Who the f*ck is Tim Johnson?
Reading Twitter is almost never a good thing in the long run. That goes especially for combat sports practitioners, and yet, said Bellator heavyweight logged on and found that greeting when his fight with the retiring Fedor Emelianenko was announced.
“Well, f*cking look me up,” responded Johnson on What the Heck. “It’s not my fault you don’t know who I am. I’ve been in the game for quite a f*cking while.”
On his way to get stitches after a June loss to Emelianenko’s protege, Valentin Moldavsky, for the interim title, Johnson had told his manager to put his name in the hat to be the last opponent of “The Last Emperor.” It was a dream fight in a dream location.
Truth be told, Johnson was as surprised as anyone his name was actually picked. There were plenty of other options for the man considered by almost everyone not named Dana White to be the heavyweight GOAT. Most of them were more well-known than one 36-year-old fighter and National Guardsman who’d cycled through the UFC and found a new home in Bellator.
Ex-UFC champs Junior Dos Santos and Josh Barnett, multi-title champ Alistair Overeem and even pro-wrestling star Jake Hager were just a few of the names in the mix. But in the end, none of them were chosen for the Oct. 23 event.
To his critics, Johnson asks one thing: What was he supposed to do? Turn down Fedor Emelianenko?
“Francis [Ngannou] or Ciryl [Gane], any heavyweight at any point in their career gets a chance to fight Fedor, they’re going to fight him, just because he’s the GOAT,” he said. “You cannot not take that fight, and I’m more than happy to do it.”
Johnson expects the MMA news cycle to move on pretty quickly from that initial spurt of haters, and those who follow MMA are free to tune in or ignore it for whatever reason they choose. He thinks it would be a mistake for fans not watch because they don’t like the matchup. This is Fedor, after all.
“Anyone who doesn’t want to tune in to watch this for reasons they’re angry at it, you’d be stupid not to watch this fight,” he said.
It would be easy to conclude that Emelianenko chose Johnson because he’d recently got an up close and personal look via Moldavsky and decided it was a winnable challenge. The fight is taking place on home soil in Moscow. Bellator President Scott Coker put off Emelianenko until he could secure a location that would celebrate the retiring warrior.
Johnson, though, would like to think Emelianenko saw an opponent that would give him a real fight.
“He doesn’t want to go out there and get an easy knockout win or fight someone who’s washed up,” Johnson said. “He wants to fight, and he knows that I’m going to go out there and bring a fight to him, and it’s not going to be easy. He’s a come back with your shield or on your shield personality, and that’s why he picked me.”
Emelianenko’s aura has proven to be an all-powerful force over two decades in the sport. Perhaps that’s where all the opinions come from – fans want to see him sent off the right way, whatever that is. Johnson is too young, not enough of a legend, too good, or not good enough, to fit the bill.
In the end, though, it was Emelianenko and his team’s call. Johnson is just there to make the most of the offer.
“Fedor had all the names in front of him,” he said. “This isn’t on Bellator. This isn’t on Scott Coker. They gave him a list of names, as well. He picked me. ... Everyone hating on me, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m going to go out there and try and knock off a legend. Everyone else is hypotheticals. I’m ready to go.”