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Demetrious Johnson will leave ‘the best’ question unanswered after UFC exit

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Back when Demetrious Johnson’s grip on the UFC flyweight championship was as tight as his potent armbars, no champion was more active in defending his or her crown.

From 2013 through 2017, “Mighty Mouse” successfully retained his title a UFC-record 11 times. He’d always been an active competitor, with 10 months representing the longest layoff of his career.

Then COVID-19 ravaged the globe, and the 2019 ONE Championship Flyweight Grand Prix winner missed out on a full calendar year of competition for the first time as a professional. By the time Johnson (30-3-1, 17 finishes) makes his scheduled April 7 date to challenge ONE flyweight champ Adriano Moraes (18-3, 12 finishes) as the headliner for the first “ONE on TNT” event airing from Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore, he will have been sidelined for nearly 18 full months.

Bummer, right? Not in Johnson’s eyes. Not when the world has been dealing with forces outside of his control. Not when he’s got so much else occupying his time.

“It’s been great, to be honest with you,” Johnson told The Post recently regarding the longest layoff of his career. “… I’ve been extremely busy, even in this time of COVID-19, hanging out with the kids and the wife. A lot of people might look at it as a negative, but for me, I’ve been busy.”

Johnson, who left the UFC shortly after losing his 125-pound crown in a razor-thin decision against Henry Cejudo in August 2018 and became part of the first major MMA “trade” to another organization — in exchange for now-retired welterweight Ben Askren — noted he utilized this rare time away from competition to build his esports and gaming profile as well as release a collection of vinyl figures. The 34-year-old thoroughly comprehends that his time as a cage fighter is finite and is setting himself up for the post-athletic phase of his life.

Demetrious Johnson in his Aug. 4, 2018 controversial loss to Henry Cejudo
Demetrious Johnson in his Aug. 4, 2018 controversial loss to Henry Cejudo
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“You can’t fight forever,” Johnson said. “You have to start building your brand in different ways. That way, when you’re done fighting, you have something to fall back on.”

But Johnson has no concrete plans to walk away anytime soon, and he remains one of the top flyweights in the world. (Well, sort of. ONE Championship flyweights compete at 135 pounds — 10 above the typical limit — and are tested to ensure they are not dehydrating themselves in an effort to curb dangerous weight cuts. Technically, he competes as a bantamweight, but ostensibly he is the same size as his UFC flyweight days).

If Johnson wanted, he could make a pretty solid case for being the top flyweight in the world. Cejudo made just one title defense before vacating the belt to focus on defending his bantamweight championship, then surprisingly retired last May. Nobody defeated him to become the UFC 125-pound champ, a distinction now borne by Deiveson Figueiredo. Mighty Mouse has said he intends to finish his career with ONE, for whom he competed three times in 2019, capped by a decision victory over Danny Kingad in the October final of an eight-man tournament. That would make a matchup between Johnson and Figueiredo all but impossible. 

And it’s not as if Johnson, who said he doesn’t get wrapped up in back-and-forth “I’m better” debates, is creating heat. As far as asserting who’s the top flyweight in MMA, he would only go so far as to posit that all fighters think of themselves as the best.

“I think Deiveson is an amazing champion,” Johnson said. “He’s done amazing things, and I wish him nothing but the best, and I hope he has a great, successful career.”

The loss to Cejudo continues to be debated by fans in the MMA community, with many believing Johnson did enough to win the tipping-point second round. One judge agreed, while the other two scored it for Cejudo as 48-47 final tallies were split between them in Cejudo’s favor. For his part, Johnson has always publicly taken the loss in stride, even from the moment he heard the announced decision go against him. If he thought he was wronged, his calm demeanor and respectful reaction didn’t show it.

He attributes the ability to take the loss in stride to having the right mentality and perspective, realizing that great athletes don’t always win and that he himself had tasted defeat twice before.

“Don’t get me wrong: I went back to the hotel room, and I cried, and I screamed, and I was pissed off,” Johnson said of the aftermath of the loss. “And then after that, I was like, well, you know, we’ll go back home and get back to work.

“… I’m doing this because it’s what I do to provide for my family. When you have that type of mindset, you never truly lose. It’s just part of the f—kng game, man.”

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Bulls’ Zach LaVine called cops on ‘obsessed’ fan at his home

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Zach LaVine had an unwanted visitor.

The Chicago Bulls star had to call the police after an “allegedly obsessed” woman showed up to his Chicago home and refused to leave on Thursday night, according to TMZ. 

The woman reportedly traveled from out of state, demanding to speak with the first-time All-Star, who was home at the time.

Police took her a local hospital for mental evaluation, and she has not been formally arrested or charged with a crime.

LaVine, 25, wrapped up first-half action with the Bulls on Wednesday and was drafted to Kevin Durant’s All-Star side for Sunday’s festivities in Atlanta.

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Blake Griffin a free agent after Pistons buyout

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Blake Griffin will be free to sign with the Nets or another interested NBA team after agreeing to a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons.

The six-time All-Star forward “has interest from most of the NBA’s top playoff contenders and is expected to make a decision on his next team after conversations with prospective teams,” ESPN reported.

The Nets, Lakers, Heat, Warriors and Clippers – his former team — are among those that have expressed interest, according to the New York Times. ESPN.com added that the Blazers are interested

The 31-year-old Griffin hasn’t played since Feb. 12 while the Pistons attempted to trade him before the March 25 deadline, but they found no takers due to the remainder of his $36.6 million salary for this season and the $39 million he’s owed for 2021-22.

Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
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Griffin is averaging a career-low 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20 games this season. He was dealt by the Clippers to Detroit in 2018, during the first season of a five-year extension worth $171 million.



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Broncos send a pretty strong warning to Drew Lock

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Drew Lock is no lock to remain the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2021.

General manager George Paton and coach Vic Fangio both said Thursday that the team expects to bring in competition for Lock, possibly with the ninth pick in the NFL Draft.

“Obviously we’re always looking to bring in players at all positions that can raise the level of competition, and the quarterback is no different in that regard,” Fangio said, according to the team’s website.

“Until we get or until Drew proves to be the next great quarterback, like the ones that the Denver franchise has been used to in years past or certain teams around the league … are used to, we’re going to always try and bring in competition. But I have confidence that Drew can continue to improve.”

Lock made 13 starts in 2020 and tied with Carson Wentz for the league lead with 15 interceptions. He finished 32nd in the league among qualifying quarterbacks with a 75.4 passer rating, ahead of only Dwayne Haskins, Wentz and Sam Darnold.

Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
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“Very talented, was inconsistent at times, has a lot to work on,” Paton said Thursday. “But I’ve spoken with Drew, I see him every day. He’s here early. He’s working. He really wants to be great. And we’re always going to try to bring in competition at every position, and quarterback as well. But I like the track that Drew’s on.”

Lock, the Broncos’ second-round pick in 2019 out of Missouri, had started five games as a rookie, winning four of them. Denver went 4-9 with him as the starter last season.

“I’m confident that Drew’s going to continue to improve,” Fangio said. “Drew’s had a great offseason up to this point. There’s not a lot you can do, but he’s working hard on his own, coming over here and getting workouts, and I know he’s doing a lot at home by himself, watching video by himself. He’s got a good setup over there. And he’s doing anything and everything he can to improve, even in February and now in March.”

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