When a seasoned combat athlete like Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson articulates a newfound affection for a sport, it should not be taken lightly. His recent triumph at the 2023 World Master IBJFF Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada, serves as more than just a shimmering addition to his already illustrious career; it marks a full-circle journey back to his roots in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). And, remarkably, the catalyst for this rebirth has been identified as Adriano Moraes.
It is rare that one finds inspiration in defeat, but this is precisely what occurred in the case of Johnson. The first clash with Moraes, a Brazilian BJJ black belt, served as a wake-up call that propelled Johnson back to the grappling mats. The revelation was so profound that it caused him to audibly re-evaluate his prowess in the sport. He remarked, “After I lost to Adriano the first time, I was like, ‘Okay, I want to work on my grappling game.’ And then I got back into gi, and then I started falling in love with it again. And I was like this is what it is.”
Captured in a compelling highlight reel by FloGrappling, this pivotal moment in Johnson’s career was emblematic of the sort of introspection often required for growth at the highest level of competition. At 37 years of age, Johnson, an MMA icon affiliated with AMC Pankration and Evolve MMA, still holds the capacity to re-invent himself. The loss to Moraes became less a stigma of defeat and more a milestone redirecting him toward an avenue of renewed vitality and prowess.
The original clash between Johnson and Moraes was an epochal event in the world of combat sports. Though many fans may principally remember the brutal knee that led to Johnson’s first knockout loss, astute observers would note that Moraes was demonstrating grappling supremacy long before the knockout punch was delivered. This performance not only led to Johnson re-evaluating his skill set but also set the stage for a trilogy that saw Johnson claim victory in the subsequent two matches.
But to label Johnson’s return to BJJ as merely a reaction to a single loss would be a gross underestimation. He has undertaken this journey as an addition to an already glittering career, not as a compensatory diversion. Johnson is intensifying his commitment by altering his physical regimen to align with his BJJ objectives. He elucidated his strategy during a behind-the-scenes FloGrappling interview, stating, “As of right now, I’m staying in this weight class. I have no interest in going back down to 141. This is where I walk around at, 150, now, I’ve been lifting, been putting on more weight on.”
Although known for competing in the 135-pound flyweight division in ONE Championship, Johnson has decided to operate at a weight closer to his natural physique for his BJJ endeavours. This strategy manifested its efficacy in Las Vegas, where Johnson produced an unblemished 6-0 record in the World Master IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2023. Of those six victories, five were decided on points, and one via an armbar submission against Michael Harmeling—culminating in a decisive 10-0 final.
As we look toward the horizon of Johnson’s evolving career, it is impossible to ignore the rumours linking him to a possible BJJ super match against ONE flyweight submission grappling world champion Mikey Musumeci. Such an event, should it materialise, would undoubtedly be a watershed moment in the sphere of grappling arts.