Demetrious Johnson is an MMA legend who’s achieved more in his career than most fighters could even dream of, but a recent gold medal at a BJJ tournament is apparently among his biggest moments. He’s broken records in the UFC with a dominant reign as the inaugural flyweight world champion and added the ONE Championship flyweight title to his collection too, but a victory at the IBJJF Master World Championship is still important to him. This might seem surprising at first, given all that Johnson has accomplished in MMA, but he did reveal prior to competing at the event that he actually preferred gi to no gi grappling.
Johnson sat down with TMZ Sports and discussed how he felt about training and competing in the gi leading up to this event:
“I just fell in love with it. The art of it. And, using the gi as a tool to be able to strangle your opponent or be able to manipulate their body in certain ways has been fascinating to me.”
He actually beat 6 other competitors in order to stand on top of the podium in the Master 2 featherweight brown belt division at the event, so clearly all that training paid off. Demetrious Johnson also explained to the interview how he felt about winning a gold medal in his first major BJJ tournament:
“It’s up there. Everything I’ve accomplished in my career, it’s up there. I haven’t competed in a jiu-jitsu tournament since I was 18 years old, now I’m 37. To go be able to compete with my son in the same tournament, it’s up there.”
It might seem surprising that an elite MMA fighter like Demetrious Johnson was still a brown belt in BJJ, and he didn’t even earn a promotion when he won a gold medal against other brown belts either. He’s been open about his desire to eventually earn his BJJ black belt and he also went on to explain why this hasn’t happened yet:
“The way my professor views black belts, or belting people is based on potential, I still have so much more to learn, and he was like, ‘You could get your black belt but you’re not learning the steps you need to prepare yourself for that black belt. You just won a tournament, congratulations. But, the tournament is done. You won it. We get back in the gym, we move forward, and continue our steps to better ourselves as the best athlete we can be or best jiu-jitsu players we can be.”