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Johnny Walker blames wrong strategy for UFC 244 loss, hopes for quick turnaround against ‘Shogun’ Rua-Paul Craig winner

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Corey Anderson stopped Johnny Walker in the first round at UFC 244, and the Brazilian light heavyweight knows what went wrong on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Walker was on a roll after knocking out Khalil Rountree, Justin Ledet and Misha Cirkunov in a combined time of 2:48 in the UFC. But he thinks that not fighting like his real self led to his first loss since 2016.

“I know it was my mistake,” Walker told MMA Fighting. “I hesitated too much. I should have been more aggressive, but I didn’t. I had too many people talking about his takedowns, so I waited for him to shoot, and I didn’t let my game go. It was the wrong strategy. I should have listened to myself. I listened to everyone else but me. That was my mistake. I regret that.

“I should have gone for the knockout right away like I always do, but I ended up changing my game and everything went wrong. But it’s alright – I’m ready for the next one.”

Walker dealt with heavy backslash after his defeat, from Anderson screaming at his face immediately afterward — and then apologizing in his post-fight media scrum — to criticism from fans and fellow fighters, including Paulo Costa and Jon Jones.

“It doesn’t bother me a bit,” Walker said. “Nothing they say will affect me. It’s quite the opposite. I get more and more media as they talk, so feel free to talk. My plan remains the same: I’ll beat up two more guys and get back to where I was, and then I’ll be in line for Jon Jones.”

The Brazilian fighter competed four times in 15 months in the Octagon, including his Contender Series bout with Luis Henrique da Silva. But he doesn’t plan on wasting any time on the sidelines.

“I want to fight as quick as possible,” said Walker, who plans on training in Brazil or in the United States after doing a wrestling-heavy camp in Russia. “I want to fight in December, or January, or February. I’m ready. I’m not injured. (I) just get back to the gym and train and beat up the next one, and trust myself and my plan A more.”

Asked about his next opponent, Walker mentioned the winner of a light heavyweight showdown between former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Paul Craig, booked for Nov. 16 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“I’ll be there (at UFC Sao Paulo) to watch it as a guest fighter,” Walker said. “I know that two more wins will get me back to where I was, so I’m not too off the rails. I’ll be back soon. It was a learning experience. I won’t ever hesitate in a fight again, brother. Never.”

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