New ONE Championship signees Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez are in attendance at ONE: Heart of the Lion this week, where they are being introduced to fans.
ONE Championship wasted no time committing to the former UFC fighters' move SouthEast Asia, announcing that Johnson would be part of an eight-man flyweight grand prix, while Alvarez is participating in a lightweight grand prix.
“ONE Championship is a different organization. ONE Championship is for martial artists, by martial artists. Every fight promotion in the world wants to put on a fight. In ONE Championship, we want to build and unleash real-life superheroes who ignite the world with hope, strength, dreams, inspiration, and courage. We want real martial artists to stand up. Martial arts is not about fighting and violence. It is about unleashing your greatness in life. This is the real beauty of martial arts. I want the entire world to look at our heroes and be inspired through their lives because they bare their souls to the world with every triumph and every failure,” said ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong in announcing the tournaments.
Johnson (27-3-1) enters the grand prix on the heels of the first loss of his career. Henry Cejudo narrowly escaped with the UFC flyweight title, taking a split-decision nod at UFC 227 in August. Johnson is looking forward to putting that in the past and realizing his dream of fighting in a world grand prix in Asia.
"I spent seven years in North America fighting the best in the world. I’ve never travelled to Asia to fight the best. I think now is the perfect time to do it," said Johnson.
"Now that they just announced a World Grand Prix for the flyweight division, it has always been a dream of mine to actually compete in Asia in a World Grand Prix. The biggest thing that you can expect from me for coming over here to compete in Asia is that I’ll do my best. I am taking no shortcuts."
Alvarez actually has a history fighting in Asia. Before he was a champion at Bellator and the UFC, Alvarez was recognized for his breakout performances under the Dream banner, defeating the likes of Joachim Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri. He is looking forward getting back to his roots.
"It was in Asia where I made a name for myself and started my career. Everything has come full circle for me. I can’t say how excited and grateful I am to be part of the ONE Championship family. This is where true martial arts lives," said Alvarez.
"I’ve been away from Asia so long. It’s good to be back. I feel like I found my way again with ONE Championship. I can respect my opponents, and I can go in and fight like a man. I know my lifelong martial arts journey will be truly appreciated here."