Rising Australian flyweight Reece “Lightning” McLaren insists 12-time Mixed Martial Arts World Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is ‘beatable’, despite the aura of invincibility surrounding the American’s ONE Championship debut.
Standing on opposite brackets in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix, McLaren and Johnson can only meet in the final, if both are successful throughout the tournament.
McLaren will kick off the Grand Prix in a mouth-watering matchup against Kazakhstan’s Kairat Akhmetov, while American Johnson will challenge Japan’s Yuya Wakamatsu on the blockbuster ONE: A NEW ERA card in Tokyo on 31 March.
McLaren is confident he can account for Akhmetov, achieve victory once again in the semi-finals, and then take the prized scalp of Johnson in the finals.
“Oh yeah, he’s beatable,” McLaren said of Johnson, who is widely-regarded as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
“I like the matchup, I’ve always liked the matchup. As an MMA fan, he’s the one to watch. He’s the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. To compete against him, it’s amazing. You always want to compete against the best and now I have an opportunity to do so.”
Asked how he would take down the 32-year-old legend, McLaren quipped:
“I think it would come down to size,” he said. “I’m much taller and I could work that against him.”
Johnson (27-3) hasn’t competed since August of 2018 when he relinquished his World Title to Henry Cejudo, so McLaren knows Johnson will be hungry.
“I think he’s such a competitor that he wouldn’t do that to himself or his fans,” he said.
“I know he likes to succeed so he’ll be doing everything in his power to win.”
In order to meet Johnson however, first thing’s first, McLaren must get passed former champion Akhmetov, 22-2.
“He (Akhmetov) has got some top wrestling and I think it’s going to be fight of the night,” McLaren said.
“We push the pressure, we go out there and we do business. I don’t like to predict the outcome, but all I can say is ‘tune in, it’s going to be a good one’.”
As for the other Grand Prix bouts, McLaren has a few comments to share.
“On the other side it will be DJ. He’ll win,” McLaren forecast.
“I’ve never seen the Brazilian (Ivanildo Delfino) fight, so it will be interesting to see how that fight goes. Tatsumitsu Wada is game. I see Wada and DJ fighting in the second round.”
The Philippines’ Danny Kingad sits on the other quarter-final bout in McLaren’s same bracket, but his opponent Andrew Leone pulled out due to injury and ONE Championship is currently looking for a replacement.
With four World Title fights showcased on ONE Championship’s inaugural Japan card, coupled with the debut of ONE newcomers Johnson and Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez, ONE: A NEW ERA is undoubtedly the greatest show in the company’s history.
And McLaren is buzzing about rubbing shoulders with the world’s best.
“I’m stoked,” he said.
“I’m glad I drew the ex-champ first, it’s exciting. This is the very first card in Japan, it’s a new audience tuning in for it and that excited me the most. It will be the first time I have ever been to Japan and I’m so stoked I got on this card. It’s crazy.”