When Anthony “Rumble” Johnson first announced his intention to return from retirement he was expected to compete in the heavyweight division but that is no longer the plan.
Just a matter of days ago, the former two-time UFC title contender inked a multi-fight deal to join Bellator MMA where he actually plans to compete at 205 pounds instead.
While Johnson has fought at heavyweight in the past — where he earned a win over former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski in 2013 — the ferocious knockout artist has no plans to test himself in that division again as he prepares for a fresh start in his career next year.
“Everybody keeps talking about heavyweight cause I brought it up but everybody also has to realize I was fat whenever I was talking about fighting at heavyweight,” Johnson said with a laugh when speaking to MMA Fighting.
“I was fat. So I didn’t have no dreams of weighing 230 [pounds] or less again. But you’ve got monsters at heavyweight.”
It’s hard to remember a time during Johnson’s career when he actually fought at welterweight in the UFC before eventually packing on a lot of muscle where he became one of the most terrifying forces in the light heavyweight division.
Johnson believes that’s where he has the best chance to make the biggest impact as part of the Bellator roster while also pointing towards one of his teammates as a good reason to stick around at 205 pounds.
“You’ve got my guy Linton Vassell, he’s my training partner and I don’t even want to fight this guy,” Johnson said. “I hate sparring him. He’s a ball of muscle and he’s tall and lanky and just he’s tough. I don’t want to have to deal with that. I already have to deal with it with the smaller guys. Why would I want to deal with it with somebody that’s bigger than me? Linton walks around the gym with his shirt off and on his fat days, he looks better than 99 percent of the rest of the world.
“I’m like I don’t want to deal with those problems. Cause when he grabs you, you’re not getting away. I just don’t want him to touch me.”
With Johnson confirming his future at light heavyweight, there are all sorts of potential matchups to make for his Bellator debut.
The ViacomCBS owned promotion crowned a new champion in 2020 with Vadim Nemkov taking the title away from Ryan Bader. Bellator also had several high profile signings in the past year including former top-five ranked UFC light heavyweight Corey Anderson as well as multi-time title contender Yoel Romero.
Johnson has never been in the business of calling out opponents so he’s happy to face whoever Bellator puts in front of him but he has felt the love from the fans ever since his signing was announced.
“The hype is real. The hype is dope,” Johnson said. “Fans are hitting me up left and right. Family is hitting me up left and right. My hometown is going crazy, they’re talking and contacting me. It’s a beautiful thing to be appreciate for what you worked hard for, that’s for sure. I try not to let the hype get to me. I just believe in myself and I know what I can do and I’ve proven what I can do.
“For me, I think my excitement comes when I’m actually really about to whoop somebody’s ass.”