They say you have the ultimate advantage when you have your home crowd behind you shouting support and giving you that extra bit of motivation to push you across the line when the going gets tough – Anthony Johnson looks to crush that theory when he faces Vitor Belfort this Saturday in Rio De Janero, Brazil.
“Rumble” Johnson will be making his middleweight debut against a true legend of the sport, Belfort has been competing since 1996 and made his UFC debut all the way back at UFC 12.
“It’s just another challenge to me. He’s human, his blood is the same blood as mine so it doesn’t bother me at all – He could be Daffy Duck for all I care, I just wanna fight.”
Johnson has always been a huge welterweight, at times being the same size as his light-heavyweight counterparts and with that big of a size edge comes a great advantage over your opponents but it’s also a double-edged sword.
In 2010 things started taking a turn for the worse following his last defeat to original Ultimate Fighter bad-boy Josh Koscheck when he suffered an injury to his knee.
“I had knee surgery and I just let myself go, I wasn’t focused on my career, I wasn’t thinking about anything until something kicked me in my behind and told me to start focusing and get back in shape because I got up to 231-lbs so a drop to 170 is huge but I did it, put in the work in the gym and next thing you know I get a phone call to fight Dan Hardy and I took it, put in the dedication and it paid off.”
Last year after plenty of speculation about it following missing weight on two separate occasions he decided to make the move to middleweight.
“Well when I said back in the day I was gonna fight at 185 that was just to get people talking and it worked and got people chit-chatting about it,” He said “What made me take this fight was the UFC called me and asked me to fight Vitor and I was like “Alright” and knew it was going to be at 185 and that didn’t matter to me.”
He continued to say that he would be interested in even moving up to light-heavyweight for at least one fight. “They could ask me to fight at 205 against almost anybody and I’d likely say yes”
The proud Blackzillian has won four of his last five outings in the welterweight division with three fight bonuses to his credit. With his wrestling caliber and serious knockout power he feels he has all bases covered leading into arguably the biggest fight in his career.
“I think I can exploit anything he does – His punching, his wrestling, his jiu-jitsu, it doesn’t matter, I think I can beat him in any aspect of the game,” He continues “If this was a straight jiu-jitsu match he would win since he’s a black belt and I’m a no belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu but everything else matches up for me, this is mixed martial arts so I don’t have anything to worry about in my opinion”
There is no question that the national wrestling champion will be walking in on enemy territory when he faces Belfort – Not only is Vitor beloved by the Brazilian public but he also hasn’t fought in Brazil since 1998 when he famously beat Wanderlei Silva in dramatic and jaw-dropping fashion in 44-seconds.
“I don’t mind, it’s a part of the sport, some people are gonna love you, some people are gonna hate you it comes with the territory so I’m ready for anything they throw at me, hopefully they don’t do anything too crazy but I’ll be ready [laughs]”
After his co-main event clash with Belfort he is looking to stay here at middleweight and has interest in meeting Britain’s poster-boy Michael Bisping somewhere down the road.
“I’m not looking past Vitor at all he’s my main focus but 185 do have a look of good competitors – I’d love to fight Michael Bisping. He’s just a good competitor, a tough fighter, you can’t help but be ready and get motivated for a fighter like him because he keeps going and going and going,”
He continued “Plus, he talks a little bit of shit and I like that [laughs]. He’s a fighter, a shit talker and not afraid of anybody so I like people like him.”
Despite showing his skills on the big screen in the hit movie Warrior last year Johnsons focus is on fighting and looks to remain as active as possible in the New Year.
“I want to have as many fights as the lord will allow me, hopefully I get out of this one not too hurt and be back in the cage in 3 or 4 months from now.”
Get in touch with him before and after his much anticipated scrap this weekend @Anthony_Rumble on twitter.