In what would be a remarkable first in the sport, a rumor has emerged that the UFC may be on the verge of trading former long-time flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson for ONE FC’s former welterweight champion Ben Askren.
The stunning arrangement was first reported by ESPN’s Ariel Helwani and would be see the remaining fights on both fighter’s contracts being waived so that they can sign for the other promotion.
For the 32-year-old Johnson the deal would come just months after his UFC record 11 successful title defenses at 125lbs came to an end with a split decision loss to Henry Cejudo at UFC 227.
Despite his loss, ‘Mighty Mouse’ holds a previous victory over Cejudo and is still considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, although he has never been a major draw for the UFC.
As for the 34-year-old Askren, he remains undefeated in his 19-fight career and was equally dominant during his runs as welterweight champion in both Bellator and then ONE FC, where he defended his title five times before announcing that he was retiring from the sport.
While there are questions as to Askren’s star power too, he is considered one of the best fighters never to have fought in the UFC, and he could provide major competition for the likes of current champion Tyron Woodley and former titleholder Georges St-Pierre.
Those are potentially higher profile, more bankable fights for the UFC than anything they could put together for Johnson at this moment in time, which may be an important consideration if the deal does go through.
And if it does happen it would be a major coup for ONE FC, who were already without Askren’s services anyway due to his retirement, but could now bring another well known UFC star into the company, hot on the heels of having just signed former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.