Former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson says it was an honor to be labelled the ‘Ultimate GOAT’ by rising UFC middleweight champ Israel Adesanya, as ‘Mighty Mouse’ feels ‘The Last Stylebender’ is also ‘on his way’ to becoming one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time.
“I think it’s awesome,” Johnson told MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck in a recent episode of What the Heck. “I have nothing but respect for Izzy and I told him after what he did to Paulo, ‘If you keep putting on performances like that, you’re gonna be well on your way.’ The way he dismantled him, it’s very rare that a fighter will do something in a fight that will make me think about certain things and what he did to Paulo, I was like, ‘Duh, simple. Footwork. That’s the easy way to nullify Paulo Costa’s striking.’ What he did to Uriah Hall, Yoel Romero, he couldn’t do it to Adesanya because he used footwork.”
Adesanya is expected to move up in weight to challenge Jan Blachowicz for the light heavyweight title next year and, if successful, the Nigerian-New Zealander plans to hunt down Jon Jones at heavyweight. It’s goals like that, Johnson says, that will determine Adesanya’s legacy.
“I was like, ‘Good for you, Izzy. You impress me all the time,’” Johnson said. “After he knocked out Paulo I was like, ‘Yup, he’s on his way.’
“If he keeps doing that, and then goes up to light heavyweight, then if he goes up to heavyweight to fight Jon Jones, those are all the steps. I feel that he’s gonna be in the sport for a long time, a champion for a long time as long as he keeps on evolving. I feel like he has the mindset to do that because he watches anime. Anime always keeps your mind fresh and keeps you evolving.”
Johnson left the UFC in 2018 to sign with ONE Championship, where he is the current flyweight grand prix champion. ‘DJ’ is 3-0 in the Asian-based MMA promotion and is still widely considered one of the great pound-for-pound fighters in the world.