the UFC.

Sources say the “trade” isn’t finalized just yet, however, it has been discussed at length and is categorized by multiple sources as close to getting done. All parties involved are hopeful it will be finalized soon..

Both Johnson and Askren have multiple fights left on their respective contracts, according to sources.

So it’s not a “trade” in the classical sense when compared with other sports, where trade partners would also be swapping contracts. In this instance, both men would be released from their respective promotions, thus freeing them up to “swap” and sign new deals.

It should be noted that Askren recently said there was a 98% chance that he’d be headed for the UFC, certainly a major change from years of back-and-forth bickering with Dana White and seemingly no chance that he’d ever sign with the promotion. He hasn’t fought since November 2017, when he TKO’d Shinya Aoki, and is more or less in semi-retirement.

Johnson has had his own tiffs with the UFC, famously writing a lengthy statement last year about what he perceived as “bullying” tactics and mistreatment of him. White later scoffed at those claims.

Rather interestingly, Johnson’s coach Matt Hume is also ONE Championship’s vice president of operations, and has shares in the company. Sources recently told Bloody Elbow that Hume was a key figure in getting the ball rolling on what could be a major moment in MMA history.

This news comes just days after ONE signed former Bellator and UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.