Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s in-depth look at MMA. Every Thursday, this column will offer insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.
Demetrious Johnson enters the metaverse
The Galactic Fight League has officially joined the MMA universe.
The new video game will serve as the fight world’s introduction to the metaverse, bringing physicality, authenticity and unfiltered action to the simulated digital environment. NFTs will also be available, allowing people to become characters in the game.
Shaun Preece, the founder of the Galactic Fight League, detailed his long-term vision, as well as explained how NFTs will allow for possibilities that extend beyond traditional gaming.
“The metaverse and NFTs are really in vogue right now, but a lot of projects are simply cash grabs with no real road map for use,” Preece says. “Our research and development began two years ago, and from Day 1 we have strived to embed ourselves into the fight community and these partnerships have helped us create a platform which can truly change the world of fighting.”
A unique aspect of the Galactic Fight League is its real-world parallels. Users can train fighters, hire coaches, attract sponsorships and eventually become champions. Preece also partnered with Polaris, the most viewed grappling show on UFC Fight Pass, as well as Tatami, Sanabul and Scramble. And once the Galactic Fight League is live, brands will be fully integrated into the game—providing the opportunity to upgrade fighters, for example, or even buy a supplement to aid a fighter’s recovery.
MMA great Demetrious Johnson is a character in the Galactic Fight League, as well as an adviser in its creation.
“I’m overseeing how well the mixed martial arts integrates into the game,” says Johnson, the greatest flyweight champion in UFC history. “I couldn’t pass up on it. They are integrating deep into the ecosystem in the metaverse with the utilities they plan on launching and the NFTs.”
Johnson, who currently fights for ONE Championship, has his next bout scheduled for March 26 against Rodtang Jitmuangnon at the ONE X event in Singapore. It’ll be a fight with an unorthodox set of rules.
“The first round is muay Thai, the second round is mixed martial arts, the third round is muay Thai and the fourth round is mixed martial arts,” Johnson says. “I’m an athlete, I love to compete, and this is an opportunity to do what I love. I’m looking forward to fighting in front of a live crowd. The last fight was an empty arena, so it’s going to feel good to have a live audience again.”
The inspiration behind the Galactic Fight League was fueled by Preece’s passion for mixed martial arts, which resonated with Johnson. The game will seek to unite fight fans, brands, crypto enthusiasts and gamers in a metaverse unlike any other. And Johnson is especially proud to add some of his own personal history into the game, which will be apparent through the NFTs.
“Keep your eyes peeled—your boy is going to have an NFT in the game,” Johnson says. “If you’ve followed the fighting game scene since the early ’90s, you might be able to pick out who my character is inspired by. Only true hardcore fans are going to know it.”
Jarred Brooks rising to new heights in ONE
Jarred Brooks looks to put himself in title contention with a convincing strawweight win at ONE Championship’s Only the Brave event on Friday.
Just 28, Brooks (17–2–1) possesses a strong résumé. He competed for two years in the UFC as part of the flyweight division, with his most noteworthy bout being a highly contested split decision defeat in 2017 against Deiveson Figueiredo.
The loss to Figueiredo was followed by a maddeningly frustrating UFC bout against Jose Torres. Brooks had complete control of the fight until midway through the second round, when he knocked himself unconscious while attempting a slam. He was released from the UFC in November 2018, but he has resumed his winning ways away from the Octagon.
Undefeated in five fights since parting ways with the UFC, Brooks now has his sights set on proving that he is the best in the world at strawweight. He has stiff competition against Hiroba Minowa (13–2). But if Brooks is victorious, he should emerge as the next title challenger for reigning ONE strawweight champ Joshua Pacio.
“I’ve been beating some of the best of the best in the world,” Brooks said at the ONE press conference in Singapore. “I mean, you got the UFC champion, Deiveson Figueiredo, that I completely toyed around with. I think Hiroba is a very tough test for me; he has a lot of good qualities about him. A little bit Jarred Brooks–esque, he reminds me of a younger me.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how he feels. And I want to be surprised, I don’t want to feel weakness. I want to feel like he’s strong, like I have a true test in front of me. So, Hiroba, I’m glad that I get to fight [him].”
Since leaving the UFC, Brooks has had even more to prove. He will carry an even greater chip on his shoulder as he walks into the cage to fight Minowa.
“I am ready to put my life on the line to come out and beat [him],” Brooks says. “To come out and be number one in this division.”
The Pick ’Em Section
The next couple of days are active for the fight world, with ONE Championship, Eagle Fighting Championship and Bellator all holding cards.
Here are my picks for the top bouts for the weekend:
Bellator 273 heavyweight title bout: Ryan Bader (c) vs. Valentin Moldavsky (ic)
Eagle Fighting Championship 44 light heavyweight bout: Rashad Evans vs. Gabriel Checco
ONE Championship: Only the Brave Kickboxing Featherweight Grand Prix semifinals: Jo Nattawut vs. Chingiz Allazov
ONE Championship: Only the Brave Kickboxing Featherweight Grand Prix semifinals: Davit Kiria vs. Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong
Last week: 4–0
2022 record: 9–1
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.