Anthony Johnson Talks Relationship With UFC, Bellator Debut
Anthony Johnson will make his much-awaited return to mixed martial arts next year under the Bellator banner.
Healthy Relationship With The UFC
Johnson mutually parted ways with the UFC earlier this month to sign a multi-fight deal with Bellator. Despite parting ways with the promotion, ‘Rumble’ told MMA Fighting that he still has a very good relationship with his former employers.
“I’ve just got so much going on and my life is taking me in a different direction,” Johnson said. “I’ve been out for a while anyway and I was pretty much up with my [UFC] contract. It was just best if I go another route right now, especially with the business I’ve got going on. But whenever UFC and I went our ways, it was never a drop of bad blood or negativity or any kind of dispute or ‘Oh we’re just going to cut you.’ No, it was nothing like that. Everything was all good. Mutual and respectful. I have a ton of respect for the organisation, Dana [White] and even the Fertittas for taking it as far as they did already. Now, I’m on a new journey. I’m excited to be doing what I do now and with who I’m with Bellator.”
UFC has cut several fighters recently, including Yoel Romero, Anderson Silva, and Corey Anderson, with the promotion set to cut as many as 60 fighters by the end of the year. For Johnson, who chose Bellator for business reasons, things were better handled, and his decision to mutually part ways was respected by the promotion.
“There was no dispute,” Johnson said. “I’m just going a different route. I have a different type of business, I’m in the cannabis business and all that stuff, and just trying to do multiple things. UFC, they’re a lot more strict than a lot of other promotions and that’s just the name of the game with them. That’s business. You’ve got to respect it. Respect it or kick rocks. I wasn’t trying to just kick rocks. I definitely respect what they were doing and their rules.
“They respect me enough to give me the opportunity to check out other options and see what’s out there and see what can happen. Like I said, everything was very respectful and mutual, and really cool. The way it happened with me, it was super, super dope and respectful. I can’t say any other words cause that’s honestly how I feel. I came in on good terms [with the UFC] and we’re ending on good terms. I want to keep it that way.”
‘Rumble’ had offers from several top MMA promotions, but he chose Bellator because they is based in the United States, and the good things he has heard about the Bellator chief, Scott Coker.
“My manager Ali [Abdelaziz], he’s the best,” Johnson explained. “He’s got a good relationship with everybody for the most part that I know of in the game, and he did what he does. He worked his magic and got me with Bellator. We had other organisations looking at me and negotiating, and stuff. There was some good numbers but you’ve got to go with your gut. Why not just stay home? Bellator is a nice spot. I like Scott Coker a lot. I watched him whenever Strikeforce and all of that stuff, when he was running it in the Bay area.
“He’s just did some amazing things. He’s very respectful, so why not fight for a man of his caliber? He treats his fighters great from what I’ve heard from multiple guys. I look forward to having that relationship with him, too.”
With Johnson, Romero, and Anderson all joining the Bellator light heavyweight mix, that already has notable names like Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, and champion Vadim Nemkov, things have become a lot more interesting in the Bellator 205lbs division.
“They’re not some slouches,” Johnson said about Bellator’s light heavyweight division. “With myself and Yoel Romero coming on board, the competition just got thicker, crazier. We’ll definitely be adding a lot of craziness to the mix. I look forward to it. Bellator has some studs. Just because I beat Ryan Bader before, everybody thinks he sucks. Ryan’s tough. Super tough. You’ve got my guy Corey Anderson doing his thing, super happy for him and his family. I look forward to compete against everybody at light heavyweight.”
The 36 year old is yet to fight in the Bellator cage, but believes he is already a top-five contender in their light heavyweight division.
“It’s stacked,” Johnson said. “Trust me, I don’t think there’s any slouches, especially in the top five, and I already claim myself in the top five and I haven’t even fought in this thing yet.”
Timeline For Fight
Although Johnson hasn’t been offered an opponent yet, he would prefer to return to action in April or May.
“If it’s up to me I’ll be fighting in April sometime,” Johnson said. “That’s when I want to fight, personally, in April. I haven’t been offered anything, any opponents yet at all. But for me, I’m shooting for April. If it happens in May, I guess I’ll be fighting in May but I don’t want to fight before then. I want to make sure I get every bit of training in before I step foot in the cage. I want to make sure I’m complete.”
Johnson last fought at UFC 210 for the UFC light heavyweight championship against Daniel Cormier, losing via a rear naked choke in the second round.
Who would like to see Anthony Johnson make his Bellator debut against?