Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is finally ready to make his return to the UFC but his comeback is happening despite his greater instinct about fighters who don’t know when to walk away.
The former title contender actually retired back in 2017 after suffering a second-round submission loss to Daniel Cormier in his bid to become light heavyweight champion. Afterwards, Johnson kept his focus away from fighting outside of an ambassador role he took on with the fledgling promotion at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships.
But as time passed, Johnson started to feel the desire to compete again and he made his intentions clear that he intended to return to fighting. Earlier this week, Johnson’s manager Ali Abdelaziz confirmed plans for him to re-enter the UFC’s anti-doping program, which requires six months of drug testing before he’s allowed to fight again.
According to Johnson, he’s actually been one of the strongest opponents against fighters returning from retirement but he felt like he was in a different situation than many of the athletes who just don’t know when to call it quits.
“Honestly, I missed the sport,” Johnson explained when asked about his UFC return during a BKFC press conference. “I missed competing.
“So I know at one point I was against guys coming back from retirement. You usually see them getting mopped up. B.J. Penn came back got mopped. I’ve seen everybody that came out of retirement get mopped up.”
Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for fighters to return from retirement only to find a less than successful future awaiting them.
Johnson knows he’s in a different situation because he walked away just moments after he competed for a UFC title. Add to that with three years away from the sport and still being just 36, Johnson had time to allow his mind and body to heal as he embarks on another run in the UFC.
“I just don’t want to be one of those guys to get mopped up but I still feel good,” Johnson said. “I have no injuries. While I was in the UFC, I didn’t get hit much unless I lost and that wasn’t often.”
Johnson did confirm his intention to compete in the light heavyweight division despite previously hinting at a return at heavyweight.
When he finally books his first fight, Johnson will return to a much different division than the one he left in 2017.
Jon Jones just vacated his title and Cormier has seemingly retired following his most recent fight, which means for the first time since 2011, there will be a new UFC light heavyweight champion other than those two men.
It appears Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz are on a collision course to battle for the vacant title but Johnson will certainly be a welcome addition once he’s eligible to compete again in 2021.
Johnson added that he currently has “a couple more fights” on his current UFC deal but he’s not setting any expectations about his future yet until he finally makes his return.