James Johnson MMA: Does the NBA star who called out UFC champion Jon Jones have a record in combat sports? Here's everything you need to know

James Johnson (left), Jon Jones (right) [Images courtesy of @nba & @jonnybones on Instagram]
James Johnson (left), Jon Jones (right) [Images courtesy of @nba & @jonnybones on Instagram]

NBA star James Johnson believes that he could defeat Jon Jones in an MMA fight with just one year of training.

Johnson has had a 14-year career in basketball, making his debut in 2009 for the Chicago Bulls. He has since played for teams such as the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets, before most recently plying his trade as the power/small forward for the Indiana Pacers.

Prior to his NBA career, the 36-year-old was, however, an accomplished fighter. At the age of 18, Johnson had his first professional MMA bout, reportedly winning in just 97 seconds. He also has a second-degree black belt in martial arts as well as a black belt in karate.

Alongside his brief stint in MMA that saw him compete in seven professional bouts, James Johnson also went on to kickbox. He currently sports a perfect 20-0 record in the discipline.

Despite putting his fighting career on the backburner to pursue NBA, Johnson has since made headlines this week when discussing a potential bout against Jon Jones. The power forward made the seriously bold claim that he could defeat the UFC heavyweight champ with just a year of training. He said:

"I rock with [Jon] Jones...I would need a year [to go up against Jones]. My standup game is great but what we all know with Jones is he's a collegiate wrestler... really good on the ground and that's not my forte...I think I could beat him, for real, but like I said with a year of training defense, I just need ground defense."

Catch Johnson's comments here:

James Johnson open to joining UFC when NBA career ends

At the age of 36, James Johnson's career at the top of the NBA is potentially coming towards its end. Whilst that may be a scary position for some athletes, Johnson is already confident about his next step.

According to 'Bloodsport', he's ready to return to his "first love", which is fighting. Johnson has already had a brief career in MMA and kickboxing, and is hoping he may be able to ply his trade in the UFC next.

Speaking to Fanatics View back in 2019, James Johnson admitted he'd had no hesitation in stepping into the octagon, should Dana White come calling. He said:

“I’ve been fighting my whole life… That’s my first love, my first passion. I would love that [to fight for the UFC after my NBA career]. The fighter mentality, the fighter heart it never goes. I still see guys right now still trying to kick away, [like] Chuck Liddell, [Anderson] Silva. You got guys that just can’t get away from the game.”

Catch Johnson's comments here (1:00):


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Edited by Tejas Rathi
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