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UFC and ONE Championship are in talks to trade former longtime UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson for welterweight standout Ben Askren. This is according to a report from ESPN’s Ariel Helwani earlier today.
According to Helwani, the deal is on the table between the two sides but is not yet a done deal. The deal is said work as follows if agreed upon: Johnson and Askren would both be released from their respective contracts and would then sign new contracts with the new organizations.
Johnson held the UFC flyweight championship from its inception in 2012 until this past August when he lost to Henry Cejudo. UFC’s attempts to headline pay-per-views with Johnson resulted in some of the least bought shows since UFC started on Spike TV. Attempts to headline FOX shows with Johnson saw diminishing returns. Askren was ONE’s top star for several years after spending some time in Bellator. He retired undefeated after defeating Shinya Aoki last November.
Such a trade puts the future of the UFC flyweight division in doubt. With Johnson out of the promotion and champion Cejudo lobbying for a championship fight at bantamweight, UFC could have plans to move forward without a 125 pound division.
Johnson to ONE gives one more fighter with UFC experience and a familiar name to MMA fans. This comes a week after Eddie Alvarez signed with the promotion for what he says is an eight-figure deal. Alvarez had teased that ONE was going to be making more acquisitions while Askren gave a “98%” chance he fights for UFC.
Askren to UFC could breathe life into its welterweight division, currently lead by Askren’s teammate Tyron Woodley. There is also the possibility of Askren moving down to lightweight should he want to avoid Woodley.
As with any good sports trade, this is a move that could benefit both sides and the athletes involved. A win-win-win-win if you will.