One Championship sets Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez debuts for Japan
Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez will make their One Championship debuts at the mixed martial arts promotion’s first show in Japan on March 31.
One Championship on Wednesday revealed several bout matchups to The Associated Press for its landmark event in Tokyo.
The show at the Ryogoku Kokugikan arena will feature atomweight champion Angela Lee’s move up to challenge One strawweight champion Xiong Jing Nan. Middleweight champion Aung La N Sang and lightweight champ Eduard Folayang also will defend their belts against Japanese challengers.
Johnson and Alvarez are two former UFC champions who moved to the Singapore-based One Championship earlier this year.
Johnson, the long-reigning UFC flyweight champion better known as “Mighty Mouse,” will take on Japanese flyweight Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu in his first bout for One.
Johnson had won 13 consecutive bouts and had the longest title reign in UFC history before he surrendered his 125-pound title in a split-decision loss to Henry Cejudo in August. Johnson then moved to One Championship in October in an effective trade between the promotions, with the UFC getting welterweight Ben Askren from One in the deal.
Alvarez, the former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion, will fight Russian lightweight contender Timofey Nastyukhin in his One debut.
The well-traveled Alvarez held the UFC 155-pound title in 2016 before losing it to Conor McGregor. Alvarez is from Philadelphia, but fought in Japan several times in his early career.
One has bolstered its roster with notable U.S.-based talent ahead of a North American television deal with Turner Sports beginning in January. Along with Johnson and Alvarez, the promotion also has signed Sage Northcutt, the 22-year-old Texas lightweight promoted as a major future star by the UFC.
Lee (9-0), a Canadian-born Singaporean who grew up in Hawaii, is among One Championship’s most popular fighters and its 105-pound champion since mid-2016. She will move up 10 pounds to challenge Xiong (13-1) in a superfight initially planned for November before Lee had to drop out with a back injury.
Aung La N Sang, from Myanmar, will defend his belt against Japan’s Ken Hasegawa in a rematch of their memorable five-round bout in June.
Folayang, from the Philippines, will face Japan’s Shinya Aoki in another rematch. Folayang stopped Aoki in the third round in November 2016.
Tickets for the show will go on sale Thursday in Japan. The event also will feature the beginning of One’s flyweight grand prix tournament, but those matchups will be announced later.
One has staged shows across Asia from Myanmar to China over the past seven years, but waited to take its shot at the martial arts-loving fan base in Japan, where several major MMA organizations have risen and fallen over the years. One also plans to debut in Vietnam and South Korea later in 2019.
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