Dustin Joynson just signed with ONE Championship and is further galvanizing an ever-strengthening heavyweight division. When I spoke with him, he was still hurting from the leg kicks after his last outing where he earned a victory in the CFFC.
Below are several excerpts from my conversation with the multi-promotion Canadian heavyweight champion (HFC and BFL) who now eyes gold on an international level.
When were the preliminary conversations happening about signing with ONE?
“I would say probably about a week before the signing. So, maybe a bit earlier than that. Didn’t even know ONE was interested until ONE offered it to me. I’ve always loved ONE Championship and been interested in fighting overseas. So, when I found out they were willing to negotiate instead of kind of tossing me around like UFC and Bellator were like waiting for opponents and whatever else. I was happy to jump on it.”
ONE Championship and the benefits of other MMA platforms
“To me like personally like UFC would have been good for North America, because that’s what people know. Anybody that I know that talks about MMA, they’re mostly casual fans. So no one’s heard of ONE except for any sort of martial arts gym. But the casual person they’ve all heard of UFC. So that’s kind of why like I was kind of aiming for that for friends and family folks for that.”
“But, you know, I’m a martial artist and I follow all that kind of stuff. So I knew exactly what ONE was. So I was excited for sure to get an opportunity for them. People in North America, don’t know how big ONE Championship actually is. Not realizing that they actually had 2 billion more views online last year than the UFC did. Those are big numbers.”
What was your level of familiarity with the heavyweight ranks prior to signing? Were you scoping some of the luminaries in the heavyweight ranks over there?
“I didn’t really know much. I’ve seen a few fights from the heavyweight division, but I don’t really know a lot of names. But to be fair I don’t really follow a lot of MMA anymore like for watching. I know what it is and I try to keep in touch with stuff but I don’t tend to watch it as much anymore as I used to. As far as that goes, obviously I knew who Brandon Vera was and him being the champion. I knew that Arjan (Bhullar) from Vancouver who’s really close to me, signed with them and was scheduled to fight him. So, I knew about that.”
So is that a byproduct of prioritizing other things and just not watching fights as much? Is it kind of to decompress and I guess focus on other things outside of training? What’s the reasoning for that?
“Back when I was more of a fan of MMA, there was more balance. I would casually train whatever. Watch the fights every weekend. Now there’s too many fights to begin with, like, especially for UFC. They got cards like twice a week, or they did before the whole pandemic thing happened. The way I see it is the further I get into an MMA career, I start looking at these other heavyweights like potential opponents. So I can’t get all fanboy. If I start watching them, I’m probably going to start liking certain people.”
“Becomes kind of like a hobby until it becomes something bigger.”
Was there a distinct point when you noticed that shift from hobby to something bigger?
“Pretty much when I signed with ONE Championship.”
ONE Championship heavyweights
Carving a swath through the Canadian scene and the dream of a world title in ONE Championship
“Getting a belt of that level and of magnitude would be incredible. And that belt looks amazing. So shiny, it’s huge, it’s very pretty.”
Timeline for ONE Championship debut and getting to the next level
“We’re aiming for February 26. I think that’s the date that we’re all aiming for. Don’t have an opponent yet. I haven’t been offered anything. So whatever, just kind of training right now. Looking forward to something.”
“Yeah, there’s not gonna be any easy fights anymore. Not that there ever was. But you know I mean? it’s the next level now. So everyone’s got pretty high experience, decent records, whatever. But I do always feel like I’m going to be the least experienced guy amongst who I fight.”
ONE Championship video game
Career aspirations including the goal of being a video game character
“That’s definitely like one more life goal, especially for MMA career bucket list type of stuff. Knocked off my list to make it to such a major MMA promotion. I only have a few more goals left in that category. And, obviously, winning the world title is one of them. Lastly, most people might not know is I hope ONE Championship makes a video game and puts me in it. Because I’ve always had a dream of being in a video game.”
“If they did, and my contract’s long enough, and if I can get some good wins, they better put me in it.”
Parting thoughts for Dustin Joynson
“Thank you for having me. Everyone watch out. Canada’s coming to Asia.”